About this Recording
8.570483 - HAYDN, J.: Violin Concertos, Hob. VIIa: 1, 3, 4 (Hadelich)
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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Violin Concertos

Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIa:1
Concerto in A major, Hob.VIIa:3
Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIa:4


Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau, near the modern border between Austria and Slovakia, Joseph Haydn was the son of a wheelwright. He had his musical training as a chorister at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and thereafter earned a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard. During these earlier years he was able to learn from the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn’s first regular employment came in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by appointment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, remaining in the same employment, nominally at least, until his death in 1809.

Much of Haydn’s service of the Esterházys was at the new palace of Eszterháza on the Hungarian plains, a complex of buildings to rival Versailles in magnificence. Here he was responsible for the musical establishment and its activities, including regular instrumental concerts and music for the theatre, opera and church. For his patron he provided a variety of chamber music, in particular for the Prince’s favourite instrument, the baryton. On the death of Prince Nicolaus in 1790 Haydn was able to accept an invitation from the violinist-impresario Salomon to visit London, where he already enjoyed a considerable reputation. He was in London for a second time in 1794 and 1795, after which he returned to duty with the Esterházy family, now chiefly at the family residence in Eisenstadt, where he had started his career. Much of the year, however, was passed in Vienna, where he spent his final years, dying as the city fell once more into the power of Napoleon’s army.

Unlike Mozart, a virtuoso soloist in his own violin and piano concertos, Haydn had the usual competence of a successful professional musician of his time, able to lead the orchestras he directed from the violin, or, more commonly, from the keyboard. The demands on each composer were very different, with Mozart, particularly in the last decade of his life in Vienna, relying on his reputation as a performer and arranging his own subscription concerts, now displaying his ability as a pianist, and Haydn, employed by a princely patron, with an orchestra and a theatre at his disposal, and with the concomitant duties and relative security.

Nine violin concertos were at one time ascribed to Haydn. Of these four were genuine, and one of the four is lost, leaving only three surviving authentic concertos for the instrument. They all seem to date from the earlier years of Haydn’s employment by the Ezterházys at Eisenstadt. The first of these, the Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIa:1, described as ‘fatto per il luigi’ in Haydn’s own catalogue of his compositions, where it is entered under the year 1765, was apparently written for the violinist Luigi Tomasini, who had entered the service of Prince Paul Esterházy in 1757 and had been sent for further training in his native Italy; he was later given the title Konzertmeister. Tomasini’s service of the Esterházys mirrored that of Haydn, with a break from practical involvement when the Esterházy Kapelle was disbanded on the death of Prince Nicolaus in 1790 and a resumption of activity at Eisenstadt under Prince Nicolaus II, to retain his title until his death in 1808. The date 1769 has been attached to the concerto, since it appears under that year in the Breitkopf catalogue, advertising manuscript copies of the work. This provides a terminus post quem non, but the concerto was presumably written a few years earlier, dated by some to 1761. It was rediscovered, with the Concerto in G major, in the Breitkopf and Härtel archives in 1909. The first of the concertos opens with the principal theme of the movement, to be heard again when the soloist enters, with the opening of the theme in double stopping. The wide leaps that appear in the solo part, the use of connecting chaims of dotted figuration and the rapid ornamentation by the soloist are characteristic of Italian style of the time. There is a similar Italian style apparent in the F major Adagio serenade that forms the slow movement. The final Presto has the soloist again enter with double stopping, after the orchestral introduction of the main theme. Use is again made of wide leaps and of the relatively higher register of the violin.

The Concerto in A major, Hob.VIIa:3, is often known as the ‘Melk’ Concerto, as copies of the parts were found at Melk Abbey, where oboes are listed and horn parts actually included. The wind parts are thought by some not to be authentic, as they are omitted in a second source surviving in Venice, and in any case the oboe parts would need to be reconstructed. The concerto is listed in Haydn’s catalogue between the dates 1765 and 1770, and was probably also written for Tomasini. It is marginally more demanding than the earlier work, but again makes considerable use of chains of dotted notes, double stopping, relatively high registers of the violin and ornamental figuration. The D major slow movement is followed by an extended and vigorous finale.

The Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIa:4, is not included in Haydn’s own catalogue but is listed in the 1769 Breitkopf catalogue, with the Concerto in C major. Manuscript parts survive dated 1777 with the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde and in the Breitkopf archive. As with the other concertos, there is no autograph manuscript surviving.

The G major Concerto is rather less demanding than the other two and may well be earlier than either of them. The solo part makes relatively modest demands on the violinist and the high registers explored in the other concertos are avoided. Baroque chains of dotted notes still have their part, while double stopping is limited. The slow movement aria is in C major, and the last movement, as before, allows the soloist to enter with the main theme, first heard from the orchestra which returns to it to end the whole work.

The cadenzas for all three concertos are by Augustin Hadelich.

Keith Anderson

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