HAYDN: Keyboard Concertinos / String Trios (Darko Milowich/ Ensemble d'arco/ Sabine Vatin) (Naxos: 8.557660)
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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
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 Esterhazy, 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 Esterhazys was at the new palace of Esterhaza 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 Esterhazy 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.
Haydn's keyboard music was at first written for the harpsichord, with later works clearly intended for the pianoforte, as dynamic markings show. His career coincided with changes in the standard keyboard instrument, as the fortepiano and then the pianoforte, with their hammer action and dynamic possibilities, gradually replaced the harpsichord and clavichord. At the same time there was a parallel change in instrumental forms, as the structure that has come to be known, among other titles, as sonata-allegro form, developed.
Unlike Mozart, a virtuoso soloist in his own 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. His keyboard concertos are very much simpler in content than those of Mozart and are scored for harpsichord, fortepiano or pianoforte, two violins and bass (cello), making them practically available for domestic use, an option Mozart also explored in his concertos K. 413-415. Their nature has led to the alternative title of Concertino, now commonly used to describe the works.
The Concertino in C major, Hob.XIV:12, like other works of this kind, seems to have been written in the 1760s, possibly in the earlier years of Haydn's employment in Eisenstadt by the Esterhazy family, or in part in the immediately preceding years. He seems to have developed no particular continuing interest in the form, which lacked the immediate purpose served by the instrumental concertos he wrote for performance by musicians of the Esterhazy musical establishment, at least in the first years of his service, or later for distinguished virtuosi in Vienna. The manuscript parts of the work survived at Kremsier Castle (Kroměřič), a residence of the Bishop of Olm??tz (Olomouc), with the title Partitta a Clavi Cembalo con due Violini e Basso. The first movement of the Concertino, in sonata-allegro form, has a short central development that starts with the principal theme, the keyboard instrument always dominating. The exposition is repeated, as are the development and recapitulation. The F major Adagio, each half of which is again repeated, allows the right-hand keyboard melody supremacy. The central section explores minor keys, with the same rhythmic figure always prominent, and the last part of the movement includes a cadenza for the keyboard. The final 3/8 Allegro follows a similar pattern.
The Trio in D major, Hob.XI:11, one of the many works that Haydn wrote for baryton, the favourite instrument of his patron, Prince Nicolaus, has outer movements, an Adagio and a contrapuntal final Presto, that are probably more familiar in the version published by J.J. Hummel in Amsterdam in 1770 for flute, violin and cello. The baryton, an instrument soon destined to virtual extinction, is a bowed string instrument, similar to a bass viol, with six or seven strings, frets, and a larger number of sympathetic metal strings under the neck, which add resonance to the notes played and some of which could also be plucked. For the English writer on music Charles Burney this made the baryton best suited for performance on a desert island, where the player could pluck his own accompaniment to his own satisfaction.
Manuscript parts of the Concertino in F major, Hob.XVIII:F2, were also preserved at Kremsier Castle, with the title Concerto. Per Il Clavicembalo. Violino Primo. Violino Secondo. Con Basso. Its authenticity no longer generally disputed, it opens cheerfully with a principal theme marked by a triplet rhythmic figure, moving through the minor before reaching the dominant key of C. A brief central section leads to a final recapitulation. The C major slow movement follows a similar pattern of modulation and structure, as does the brilliant final Allegro assai.
Haydn's Concertino in G major, Hob.XIV:13, the surviving source for which consists of parts preserved in the court library of Prince F??rstenberg under the title Concerto a Cembalo conc: Violino 1mo Violino 2do e Basso, is in the form used for the other examples of the genre here included. It has a characteristic first movement that touches on the minor in its central development, before proceeding to a recapitulation. The slow movement is in E minor and allows the upper keyboard part relatively elaborate melodic prominence. The work ends with a rapid finale in 3/8.
The String Trio in C major, Hob.V:16, written for two violins and cello, was among those published, presumably without Haydn's authority, by Chevardi?¿re in Paris in 1765. Its composition probably dates from two years earlier. It follows a pattern Haydn favours in some of these works, with two faster movements framing a central movement in the form of a Minuet.
Haydn's Concertino in C major, Hob.XIV:11, was written in 1760 and is preserved in various sources, one based on the lost autograph. The opening Moderato duly modulates to the dominant, before the exposition is repeated, continuing with a central development and recapitulation, with the keyboard prominent, suggesting a keyboard sonata with relatively modest accompaniment. The Adagio, in A minor, is a solemn aria for the keyboard, rather in the manner of a Vivaldi concerto slow movement. It is capped by a lively 3/8 Allegro.