HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 30, 55 and 63 (John Taylor/ Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550757)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.30 in C Major, "Alleluja"
Symphony No.55 in E Flat Major, "The Schoolmaster"
Symphony No.63 in C Major, "La Roxelane"
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.
Symphony No.30 in C major, known as the "Alleluja", was writtenin 1765, possibly for performance on Easter Sunday in that year. It is scoredfor an orchestra of two oboes, bassoon, two horns in C and strings, with a soloflute in the second and third movements. The nickname of the symphony is derivedfrom its use of a plainchant alleluja, in a form known in Haydn's time. Thismelody is first heard in part from the second oboe and second violins, withassistance from the French horns. The G major second subject is derived from thechant, which assumes importance in the central development. The strings open theG major slow movement, followed by the solo flute and oboes, with the horns nowsilent, to re-appear in the final Tempo di Menuet, which allows the solo flute adominant position in an F major episode, followed by an A minor episodeprimarily for the strings, before the final return of the opening C majorMinuet.
Haydn's Symphony No.55 in E flat major, popularly known as DerSchulmeister (The Schoolmaster), was written in 1774 and is scored for theusual Esterhaza orchestra of the period, with pairs of oboes, bassoons andhorns, the last in E fiat and in B fiat alto, with strings. The origin of itsnickname is not clear, but it was listed in 1805 by Haydn's assistant Eissler asDer verliebte Schulmeister (The Schoolmaster in Love). The first movement openswith four emphatic chords, followed by a gentler reply. The strings deal firstwith the second subject, while the development section, with its changes of key,is introduced by aversion of the first subject. The strings are muted as the Bflat major second movement opens, announcing a simple theme in which some havedetected the hand of the pedagogue and his subsequent infatuation. This materialis then varied, retaining for most of the movement the simple two-voice texture,with violins doubling each other and viola doubling cello and double bass. Thejocular E fiat Minuet has a contrasting Trio for violins and solo cello, whilethe final Rondo finds a place for an episode scored only for the four windinstruments. The symphony ends with a witty exchange between the instruments ina brief coda.
Symphony No.63 in C major, known as La Roxelane, seems to havebeen completed in its second or final version in 1780, but made use of materialfrom an earlier period. The first movement was taken from Haydn's overture tothe opera Il mondo della luna (The World of the Moon), a treatment ofGoldoni staged at Esterhaza in 1777. The slow movement, from which the symphonytakes its popular name, was taken from incidental music for Favart's comedy Lestrois sultanes, apparently performed at Esterhaza in 1777 by a visitingtroupe. Roxelane herself is one of the women of the title, and remarkablytroublesome at that. The later version of the symphony is scored for flute,oboes, horns, bassoon and strings, omitting the trumpets and drums and secondbassoon of the first version and substituting a different Minuet and Finale. Theenergetic opening subject of the first movement, taken up by the wind section,is duly contrasted with a more sinuous second subject and there is a dramaticcentral development and modified return of earlier material. The C minorRoxelane movement opens with muted strings, with oboes doubling violins at theoctave in the following C major material. A solo flute doubles the first violinsin the first C minor variation, after which the strings return, now with anelaborated second violin accompaniment, the wind re-introducing the C majortheme, now varied by the strings in conclusion. Oboe and bassoon have prominencein the Trio, framed by a forth right Minuet, and the Finale opens delicatelyenough, before the whole orchestra makes its own emphatic statement to cap theprincipal theme. A subsidiary theme offers aversion of the Mannheim rocket in anascending melodic figure. This material returns in a final recapitulation, witha coda that repeats the twists of key first heard in the ending of the first,exposition section.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the orchestra has established itself as one of England'sfinest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of theconcert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performsboth in concert and on disc without a conductor. Their repertoire ranges fromthe baroque era to music of our time, and they have gained a reputation forimaginative programme planning.
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and it hasreceived four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community.
With a series of recordings for Naxos the orchestra makes it