HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 13 and 36 / Sinfonia Concertante (Cologne Chamber Orchestra/ Helmut Muller-Bruhl) (Naxos: 8.554762)
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Symphony No. 13 in Dmajor Symphony No. 36 in E flat major
Sinfonia Concertantein 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 subsequently spent some years earning a living as best he could fromteaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to profit fromassociation with the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn'sfirst appointment was probably in 1758 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemiannobleman, Count von Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Vivaldi.
This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister toone of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeededafter his death in 1762 by Prince Nicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderlyand somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had found much tocomplain about in the professionalism of his young and resented deputy, Haydn succeededto his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for therest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palaceat Esterhaza in the Hungarian plains under Prince Nicolaus, Haydn assumed command ofan increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musicalactivities of the palace, which included the provision and direction ofinstrumental music, opera and music for the theatre, as well as music for thechurch. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds,particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowedstring instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
Prince Nicolaus died in 1790 and Haydn found himself able to accept aninvitation to visit London. There he provided music for concert seasonsorganized 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 with them. Much of the year,however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dyingin 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
Haydn lived during the period of the eighteenth century that saw thedevelopment of instrumental music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era ofthe classical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement form and complementarythree or four movements, the basis now of much instrumental composition. Thesymphony may claim to have become the most important form of orchestralcomposition and owes a great deal, if not its precise paternity, to Haydn. Hefirst attempted such composition some time before 1759 and wrote his lastsymphonies for London in the last decade of the century.
The two symphonies here included are both relatively early works. TheSymphony No. 13 in D major has a precise date, 1763, one of threesymphonies written in that year. It was in August that two new horn-playerswere added to the complement of musicians at Eisenstadt and Haydn was at onceable to make use of their abilities in scoring the new symphony for four horns,together with a flute, two oboes,a bassoon, timpani and strings. The principal theme of the first movement has afestive air about it and there is the due modulation to the dominant key of Amajor before the end of the repeated exposition, although there is no formalsecond subject. The horns have their moment in the recapitulation that followsthe short central development section. The G major slow movement is scored forstrings only and is in the form of an embellished aria for solo cello, playedat Eisenstadt by the cellist Joseph Weigl. The key of D major returns, with thewind instruments, for the following Menuet, with a contrasting G major Triofor solo flute and strings. The opening of the Finale may seemfamiliar in its use of a motif derived from plainchant that was to serve Mozartin the last moven1ent of his Jupiter Symphony and elsewhere. The motifappears throughout the movement but only as it nears its end does it return infugal overlapping entries in the strings, the stretto of traditionalcounterpoint.
Symphony No. 36 in Eflat major is undated but in style is clearly an early work, writteneither before Haydn's appointment to Eisenstadt or in his first years ofemployment there. It is scored for pairs of oboes and horns and strings, withthe usual possibility of a bassoon doubling the bassline. The energetic first subject of the opening movement leads to a secondary theme that starts, at least, in aminor key. The central section of the movement starts with the principalsubject before moving into a dramatic exploration of remoter keys, followed bythe return of the earlier thematic material in recapitulation. The B flat majorslow movement is again scored for strings only, now with a solo violin and asolo cello. Although very much of its period, the structure is broadly that ofthe Baroque instrumental movement, with a recurrent phrase, a ritornello, usedto punctuate solo passages. A sprightly Menuetto frames a B flat major Trioof dynamic contrasts, scored principally for strings, with brief doublingfrom the oboes. The last movement has a sinister secondary theme starting inthe dominant minor key. The principal theme returns in the central section,expanded by the use of the Baroque device of sequence, before the expectedrecapitulation of the material in a movement in which both halves are repeated.
Haydn reached Englandfor his first visit to the country on 1st January 1791 and made his way back toVienna in the summer of the following year, having agreed with Salomon on afurther visit. It was during the second season, at a concert on 9th March 1792at the Hanover Square Rooms, that the Sinfonia Concertante was firstheard, a work in currently popular form. Haydn's pupil Ignace Joseph Pleyel hadbeen engaged by William Cramer to lead a rival series of concerts in London,also at the Hanover Square Rooms, and provided works of this kind. Thisseemingly suggested to Salomon that he might ask Haydn to write something ofthe same kind. Haydn's New Concerto for Violin, Violoncello, Oboe and Bassoonwas played by the violinist Salomon himself, with the cellist Menel, the oboistHarrington and the bassoonist Holmes, and described in the Morning Herald as'profound, airy, affecting and original' on this occasion and also a weeklater, when it was repeated. A full account of these concerts is, of course,included in the monumental work on Haydn by H.C. Robbins Landon.
The soloists appearfirst in the opening orchestral exposition of the initial Allegro, beforetheir first formal entry, with the solo instruments treated in pairs. Otherkeys are duly explored in the central development, before the return of theprincipal theme with the solo violin. There is an effective final cadenza forall four instruments before the movement comes to an end. Solo violin andbassoon start the Andante, accompanied by the strings and followed bythe solo oboe and cello. The solo group holds the attention throughout themovement, the relatively intimate mood broken by the brusque opening of thelast movement, its initial course unexpectedly broken by passages of recitativefor the solo violin. There is technically demanding writing, particularly forthe solo violin, and a brief passage of recitative that might even havesuggested something to Beethoven, and a short, improvised cadenza, before thefinal return of the mai