HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 37-40
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Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphonies Nos. 37-40
Franz Joseph Haydn was born in the village ofRohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at thechoir-school of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, hesubsequently spent some years earning a living as besthe could from teaching and playing the violin orkeyboard, and was able to profit from association withthe old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became.
Haydn's first appointment was probably as early as 1758as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count vonMorzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron toVivaldi. This was followed in 1761 by employment asVice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in theEmpire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded afterhis death in 1762 by Prince Nicolaus. On the death in1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructiveKapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had found much tocomplain about in the professionalism of his young andresented deputy, Haydn succeeded to his position, toremain in the same employment, nominally at least, forthe rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace atEsterhaza in the Hungarian plains under PrinceNicolaus, Haydn assumed command of an increasedmusical establishment. Here he had responsibility for themusical activities of the palace, which included theprovision and direction of instrumental music, opera andmusic for the theatre, as well as music for the church.
For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber musicof all kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiarinstrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument withsympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
Prince Nicolaus died in 1790 and Haydn foundhimself able to accept an invitation to visit London.
There he provided music for concert seasons organizedby the violinist-impresario Salomon. A secondsuccessful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 wasfollowed by a return to duty with the Esterhazy family,the new head of which had settled principally at thefamily property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had startedhis career with them. Much of the year, however, was tobe spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years,dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleonapproached the city yet again.
Haydn lived during the period of the eighteenthcentury that saw the development of instrumental musicfrom the age of Bach and Handel to the era of theclassical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement formand complementary two or three further movements, theformer the basis now of much instrumental composition.
The symphony may claim to have become the mostimportant form of orchestral composition and owes agreat deal, if not its precise paternity, to Haydn. He firstattempted such composition some time before 1759 andwrote his last symphonies for London in the last decadeof the century.
Symphony No. 37 in C major was seemingly thework of 1758, a date established on what is the earliestsurviving manuscipt of any Haydn symphony. It presumablymarks the start of his employment by Count von Morzin.
The symphony was originally scored for pairs of oboesand horns, strings and continuo, this last generally forharpsichord, cello, double bass and bassoon. Anothermanuscript gives trumpets instead of horns and thenecessary concomitant timpani, the version used here,the result of a revision by Haydn for a later occasion.
The sonata-allegro form first movement has a centraldevelopment that includes a false start to therecapitulation, with less attention consequently thenpaid to the first subject. The second movement of thesymphony is a Minuet, framing a contrasted C minorTrio entrusted to the strings. The Andante, again forstrings, is in C minor and leads to a final movement withmarked dynamic contrasts.
Haydn's Symphony No. 38, also in the festive key ofC major, has added parts for trumpets and timpani,otherwise being scored for pairs of oboes and high hornsin C alto, with strings and continuo. It has been dated to1766-68. The sonata-allegro first movement starts incelebratory style, with a suitably contrasting secondsubject. The ascending arpeggio figure of the first themeis heard again in the central development, which passesthrough various minor keys before the return of the firstsubject in recapitulation. The F major secondmovement, marked Andante molto, is for strings, withthe muted second violin providing an echo to theunmuted first. A Minuet follows, with the windinstruments, the oboes, as so often in these earlier works,largely doubling the first violin. The first oboe, however,enjoys some independence with the accompanyingstrings in the central F major Trio. The use of the solooboe again in the last movement has led RobbinsLandon, in his monumental study of Haydn, to suggestthat the work was written for the virtuoso VittorinoColombazzo, who was employed from September toDecember 1768 at Esterhaza.
Symphony No. 39 in G minor is scored for theexpected oboes, strings and continuo, but now with fourhorns, two in B flat alto and two in G. This scoring againreflects the immediately increased resources available toHaydn, with the employment of an additional player.
The first subject of the opening movement is strangelyinterrupted by sudden dramatic silences, givingheightened tension. The E flat major slow movement,scored for strings and continuo, provides some respitefrom the mood implicit in the preceding movement. It isfollowed by a Minuet and a B flat major Trio that givesproper prominence to the oboes and high horns. Thesymphony ends with a return to the key and tension ofthe first movement, with a central development thatstarts with a passage for the violins alone, followed bydistinct dynamic contrasts.
Symphony No. 40 in F major was written forperformance at Eisenstadt, the then principal Esterhazyresidence, in 1763. It is scored for oboes, horns, stringsand continuo, and opens with a cheerful Allegro,slowing before the final C major section of theexposition, with its wide leaps for the violins, typical ofinstrumental writing of the period. Another characteristic ofthe time is found in the gently moving B flat major slowmovement, with writing entirely in two parts for violinsand the lower string instruments. The wind instrumentsreturn for the Minuet and for a Trio that in one source isscored only for oboes, horns and bassoon. The symphonyends with a fugue, the subject announced with itsaccompanying countersubject. The climax of themovement comes over a long pedal-point, after whichthe subject is played by the orchestra in unison.Keith Anderson