Haydn - Symphonies (Bela Drahos/ Ibolya Toth/ Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia) (Naxos: 8.550780)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.97 in C Major
Symphony No.98 in B Flat Major
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of awheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna,he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playingthe violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora,whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 asKapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in theEmpire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by hisbrother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhatobstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, toremain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion under the new Prince of the magnificent palace atEsterhaza, built on the site of a former hunting-lodge set on the Hungarianplains, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he hadresponsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included theprovision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, andmusic for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music ofall kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, abowed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept aninvitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert seasonorganized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit toLondon in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterhazyfamily, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property inEisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, wasto be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as theFrench armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
Whether Haydn was the father of the symphony is a question best left tomusical genealogists. His career, however, spanned the period during which theclassical symphony developed as the principal orchestral form. He himselfcertainly played a major part in this development, from his first symphony sometime before 1759 to his final series of symphonies written for the greaterresources of London in 1794 and 1795. The London symphonies were preceded bysimilar works for Paris and a much larger body of compositions of more modestscoring for the orchestra at Esterhaza and at Eisenstadt, many of the lastcalling for a keyboard continuo, at least with the relatively smaller number ofstring players available.
Haydn landed in England for the first time on New Year's Day 1791, shortlyafterwards reaching London, where he lodged with the violinist-impresario JohannPeter Salomon, who had arranged the visit. The Salomon concert season beganeventually on 11th March in the Hanover Square Rooms, where Johann ChristianBach and his colleague Carl Friedrich Abel had earlier established a series ofsubscription concerts. Salomon's orchestra at this time consisted of some fortyhighly competent performers and it was for them that Haydn wrote the first ofhis Salomon or London Symphonies. In June the season came to anend and in July Haydn travelled to Oxford, where he took part in a series ofconcerts and received the degree of Doctor of Music. Salomon's 1792 season inHanover Square began in February.
Symphony No.97 was apparently first performed at an additional benefitconcert for Haydn, given on 3rd May. The symphony was repeated at the tenthconcert of the Salomon series the following evening. Scored for pairs of flutes,oboes, bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, and directed in thesefirst performances by the composer at the piano, the work opens with a slowintroduction, using melodic material closely related to the ending of theexposition and to the coda that concludes the movement. The Vivace openstriumphantly with a fanfare figure shared by the whole orchestra, leading to alilting second subject. The central development brings back the triadic firstsubject, at first in E flat, then in D major, to be developed in interplaybetween the instruments. The F major slow movement is introduced by the strings,the principal theme punctuated by chords from woodwind and horns. The theme isthen varied, with the first violins launching into triplets, to be followed byan F minor version of the material. The next variation is to be played alponticello, near the bridge of the violins, firsts now doubled by seconds insemiquavers. A coda follows. The Minuet makes use of dynamic contrasts andframes a Trio that takes the first violins into the heights. There arestructural surprises in the Finale, where the first subject unexpectedlycontains a middle section in the dominant, while the second subject is firstheard in the tonic, the key in which the central development opens. There arefurther surprises as the movement takes its course.
Symphony No.98 in B flat major has been introduced to the London publictwo months earlier at the third Salomon concert, given at the Hanover SquareRooms on 2nd March. Following the general practice in these concerts, the newsymphony opened the second part of the programme, which was as varied as ever,including songs, symphonies, concertos for cello and for violin, as well as aclarinet quartet. The symphony differs in scoring from Symphony No. 97 bythe omission of one of the two flutes and in its unusual requirement of B flattrumpets. Again there is a slow introduction, beginning in B flat minor, itsslowly ascending triad recalled in the opening of the Allegro. The same theme isheard in the dominant before the second subject proper, entrusted to the oboe,its long, sustained notes accompanied by repeated quavers in violins and violas.
The opening figure of the Allegro provides material for the start of the centraldevelopment, duly to re-appear to start the recapitulation and to dominate thefinal coda. The Adagio is in F major, its principal theme a hymn that suggeststhe anthem "God save the King". The material is movingly developed andthe recapitulation opens with the accompaniment of a solo cello. Trumpets anddrums, omitted from the slow movement, return in the forthright Minuet,remaining silent with the horns in the Trio, with its doubling of first violinsand bassoon. The Finale allows the first violins to state the principal theme,echoed by a solo oboe. The development calls for a solo violin, in a contrast oftexture, while the extended coda slows the main theme, only to rush onward innotes of shorter value, its final bars allowing Haydn, at the keyboard, to addfurther modest embellishments in a series of accompanying arpeggios.
Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia
The Hungarian Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia was formed in1992 from members ofthe Hungarian Symphony Orchestra by Ibolya Toth, of the Hungarian PhoenixStudio. The Sinfonia has among its musicians the principal wind-players of theSymphony Orchestra, many of whom have already recorded concertos for Naxos. Theconductor of the Sinfonia is the flautist Bela Drahos.
Bela Drahos was born in Kaposvar in South-West Hungary in 1955 and enteredthe Gyor Conservatory in 1969, winning first prize in the Concertino Prague '71International Flute Competition and a year later in the flute competition stagedby Hungarian Television. Study at the Li