HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 54, 56 and 57 (Cologne Chamber Orchestra/ Helmut Muller-Bruhl) (Naxos: 8.554108)
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Symphony No. 54 in Gmajor
Symphony No. 56 in Cmajor
Symphony No. 57 in Dmajor
Joseph Haydn was bornin the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. Trained at thechoir-school of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning aliving as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, andwas able to learn from the old musician Porpora, whose assistant he became.
Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman,Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeisterto one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeededon his death in 1762 by his brother, Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 ofthe elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydnsucceeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally atleast, for the rest of his life.
On the completion,under the new Prince, of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza, built on the siteof a former hunting-lodge set on the Hungarian plains, Haydn assumed command ofan increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musicalactivities of the palace, which included the provision and direction ofinstrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For hispatron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly forthe Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrumentwith sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of PrinceNikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, wherehe provided music for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresarioSalomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by areturn to duty with the Esterhazy family, the new head of which had settledprincipally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started hiscareer. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passedhis final years, dying in 1809 as the French armies of Napoleon approached thecity yet again.
Whether Haydn was thefather of the symphony is a question best left to musical genealogists. Hiscareer, however, spanned the period during which the classical symphonydeveloped as the principal orchestral form. He himself certainly played a majorpart 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 and1795. The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and a muchlarger body of compositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra atEsterhaza and at Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo,at least with the relatively smaller number of string players available.
The three symphonieshere included form part of a group of four such works, written at Esterhaza in1774, a busy year in which Haydn received particular rewards from his patron.
The Symphony No. 54 in G major is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes,bassoons, horns (in G and, for the slow movement, low C), trumpets and timpani,with strings. It seems that this final full instrumentation was the result oflater revision. The first movement opens emphatically, its first chord answeredwith restraint, as is the second emphatic chord of the dominant, before theunanimous statement that follows. The Presto starts with arisingarpeggio figure played softly by the strings and answered by bassoons andhorns. The second subject provides more scope for the woodwind, answering thestrings. It is the opening Presto figure that starts the centraldevelopment of the movement, now moving from D major to B major and througharising sequence of keys. A pause leads, but for the key, to the expectation ofa recapitulation, but is followed, instead, by the lower strings and firstbassoon playing the opening figure in E major. A later pause is followed by thereturn of the original key and material, now varied in recapitulation. Mutedstrings open the c major Adagio assai, scored for pairs of oboes andhorns, with strings. Necessary modulation to G major, the dominant key, isfollowed, as the central section starts, by a sudden shift to a unison B flat.
This extended movement brings its own surprises, not least the appearance, soit seems, of a cadenza for two violins or for first and second violins, afterwhich the movement comes to an end. The Minuet performs its necessaryfunction, breaking the tension, restoring the original key and fullinstrumentation and framing its own contrasting Trio section, with thefirst violin doubled at the octave by a solo bassoon. The final Presto is,like the first movement, in tripartite sonata-allegro form, the first ofits two subjects appearing over a syncopated accompaniment, and the secondgentler material first stated by the strings. There is a central development,with shifts of key, and a final recapitulation that allows an unexpected twistin the first subject.
Symphony No. 56 in C major is scored for two oboes,bassoon, two horns (in high C and, for the slow movement, in F), pairs oftrumpets and timpani, with strings. The first movement opens with eclat, as alljoin in a descending arpeggio figure, gently answered by the strings, which laterintroduce the elegant second subject. The central development brings changes ofkey and continuing contrasts of dynamics, reduced to the softest before thereturn of the principal subject in recapitulation. The return of the secondsubject comes after a pause and soft roll of the drums, and the use of high Chorns and trumpets ensures a particular brilliance of timbre. Oboes, bassoonand F horns join the strings in the F major slow movement, opened by mutedviolins, followed by the unexpected emergence of a solo bassoon, accompanied bythe strings and a sustained low F from the second horn. The movement, as itproceeds, brings an effective use of the two oboes and passages of first violinelaboration. The C major Minuet, with the transparent texture of its Fmajor Trio, prepares the way for the final Prestissimo, openingwith triplets that characterize the first subject and allow cross-rhythms inthe second, played by the violins over a sustained note from the first oboe andviolas, and a plucked marking of the metre from cellos and double basses.
Dashing triplets provide excitement in the central development, before thefinal return of the material with which the movement had opened.
Symphony No. 57 in major D, scored for two oboes,bassoon, two horns (in D and, for the slow movement, in G) and strings, followsa more modest pattern of instrumentation, in which the bassoon doubles thestring bass line. Haydn may have added trumpets and drums for laterperformances. The first movement opens with a slow introduction, followed by anenergetic Allegro in the first subject of which the oboes double theviolins, before the strings repeat the subject alone. The A major secondsubject is entrusted first to the violins, while the central developmentsection of the movement provides variety of key and texture, before thematerial is recapitulated. The G major Adagio starts with pluckedstrings, the violins muted for the bowed second bar, alternation thatcharacterizes the theme, which is then varied with increasing elaboration. TheD major Minuet has a D minor Trio for strings alone and isfollowed by a rapid finale of almost perpetual motion that at once posesrhythmic problems in performance. The course of the movement is broken by heldnotes, diminishi