Joseph Haydn (1732 -1809)
Symphony No.27 in G major / Symphony No.28 in A major
Symphony No.31 in D major ("Hornsignal")
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732,the son of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St Stephen's Cathedralin Vienna, he subsequently spent some years earning a living as best he couldfrom teaching 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 in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman,Count von Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Vivaldi. This was followedin 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men inthe Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded after his death in 1762 by PrinceNicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister
Gregor Werner, who had found much to complain about in the professionalism ofhis young and resented deputy, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain inthe same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterhazain the Hungarian plains under Prince Nicolaus, Haydn assumed command of anincreased 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 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 bowedstring instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
Prince Nicolaus died in 1790 and Haydn found himself ableto accept an invitation to visit London. There he provided music for concertseasons 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 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 centurythat saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach and Handelto the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement form andcomplementary three or four movements, the basis now of much instrumentalcomposition. The symphony 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 last symphoniesfor London in the last decade of the century.
Haydn's Symphony No.27 in G major has been definitivelydated by H.C.Robbins Landon, in his monumental study of the composer, to about1760, while the composer was in the service of Count Morzin. The three-movementsymphony, originally scored for oboes, strings and continuo, with French hornsadded later, has something of Mannheim about it in its opening ascendingthematic figure, the so-called rocket favoured by the famous Mannheim orchestra.
A gentler secondary theme is entrusted to the strings, before the exposition isrepeated. This material forms the basis of the symphonic development and thesubsequent recapitulation, again repeated. The C major second movement isscored for muted violins, with a plucked lower string accompaniment, and is inthe form of a pastoral Siciliano. The final Presto provides alively conclusion, with a short contrasting passage at its heart.
By 1765, the date of his Symphony No.28 in A major,Haydn was firmly established as a member of the Esterhazy musicalestablishment, still based at Eisenstadt and seemingly enjoying a goodrelationship with his new patron, Prince Nicolaus, who was urging thecomposition, in particular, of new works for the baryton. Scored for the usualpairs of oboes and French horns, with strings and continuo, the symphony startswith some metrical ambiguity, its triple metre at first a seeming 6/8. Theprincipal theme is used again in the central development, after the firstsection of the movement has been repeated, restored to its proper key in theclosing recapitulation in writing that has given new prominence to the windinstruments. These last are excluded from the D major slow movement, again for mutedviolins with the lower strings. Here the opening phrase is answered by theviolins in a higher register, before a curiously extended rhythmic figure inwhat follows. The Minuet starts with bariolage, the alternation of thesame note on adjacent strings of the violins, at first heard with one fingerednote and an open string and later with the necessary stretch of the left handto allow two fingered notes in alternation. The A minor Trio isdeveloped from a short melodic figure and is inconclusive in that it ends onthe middle note of the A minor chord. The symphony ends with a cheerful movementin 6/8, the metre of the gigue. The unusual features in the work have ledRobbins Landon to conjecture that it may have been derived from incidental musicfor a play presented at Eisenstadt, since Haydn is known to have adapted musicin this way on other occasions.
Symphony No.31 in D major, known as the Hornsignal,also dated to 1765, is unusual in its scoring, calling for a solo flute, a pairof oboes, four horns and strings with a solo violin, solo cello and solo doublebass, in addition to the expected continuo The first movement opens with thehorn signal that gives the work its popular name and the secondary material ofthe repeated exposition allows the flute three rapidly ascending scales. Thehorn signal returns to start the development and the solo flute is againallowed its scales. Unexpectedly the recapitulation begins in D minor, followedby the horns and the second part of the first subject. The full horn signal isleft until the final bars. The G major slow movement is in the gentle mood of aSiciliana and calls for a solo violin, accompanied by plucked strings,before the entry of the second pair of horns, now in G, soon to be followed,after another solo violin passage, by the first pair of horns, instruments in D.
The solo violin moves into the height of its range, answered by a solo cello,and the first section, to be repeated, ends quietly. The same solo instrumentsare deployed in the repeated second half of the movement, again with a hushedconclusion that allows the solo cello its final word. The whole orchestra isused in the following Minuet, with a Trio that makes telling useof the pair of oboes. The last movement is a theme and variations, the formerannounced by the strings, which accompany what follows Oboes and a pair ofhorns dominate the first variation, with the second given to the solo cello,the third to the flute and the demanding fourth to the four horns. The soloviolin provides a fifth version of the material, with a sixth for the whole ensembleand a seventh for strings with a double bass solo. A D minor link then leads toa final Presto that ends with a final horn signa