HAYDN: Famous Symphonies, Vol. 1 (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Gunter Appenheimer) (Naxos: 8.550139)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.96 in D Major, The Miracle
Symphony No.100 in G Major, Military
Symphony No. 82 in C Major, L'Ours/The Bear
Joseph Haydn was as prolific as any eighteenth century composer, hisfecundity a matter, in good pan, of the nature of his employment and the lengthof his life. Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau, the son of a wheelwright,he was recruited to the choir of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna at the ageof eight, later earning a living as best he could as a musician in the capitaland making useful acquaintances through his association with Metastasio, theCourt Poet, and the composer Nicola Porpora.
In 1759, after same eight years of teaching and free-lance performance,whether as violinist or keyboard-player, Haydn found greater security in aposition in the household of Count Morzin as director of music, wintering inVienna and spending the summer on the Count's estate in Bohemia, where anorchestra was available. In 1760 Haydn married the eldest daughter of awigmaker, a match that was to bring him no great solace, and by the followingyear he had entered the service of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy as deputy to theold Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had much fault to find with his youngcolleague. In 1762 Prince Paul Anton died and was succeeded by his brotherPrince Nikolaus, who concerned himself with the building of the great palace ofEsterh8za. In 1766 Werner died, and Haydn assumed the full duties ofKapellmeister, spending the larger part of the year at Esterhaza and part ofthe winter at Eisenstadt, where his first years of service to the Esterhazyfamily had passed.
Haydn's responsibilities at Esterhaza were manifold. as Kapellmeisterhe was in full charge of the musicians employed by the Prince, writing music ofall kinds, and directing performances both instrumental and operatic. This busyif isolated career came to an end with the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790.
From then onwards Haydn had greater freedom, while continuing to enjoy the titleand emoluments of his position as Kapellmeister to the Prince's successors.
Haydn's release from his immediate responsibilities allowed him, in1791 , to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for theconcerts organised by Johann Peter Salomon. His considerable success led to asecond visit in 1794. The following year, at the request of the new PrinceEsterhazy, who had succeeded his eider brother in 1794, he resumed same of hisearlier duties as Kapellmeister, now in Eisenstadt and in Vienna, where he tookup his own residence until his death in 1809.
The first visit to England began on New Year's Day, 1791, the eventcelebrated in undistinguished English verse in the popular press. Salomon hadarranged a series of twelve subscription concerts, to be held in the HanoverSquare Rooms, the first of which took place, after various postponements, on11th March, and included a new Grand Overture by Haydn, probably the SymphonyNo.96, which was certainly played during the earlier part of the season. Itsnickname, The Miracle, came about, it is said, because of the miraculous escapeof a number of members of the audience who moved forward to see Haydn when heappeared, thus avoiding being crushed by a falling chandelier.
The first movement opens, as do most of the London symphonies, with aslow introduction, the solo oboe leading to the Allegro, in which the firstviolin proposes the principal theme, followed by a subsidiary theme in whichthe woodwind instruments at first answer the first violin. The developmentseems to end with a sudden pause, but what follows is in another key, leadingeventually to the recapitulation proper. The G Major slow movement allows thewind instruments a gradually increasing share, after the announcement of theprincipal theme by the first violin. There is a Minor middle section, beforethe return of the main theme, with scoring for two solo violins. The Minuetcalls for the full orchestra, with its flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpetsand drums, while the companion Trio is dominated by the solo oboe. The finaleis opened by the strings with the principal theme, a lively and delicate rondo,that includes an excursion into the Minor, with the same theme, and acontrapuntal development of the material.
In 1794 Haydn set out on his second visit to London and in FebruarySalomon's subscription season began in the Hanover Square Rooms. Six newsymphonies had been commissioned, and of these Symphony No.100 in G major wasplayed at the eighth concert, on 31st March, in a programme that included theperformance of a new Haydn quartet and a concerto composed and played by theviolinist Viotti. The Grand Military Overture, as the new work was described,starts with a slow introduction, thematically connected with w hat follows. TheAllegro is opened by the flutes and oboes, followed by the strings, a procedurethat also marks the second subject, later to be imitated in military style byJohann Strauss. The C Major second movement, marked Allegretto, includes a militarybattery of kettledrums, triangle, cymbals and bass drum in its scoring, as wellas allowing the wind band a proper share of the music. The Minuet is relativelyslow, with a touch of the ominous in the G Minor bars of the Trio. The symphonyends with a rondo, the main theme of which quickly became widely popular inEngland, where it was to serve its purpose in the ball-room. Towards the end ofthe finale the military percussion is again used, to the disapproval of onecontemporary critic, but nevertheless providing an additional unity to thework.
Sixteen years earlier, in 1778, Mozart, during the course of hisunhappy visit to Paris, had obliged the public with a work suited to the largerorchestra of the French capital, bigger even than the relatively largeorchestra that Salomon assembled from underpaid musicians for his Londonconcerts. Haydn enjoyed considerable esteem in Paris, and in 1785, in responseto a commission from the young Comte d'Ogny, he provided a set of six Parissymphonies, designed for the larger orchestra available there. At the palace ofEsterhaza Haydn had a small band, with less than a dozen string players: theconcerts of the masonic Loge Olympique, for which he wrote his new symphonies,could master forty violins and ten basses.
Symphony No.82 in C Major, the first of the set, was written in 1786,one of a second group of three in order of composition. All seem to have beenplayed for the first time during the 1787 concert season, when they wereenthusiastically received. No.85 appealed particularly to Queen MarieAntoinette, and was thereafter known as La Reine, while No.83 became known asLa poule, a reference to the clucking of a first movement melody rather than toany lady of the French court. No.82 won the nickname L'Ours, The Bear, from thebagpipe bear-dance that opens its last movement.
The symphony provides a fine opportunity for the premier coup d'archet,the unanimous attack at the beginning of a work, a feature on which Frenchorchestras prided themselves and that Mozart had found unexceptional. Thegentler second subject of the first movement follows relatively startlingdiscords. The slow movement, not a particularly slow one, offers two themes,the first in F Major, the second, a related one, in F Minor. These elements arerepeated with variations, with a final repetition of an even more variedversion of the first theme, followed by a coda. The French-style Menuet and itscontrasting Trio leads to the famous finale, with its opening bagpipe dronefrom the cellos and double basses, and bear-dance violin melody, elements tha