HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 6, 7 and 8 (John Taylor/ Nicholas Ward/ Northern Chamber Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550722)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.6 in D Major, "LeMatin"
Symphony No.7 in C Major, "LeMidi"
Symphony No.8 in G Major, "LeSoir"
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the sonof a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St.Stephen'sCathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teachingand playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to learn from the old musician Porpora,whose assistant he became. Haydn's first appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to aBohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by employment asVice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy,succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of theelderlyand somewhat obstructive 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 of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza, inthe Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musicalestablishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, whichincluded the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, andmusic 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 bowed stringinstrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able toaccept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert seasonorganized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterhazy family, the new head ofwhich had settledprincipally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Muchof 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.
Whether Haydn was the father of thesymphony is a question best left to musical genealogists. His career , however, spannedthe period during which the classical symphony developed as the principal orchestral form.
He himself certainly played a major part in this development, from his first symphony sometime before 1759 to his final series of symphonies written for the greater resources ofLondon in 1794 and 1795. The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Parisand a much larger body of compositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra atEsterhaza and at Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a necessary keyboard continuo,in view of the relatively smaller number of string players available. Under Prince PaulAnton the Esterhazy orchestra had seven string players. one flute, one bassoon and pairsof oboes and horns, a body perhaps augmented by other members of the household in Viennaor Eisenstadt, as occasion arose.
The set of three programmaticsymphonies by Haydn Nos.6. 7and 8, Le Matin,Le Midi and Le Soir, were written in 1761 at the desire ofPrince Paul Anton, a patron who had long shown a fondness for the music of Italy, thenative country of his wife, the Marchesa Lunati-Visconti. The orchestra for which thesymphonies were written was smaller than that later available at Esterhaza but hadplayers of some virtuosity, not least the violinist Luigi Tomasini, for whom at this timeHaydn wrote his three surviving violin concertos.
Symphony No.6 in Dmajor, "Le Matin", isscored for flute, two oboes, bassoon, two horns, strings and keyboard, and opens with anAdagio that, in the space of six bars, suggests in its crescendo the rising of the sun, asdawn breaks. The principal theme of the Allegro that follows is given to a solo flute, itsmelody capped by the oboes. The closing section of the exposition provides an opportunityfor marked dynamic contrast, before flute and oboes offer the principal theme in thedominant key, starting a brief central development to be concluded by a solo hornanticipation of the recapitulation proper. The second movement starts with an Adagio,scored, like the rest of the movement, for solo violin, solo cello and strings. Theopening of this G major movement is in the form of a slowly ascending scale, the soloinstruments coming to greater prominence in the central triple metre Andante, after whichthe Adagio scale returns with an added counterpoint from the lower strings. The windinstruments re-appear in the Minuet, where the flute has initial prominence, leaving thebassoon to represent the section in the D minor Trio. There are solo violin and celloparts in the last movement, opened by the flute with an ascending D major scale andproceeding to allow the solo violin its head, as the movement progresses.
The second symphony of the set, Symphony No.7 in C major, "Le Midi", isscored for pairs of flutes, oboes and horns, with a bassoon, and a string section thatincludes two solo violins and complementary solo cello and double bass, as well as theusual harpsichord. In the first movement the flutes are silent. There is a slowintroduction in the dotted rhythms of the French overture before the Allegro, ushered bythe strings and bassoon and allowing the appearance of the traditional Italian concertinogroup of solo first and second violin and bass in contrast to the surrounding texture. Theslow movement starts in C minor with an unusual recitative for solo violin, in the mannerof instrumentally accompanied recitative, where the solo instrument is at times joined bythe other players. After a recitative cadence in B minor, there follows a further Adagio,now in G major, in which the strings are joined by the two flutes. The movement ends witha cadenza for solo violin and cello. The original key is restored in the Minuet, whereoboes replace flutes again. The Trio offers an unusual double bass solo. The final Allegroagain employs the string concertino and gives some importance to a solo flute.
"Le Soir", the thirdsymphony of the set, in G major, is similar in instrumentation, with flute, bassoon, apair of oboes and horns, and strings that include solo first and second violin, solo celloand double bass, and harpsichord. The strings start the first movement Allegro molto witha simple eight-bar melody in 3/8, capped by a brief interjection from the violins andflute. The same theme, in various guises, provides the melodic substance of the movement.
It is followed by a C major Andante for strings and solo bassoon, with use madeimmediately of the traditional concertino group of two violins and obbligato cello, echoedat once by solo cello and bassoon. By comparison the following G major Minuet isstraightforward in its appeal, its C major Trio left to strings and bassoon. The symphonyends with a storm, La Tempesta, suggestingVivaldi's evocation of bad weather fifty years or so before. Here thunder and lightningare provided by a relatively small group of instruments, the latter representedprincipally by the flute, with the solo violin engendering much of the excitement in itsopening octave figuration.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the Northern ChamberOrchestra, based in Manchester. has established itself as one of England's finest chamberensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of the concert programme, theorchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performs both in concert and on