About this Recording
8.573497 - HAYDN, M.: Symphonies, Vol. 1 - P. 15, 16, 19, 21 (Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice, Patrick Gallois)

Johann Michael Haydn (1737–1806)
Symphonies • 1


Although the music-loving Haydn family is now principally remembered for the achievements of Franz Joseph (1732–1809), among his eleven siblings there were two further professional musicians: Johann Evangelist (1743–1805) and Johann Michael (1737–1806), the latter of whom had a significant national and even international reputation as a composer and performer. His substantial oeuvre includes stage works, secular cantatas, dances, marches, divertimenti, a huge number of sacred choral pieces, and over forty works entitled ‘Sinfonia’—that is, the symphony in its nascent form (and a term which, increasingly, came to refer to the typical fast-slow-fast instrumental overtures to operatic works).

Like his elder brother, Michael Haydn attended the choral school of St Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna, and was praised by no less a figure than the Empress Maria Theresia for his fine soprano voice. He was also a gifted keyboardist, and was sometimes called upon to deputise for the cathedral organist during these years—in addition to which he learned the violin, and studied the music of J.S. Bach, Handel, and closer contemporaries such as Carl Heinrich Graun and Johann Adolph Hasse. Upon leaving the Cathedral in c.1757, he worked for various employers in the region of modern-day Austria and Hungary until the summer of 1763, when he found permanent employment in Salzburg. Here, the court was run not by a duke or a prince, but by the Fürsterzbischof—Prince-Archbishop—Sigismund Christoph Schrattenbach, who was succeeded in 1771 by Hieronymus Colloredo. Haydn served these two masters for the rest of his life, remaining in Salzburg for over forty years.

Among Michael Haydn’s court colleagues in Salzburg was Leopold Mozart (1719–1787), who had taken over the position of vice-Kapellmeister when Haydn was appointed ‘Hof-und Konzertmeister’. Wounded that he had not been elevated to the prestigious post of Kapellmeister after several decades of service, Leopold was unimpressed with Haydn, whom he considered to be slapdash and neglectful of his duties. A close bond of friendship and professional mutual respect was to develop, however, between Leopold’s son, Wolfgang Amadeus, and Haydn, and there is evidence to suggest that young Mozart not only actively promoted Haydn’s music in Vienna, but drew inspiration and even modelled some of his compositions upon Haydn’s works. The stylistic similarities between the music of these two men was such that several of Haydn’s works were long thought to be by Mozart. Indeed, in 1783, when Haydn was unable to finish a commission to write a collection of duets for violin and viola through illness, Mozart finished the pieces for him and sent them off with Haydn’s name on the title page, to ensure that he was properly paid.

It is hardly surprising, given Haydn’s duties for his archbishops, and his close relationship with the Abbey of St Peter’s in Salzburg, that the majority of his compositions are sacred choral works. He was widely admired for his sacred music, winning plaudits from the newly-founded periodical, the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, with a circulation across German-speaking lands. The majority of the Sinfonias were composed between 1763 and 1788 (after which he focussed almost exclusively on sacred composition)—a period which coincided with his initial role as concert-master of the court orchestra, and largely before Colloredo set him more specific liturgical composition tasks. Thanks to Haydn’s careful record-keeping and his tendency to date his manuscripts, we are able to trace the compositional histories of these works, often to their very day of completion.

The four Sinfonias given here were all composed in the 1780s, under the regime of Archbishop Colloredo (who ran a rather stricter regime than his predecessor, and who famously fired Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from court service, ‘with a kick on my arse … by order of our worthy Prince Archbishop’ in 1781). The first Sinfonia in G (Perger 16), composed in May 1783, was formerly attributed to Mozart; and along with Haydn’s other works in this genre, it is scored to suit the forces available at court. The strings are supported by two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and a single flute in this graceful work, the horns often used most prominently at points of structural emphasis, such as the very opening and close of the Allegro con spirito. The flute colours the strings’ first melody in the Andante sostenuto, contrasted with a prominent role for bassoons in the movement’s central section, and an opportunity for the oboes to shine in the return to the opening material. It is the strings, however, which provide the majority of the drive and thematic material (as in the closing Allegro molto), reinforced by a continuo player—in this case, a harpsichord—to thicken the texture and elaborate the harmonic progressions of the music.

The Sinfonia in D (Perger 21), written in March 1785, requires no flute but retains the other wind players, this time prefacing the opening Allegro spiritoso with an Adagio introduction, the strings beginning alone, to be joined by the winds before the music moves seamlessly into a faster tempo. Once again, Haydn uses his second movement, an Andante sostenuto, to give special prominence to wind solos: this time, to his two oboists. The work concludes with a dancing Vivace molto, a lively set of variations.

The next work, the Sinfonia in C (Perger 19), is the only work to appear on this disc which was published during Haydn’s lifetime, as one of three ‘Sinfonie a Grand Orchestra’ by the Viennese publisher Artaria, in 1785—the year after its composition. This time, trumpets and timpani join the ensemble, adding little martial flourishes to the Allegro spiritoso and also serving to punctuate the Sinfonia’s contrapuntal Finale. The second movement rondo, Un poco adagio, begins rather more gently, the brass instruments later introduced to colour its dramatic middle episode before a return to the chamber-like scoring of the opening.

We conclude with a work in four movements, the Sinfonia in A (Perger 15), which includes a minuet and trio. This is also the earliest piece given here, written in July 1781—and Haydn’s only Sinfonia to feature, in addition to the standard two horns, a post horn, enriching the warm brass colouring of certain passages through the inclusion of this higher-range instrument. The post horn is also given a solo role in the trio of the third movement, gliding up and down the natural harmonics of a fanfare figuration. A pair of flutes are given particular prominence in the elegant elaborations of the Andante cantabile, whilst the outer movements bubble over with the energy of their string writing, lyrical melodies intertwining with driving bass lines and bouncing rhythms thrown back and forth to the wind players.

Katy Hamilton

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