HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 23, 24 and 61 (Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra/ Paul Hindmarsh) (Naxos: 8.550723)
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JosephHaydn (1732 - 1809)
SymphonyNo.24 in D Major
SymphonyNo.23 in G Major
SymphonyNo.61 in D Major
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the sonof a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen'sCathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teachingand playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora,whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to aBohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment asVice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy,succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of theelderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to hisposition, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza, inthe Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musicalestablishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, whichincluded the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, andmusic for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds,particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed stringinstrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music forthe concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successfulvisit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterhazyfamily, the new head of which had settled principallyat the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of theyear, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
WhetherHaydn was the father of the symphony is a question best left to musical genealogists. Hiscareer, however, spanned the period during which the classical symphony developed as theprincipal orchestral form. He himself certainly played a major part in this development,from his first symphony some time before 1759 to his final series of symphonies writtenfor the greater resources of London in 1794 and 1795. The London symphonies were precededby similar works for Paris and a much larger body of compositions of more modest scoringfor the orchestra at Esterahza and at Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a keyboardcontinuo, at least with the relatively smaller number of string players available.
Symphonies Nos. 23 and 24
were written in 1764 for performance before Prince Nikolaus at Eisenstadt, where theEsterahzy palace boasted a reception hall that could have held some four hundred people,although such numbers would not have been present at w hat was a purely domesticentertainment for the Prince, members of his family and entourage, and his guests. Thesesymphonies form part of a group of eight symphonies written in 1764 and 1765. Symphony No.23 in G major opens with a triple timeAllegro, a lively and cheerful movement. It is followed by a slow movement scored forstrings. To this the use of suspensions adds an element of poignancy, as the momentarydiscords are resolved. The Menuet is a canon between upper and lower parts, with a Triothat has motivic connections with the Menuet that frames it. The last movement makes useof dynamic contrasts, ending with a reduction of volume, instead of the expected emphaticconclusion.
In Symphony No.24 in D major Haydn shows once more hisability to produce, even at this early stage of his career as a composer, music ofinfinite variety and invention, within existing formal limitations. The opening Allegromakes initial use of the wind and string timbres available in a sonata-allegro movementthat has its moments of stronger feeling in the central development. The slow movementmakes use of the flute in apart apparently written for the Esterhazy flautist Franz Sigl,for whom Haydn also wrote a flute concerto, now lost. Here he exploits the abilities ofthe player, allowing him a brief cadenza. The following Menuet is repeated after a Trio inwhich the flute again has apart to play. The two oboes of the orchestra return for a finalmovement of dramatic contrasts.
SymphonyNo.61 in D major belongs to a slightly later period of Haydn's life. It was written in1776, at a time when Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy's interests in theatre and operapredominated, with visiting theatre-troupes working at Esterhaza and a marionette theatreestablished there in 1773. Haydn provided music for operas on special occasions, but theseasonal presence of actors and the requirements of the marionette theatre involved theprovision of incidental music for a variety of German plays, including translations ofShakespeare. Although the material Symphony No.61 cannotbe directly associated with any of the plays known to have been performed at Esterhazy,it belongs to a group of symphonies that do make use of incidental music originallyintended to accompany drama. These include SymphonyNo.60, Il distratto, using music for Jean Fran?ºois Regnard's play Le distraitand Symphony No.63, La Roxelane, withmusic composed for Favart's Les trois sultanes.
The vigorous opening Vivace of Symphony No.61
is followed by a moving Adagio and a cheerful Menuet, with the customary repetition aftera contrasting Trio. There is a particularly theatrical final movement that seems to tellits own story.
NorthernChamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in1967, the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Manchester has established itself as one ofEngland's finest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of theconcert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performs both inconcert and on disc without a conductor. Their repertoire ranges from the baroque era tomusic of our time, and they have gained a reputation for imaginative programme planning.
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it has received four majorEuropean bursaries for its achievements in the community. With a series of recordings forNaxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.
NicholasWard was born in Manchester in 1952, the son of parents who had met as members of theHalle Orchestra. In consequence music played an important part in his life fromchildhood, allowing him, after less successful attempts as a pianist, to learn the violinand, at the age of twelve, to form his own string quartet. This last continued for somefive years, until he entered the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where hestudied with Yossi Zivoni and later, in Brussels, with Andre Gertler. In 1977 NicholasWard moved to London, where he joined the Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic, whenthe orchestra worked under Antal Dorati as its Principal Conductor. He became co-leader ofthe City of London Sinfonia in 1984, a position followed by appointment as leader of theNorthern Chamber Orchestra, of which he became Music Director two years later, directingfrom the violin. In this form the orchestra has won high regard for its work both in theconcert hall and the broadcasting studio.