HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 26, 35 and 49 (John Taylor/ Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550721)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.26 in D Minor, "Lamentatione"
Symphony No.35 in B Flat Major
Symphony No.49 in F Minor, "La Passione"
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 theelderlyand somewhat obstructive 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 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 in 1790, Haydn was able toaccept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert seasonorganized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterhazy family, the new head ofwhich had settledprincipally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Muchof 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.
Whether Haydn was the father of the symphony is a question bestleft to musical genealogists. His career, however, spanned the period during which theclassical symphony developed as the principal orchestral form. He himself certainly playeda major part in this development, from his first symphony some time before 1759 to hisfinal series of symphonies written for the greater resources of London in 1794 and 1795.
The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and a much larger body ofcompositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra at Esterhaza and at Eisenstadt,many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo, at least with the relatively smallernumber of string players available.
Symphony No.26 in D minor
seems to have been written in 1768 or thereabouts and is scored for the usual Esterhazaforces of pairs of oboes and French horns, bassoon, strings and cembalo.
The symphony once had the spurious title Weihnachts symphonie,giving rise to the false supposition that it once had a final Christmas pastoral movement.
The title Lamentatione has morejustification and the Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon has shown from other evidence thatthe symphony is based on a traditional drama associated with the liturgical singing of theaccounts of the Passion of Christ in Holy Week. The first movement opens with a firstsubject that sets the scene of the tragedy. It is followed by a change to F major and atheme for first oboe and second violin that is derived from the liturgical chant, startingwith the familiar introductory words of the traditional text, followed by the moremeasured words of Christ, the interpolation of the Evangelist narrator and the words ofthe crowd. This forms the exposition or first section of the movement. The centraldevelopment opens with are turn to the material of the beginning of the symphony. Thefinal recapitulation has the thematic material of liturgical derivation in the key of Dmajor, the key in which the movement ends. The slow second movement again entrusts theliturgical material to the first oboe and second violin, now using a melody derived fromthe Lamentations of Maundy Thursday Matins, to which the first violin adds a verydifferent theme, a violin obbligato to what has been transformed into a chorale. Thesymphony ends with a Minuet and Trio that might at first seem less appropriate to theoccasion, although the key of the Minuet ensures a continued element of solemnity.
Haydn completed his SymphonyNo.35 in B flat major on 1st December 1767, scoring the work for pairs of oboesand high B flat horns, bassoon, strings and cembalo. What starts light-heartedly enoughassumes a graver air in the central development, where contrapuntal use of earlierthematic material introduces an element of stronger feeling, with the recapitulationmarked by the ascent of the first horn to unusual heights. The E flat major slow movementis scored for strings only with music of considerable charm. The wind instruments returnfor the Minuet, but are excluded from the E flat Trio, with its triplet rhythm handed fromsecond to first violin. The symphony ends with a cheerful Finale and the tone of the wholework has led Robbins Landon to suggest that it might have been written to celebrate thereturn from Paris of Prince Esterhazy, who had visited France in the autumn of 1767 withthe presumed object of learning more about the Palace of Versailles that his own newpalace at Esterhaza was to imitate and rival.
Symphony No.49, La Passione,was written in 1768 and is scored for pairs of oboes, French horns in F, bassoon, stringsand originally cembalo. This work, in the key of F minor, belongs clearly to the dramaticmood of Sturm und Drang, although not socalled until the publication in 1777 of Klinger's play of that name. Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), aself-explanatory title, describes well enough the current literary mode of extravagantexpression of emotions, partly reflected in some of the music of the period. Haydn'ssymphony follows the old pattern of the church sonata, opening with a slow movement. Adegree of tension is generated in the following Allegro di molto, not least by the wideleaps and syncopation of the first violin in the opening of the movement, leading to acalmer shift to the relative major key. The Minuet, in which first and second violinsdouble one another for much of the time, frames an F major Trio that makes use of the highrange of the first horn. The final monothematic Presto brings to an end a symphony thatenjoyed very considerable popularity in Haydn's life-time, the culmination of a particulardevelopment of the symphony and the expression of a depth of feeling that ensured seriousconsideration for the genre. A symphony of this kind was no mere diversion.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the orchestra 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 andit has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. Witha series of recordings for Naxos the orchestra m