HAYDN: Piano Variations
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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau, near themodern border between Austria and Slovakia, JosephHaydn was the son of a wheelwright. He had hismusical training as a chorister at St Stephen's Cathedralin Vienna and thereafter earned a living as best he couldfrom teaching and playing the violin or keyboard.
During these earlier years he was able to learn from theold composer Porpora, whose assistant he became.
Haydn's first regular employment came in 1759 asKapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count vonMorzin. This was followed in 1761 by appointment asVice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in theEmpire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded on hisdeath in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On thedeath in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructiveKapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to hisposition, remaining in the same employment, nominallyat least, until his death in 1809.
Much of Haydn's service of the Esterhazys was atthe new palace of Esterhaza on the Hungarian plains, acomplex of buildings to rival Versailles in magnificence.
Here he was responsible for the musical establishmentand its activities, including regular instrumental concertsand music for the theatre, opera and church. For hispatron he provided a variety of chamber music, inparticular for the Prince's favourite instrument, thebaryton, a bowed string instrument with sympatheticstrings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790 Haydn wasable to accept an invitation from the violinist-impresarioSalomon to visit London, where he already enjoyed aconsiderable reputation. He was in London for a secondtime in 1794 and 1795, after which he returned to dutywith the Esterhazy family, now chiefly at the familyresidence in Eisenstadt, where he had started his career.
Much of the year, however, was spent in Vienna, wherehe spent his final years, dying as the city fell once moreinto the power of Napoleon's army.
Haydn's keyboard music was at first written for theharpsichord, with later works clearly intended for thepianoforte, as dynamic markings show. In addition tosome 47 sonatas, he also wrote a number of other works,many of them in the form of sets of variations.
The Twenty Variations in G major was written inabout 1765 and in 1788-1789 abridged, re-arranged andtransposed to the key of A major for publication (Naxos8.553826). The theme is one of great simplicity in theform of a dance. The first variation decorates the upperpart in triplet rhythms, the second offers a derivedmelody and the third indulges in hand-crossing. Thefourth version explores a middle register of thekeyboard, the fifth has right-hand semiquavers and thesixth rapid accompanying activity in the left hand. Theseventh treatment of the material answers left-handchords with rapider right-hand figuration, the eighth isat first largely in the upper register of the instrument, theninth has broken chords, while the tenth and eleventhfeature thirds and octaves respectively. The subsequentvariations continue the somewhat old-fashioned patternof what the modern editor Franz Eibner describes as achaconne, a Baroque dance-variation form, leading to afinal version of the material that demands an instrumenttuned with a so-called 'short octave', making a widerspread of chord a possibility. There has been somedisagreement among scholars as to whether this andother works of the period were designed for theharpsichord or for a square piano perhaps newlyacquired at Eisenstadt.
Haydn's Theme and Variations in C major has beenconjecturally dated to November 1790 and itspublication was announced by Artaria in Vienna inFebruary the following year. The work was writtenshortly before the composer left for his first visit toEngland. The theme itself, marked Andante, is ofgreater interest than the earlier work that had probablybeen designed for teaching purposes, and the sixvariations that follow offer a modest challenge to aperformer in their figuration. The fifth version of thematerial is in C minor and there is delicate ornamentationin the final treatment.
The Capriccio in G major was written in 1765,perhaps for Haydn's own performance. It takes as itsbasis a folk-song, Acht Sauschneider m??ssen sein(There must be eight to castrate a boar), a simplemelody. The Capriccio was published by Artaria in1788. The theme, after its initial statement, is heardagain in the bass, in D major, interrupted by a suddenpause. It is then transformed into A minor, after which itmoves into key after key, often unexpectedly related,before a final return to the original G major.
Haydn's Arietta con 12 Variazioni, in the key ofE flat major, is based on the Minuet of his Quartet, Opus9, No. 2, probably written between 1768 and 1770. Thevariations have been dated to the early 1770s and werefirst published under the present title by Artaria in1788/9. The first variation uses the upper register of theinstrument, proceeding, in the second, to rapiderfiguration. The third introduces a chromatic element andthe runs and arpeggios of the fourth are followed bydotted rhythms in the fifth version and scale passage inthe sixth. The seventh variation brings dramatic changesin dynamics, the eighth introduces a brusque tripletrhythm, the ninth divided octaves. The ornamentedtenth version of the material is followed by a variationin which the melody is primarily in a middle registerand a final bravura treatment of the theme.
For many years attributed to Abbe Josef Gelinek,after its posthumous publication in 1815, Haydn'sVariations on ,,Gott erhalte\, was seemingly thecomposer's own keyboard arrangement of the variationson the Emperor's Hymn that he had included in hisString Quartet in C major, Opus 76, No. 3, written in1797, the year of the birthday hymn itself. The wellknowntheme is heard first, followed by a version inwhich, originally, the first violin added its ownembellishment. The second variation is based on theversion in which the cello has the theme, intertwinedwith the tenor line. The third has the theme in an innervoice, with syncopated accompaniment above and thefourth and final variation further enriches the harmony.
Haydn's F major Divertimento: Il Maestro e loScolare (The Master and the Pupil), for piano duet, hasbeen dated to 1766-1768. It is in two movements and itsmaterial appears in a Baryton Trio of about 1767.
Obviously designed for teaching purposes, as its titledeclares, the opening theme, a reminiscence of theHandel keyboard piece that later became known as TheHarmonious Blacksmith, is played by the master andechoed by the pupil, fragment by fragment. Theprocedure is broadly followed in the eight subsequentvariations, with a third version suggesting the use of'short octave' tuning in the lower part. The versions ofthe theme, as they proceed, introduce marginally greaterdemands for digital dexterity and allow the teacheroccasional elaboration that is not echoed above by thepupil. The second of the two movements is a Tempo diMenuet. Here the pupil may enjoy a modicum ofindependence to achieve a satisfactory conclusion to thelesson.Keith Anderson