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8.555708 - HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 25 (Nos. 70, 71, 73)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Symphonies Nos. 70, 71 and 73


Haydn has often been called the father of the symphony. As a composer with an output of 104 numbered examples in that form, he was indeed prolific. That he was the father of the form, though, is clearly nonsense. The sinfonia, denoting anything instrumental "sounding together", had developed over some two hundred years into the multi-movement orchestral sonata that Haydn inherited. Haydn it was, however, in his salaried position with the Hungarian Esterhizy family, who came to combine a patron's requirement of tuneful accessibility with his own underlying mastery of thematic cohesion and formal manipulation. He was not the first begetter of the form, but was, arguably, instrumental in the symphony's coming-of-age as an art form, to be appreciated as much for its beauty, logic and wit of construction as for its mere melodiousness.


Franz Joseph Haydn was born on 31st March 1732. From provincial Austria, he went to Vienna, first as a chorister at St Stephen's Cathedral, and then to earn a living as an impoverished freelance musician. In 1759 he served as Kapellmeister to Count von Morzin, but improved his position very considerably in 1761 with an appointment as Deputy Kapellmeister at the Eisenstadt residence of the rich and powerful Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy. In 1766 he succeeded to the post of Kapellmeister, by which time Prince Nicolaus had succeeded Paul Anton, and the family had moved to the new palace at Ezsterhaza on the Hungarian plains. The exigencies of his new post rivalled those of J.S. Bach in their relentlessness. Operas, symphonies, sonatas, Masses, works of almost every contemporary genre were required of the composer on a regular basis and for any occasion.


Symphonic composition occupied much of Haydn's creative life. From the early works, influenced by the fast-slow-fast scheme of Italian opera overtures, he began a life-long process of experimentation with the basic multi-movement form. The first notable period in this process was between 1766 and 1775, the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) years, an anachronistic description taken from an angst-ridden literary style of the 1770s. The symphonies of this time lost a little of their customary geniality and instead betray a slight darkening of utterance. Many are in the minor mode, and display a more fiery melodic and harmonic vocabulary.


The 1780s saw a gradual breaking away from regular compositions exclusively for Ezsterh1iza with works produced at the request of publishers around Europe. One result of this new contractual freedom was the set of so-called Paris Symphonies of 1784-1786. The climax of the composer's symphonic career, however, came after 1790, the year of Prince Nicolaus's death. This event left Haydn free to accept an invitation from a London impresario, Johann Peter Salomon, to travel to England. Two extended visits to London, in 1791 and 1794, occasioned the composition of twelve new symphonies for Salomon's concerts, numbers 93-104. These London Symphonies, Haydn's last, are regarded as more ambitious in scale and more refined in orchestration than any written previously.


In 1795, Haydn returned to Austria. Though he composed no further symphonies, the period before his death in 1809, brought the composition of settings of the Mass, chamber music, and, of course, The Creation. Two of the works here included were written in the period between the Sturm und Drang and Paris Symphonies, during which Haydn concentrated mainly on the writing of opera, culminating in 1783 with Armida. Though from a supposed intervening period in Haydn's composition of symphonies, these works cannot be underestimated in comparison with their more famous companions.


Symphony No.70 in D major, dated 18th December 1779, begins conventionally enough. The material of the first subject of the opening Vivace, a D major triad, answered by a phrase in step-wise motion, also makes up the second subject in the dominant A major. It is in the brief development section that something of the true nature of the work is revealed, as the triad motif is fragmented into three overlapping layers in upper and lower strings. This highly condensed stretto, though not exceptional for the period, is a foretaste of the archaism to come. The second movement Andante is as cold and beautiful as marble. Fluctuating between D minor and major, much of it is in sparsely scored invertible counterpoint, by which two simultaneous lines, first heard on muted strings, are so written as to be playable with one in the upper part against the other in the lower, or vice versa. Though subsequent repetitions of the different sections are increasingly embellished, the rigorous, enigmatic contrapuntal structure remains throughout. This austerity of scoring is carried forward into the lithe Menuet, to lead into the final Allegro con brio. Here, after an introductory passage of repeated high Ds interspersed with terse cadences, these repeated notes grow into one of three short themes that are the building blocks of the remarkable main section, an ascetic D minor triple fugue. Density and tension are progressively increased, mainly through the use of stretto, until a pedal-point on the dominant A attempts to bring the music to a close. A sudden unison and dissonant E flat ushers the fugal material into the brighter major mode, with which the movement ends.


Dated to about 1780, Symphony No.71 in B flat major is scored for a smaller ensemble than the two D major works, and its musical language is correspondingly subtler. The Adagio introduction is functional, the Allegro first subject airy but assertive. The second subject area is another matter altogether. In the midst of an otherwise optimistic exposition, two gradually layered, harmonically ambiguous chords cast a shadow over the proceedings. From then on, the question they pose causes a deceptive false recapitulation during the development, and they go on to truncate the return of the first subject. Their influence even extends to the ensuing Adagio, in which a set of vatiations is interrupted by their "upbeat-rhythm" motif on suddenly unaccompanied violins. After the Stampftanz of the Menuetto and the Magyar violin duet and accompanying guitar effect of the Trio, the development section of the Finale still cannot rid itself of this "upbeat" motif, nor of the doubt its harmony casts. Nevertheless, a prominent wind section helps the symphony toward a positive conclusion.


Symphony No.73 in D major, "La chasse", dated 1782, is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, with strings. Two trumpets and timpani are added in the final movement, originally the overture to the opera La fedelto premiata, a pastorale giocoso from 1781. The main sonata-form Allegro of the first movement adopts the four-note rhythmic motif heard at the close of the preceding Adagio introduction. This motif and a chromatic leaning figure, also from the

Adagio, make up both first and second subject themes, the latter, mainly contrapuntal, growing organically from the former. The development section and recapitulation are repeated wholesale, giving the listener an opportunity to appreciate fully Haydn's ingenuity in stripping down, then reconstructing his themes, through diverse harmonic byways, particularly in the final codetta. The second movement, in G major, incorporates Haydn's own Gegenliebe, a Lied from a recently published collection. Though it uses previously existing music, this poised Andante does not sound out of place, as its chromatically inflected phrases and sudden lurches into the tonic minor, and thence to other distant keys, give the piece something of the first movement's character. The subsequent Menuetto harks back to the chromatic leaning motifs of the first movement, while the Trio's oboe and bassoon duet, with accompanying drone, masterfully pre-echoes the material of the pastoral finale that follows. A feisty orchestral tutti launches the fourth movement's eponymous hunt, comprising the obligatory horn calls, moto perpetuo rhythms and the rural tinge of droning pedal notes, Though any narrative should be left to the listener's imagination, might it be too much to suppose that the central development's restlessly questing modulations, and the beautiful decrescendo of the coda's sunset suggest a successful day for the fox?


Ian D. Crew






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