HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 53, 86 and 87 (Bela Drahos/ Ibolya Toth/ Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia) (Naxos: 8.550768)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.53 in D Major, "L'imperiale"
Symphony No.87 in A Major
Symphony No.86 in D Major
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.
Haydn wrote his Symphony No.53 in D major, popularly known as L'imperiale
presumably because of its stately opening bars or perhaps a reflection of thefavour of the Empress, at some time between 1777 and 1779. At Esterhaza therehad been a marked increase in theatrical activity, with Italian opera, Germanmarionette operas and a German theatre troupe. Haydn was responsible for thecomposition of some operas and incidental music as well as for performances,duties that distracted him to some extent from the composition of purelyinstrumental music and certainly from the composition of symphonies, for whichhe now had less time. Symphony No.53 seems to have been a composite workand in spite of its very wide popularity has survived in a variety of versions,with one of the alternative final movements originally an Overture showinginconsistency in scoring with the rest of the symphony.
The first movement of the symphony, scored for flute, two oboes, bassoon, twoFrench horns, timpani and strings, opens with a united statement of thedescending notes of the D major arpeggio, gently answered by the strings. Thefirst subject of the following Vivace again opens with the notes of the triad,prefigured in a curiously scored accompaniment for cellos and French horn,figuration which has an important part to play in the second subject and in thecentral development section of the movement. The strings are entrusted with theAndante double theme, the first part in A major, followed by an A minorderivative, both then re-appearing in a series of variations. The openingmelody, otherwise hitherto unidentified, may owe something to French folk-song.
Whatever its origin, it proved immediately popular, a fact to which the largenumber of contemporary arrangements of the theme bear witness. The original keyof D major is restored in the Minuet and the contrasting Trio, the latter scoredonly for flute and strings. The surviving Esterhazy orchestral parts include afinal movement with the relatively unusual title Capriccio and presumablywritten expressly for this symphony. The most viable alternative, found in anumber of other sources, is what was clearly an Overture, ending in the wrongkey and therefore needing slight revision in its closing bars. The Capriccio,marked Moderato, includes an intervening episode in D minor before the major keyis restored with the opening thematic material. The borrowed D majorOverture-Finale, marked Presto, provides a viable alternative, although it isscored for two bassoons rather than the single bassoon used in the precedingmovements. French printed sources offer a third possible Finale, here omittingtimpani and flute. The second of these has been recorded on the presentoccasion.
The Paris Symphonies were commissioned by the young Comte d'Ogny,Claude-Fran?ºois-Marie Rigoley, for the Concert de la Loge olympique. Theorchestra for which Haydn was writing was a large one, with forty violins, asopposed to the mere eleven available at Esterhaza. The new symphonies werewelcomed enthusiastically by audiences who already held Haydn in the highestesteem. Symphony No.87 in A major was intended by Haydn as the first ofthe Paris Symphonies, although later misplaced when Artaria publishedthese works in Vienna. The symphony is scored without trumpets and drums and hasno slow introduction, starting with a strong theme based on the tonic triad,preceded by a figure similar to that which was to assume importance in theFinale of Symphony No.86. A repeated note by the second violinsintroduces the second subject. The same thematic material, at first transformedinto A minor, begins the central development. The delicately scored D major slowmovement makes skilful and telling use of the woodwind instruments. It leads toa striking Minuet framing a Trio in which a solo oboe plays a principal part.
The symphony ends with a monothematic Finale, which, as it proceeds, finds aplace for contrapuntal use of its theme.
Haydn's Symphony No.86 in D major is the fifth of the Paris set. It isscored for flute, with pairs of oboes, bassoons, French horns, trumpets andtimpani, with the usual strings. The first movement opens with a slowintroduction, the source of much that appears later, leading to an Allegrospiritoso that opens with an unexpected harmony that appears when the samematerial provides a second subject. The G major slow movement has the title Capriccio,suggesting a free rondo form, in which the main theme re-appears between otherthematic material. Trumpets and drums, absent from the Capriccio, returnfor the Minuet, but are not used in the contrasting Trio with its running stringpart, doubled by woodwind instruments. The last movement starts with a singleviolin note r