Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphonies Nos. 70, 71 and 73
Haydn has often been called the father of the symphony. Asa composer with an output of 104 numbered examples in that form, he was indeedprolific. That he was the father of the form, though, is clearly nonsense. The sinfonia,denoting anything instrumental "sounding together", had developedover some two hundred years into the multi-movement orchestral sonata
that Haydn inherited. Haydn it was, however, in his salaried position with theHungarian Esterhizy family, who came to combine a patron's requirement oftuneful accessibility with his own underlying mastery of thematic cohesion andformal manipulation. He was not the first begetter of the form, but was,arguably, instrumental in the symphony's coming-of-age as an art form, to beappreciated as much for its beauty, logic and wit of construction as for itsmere melodiousness.
Franz Joseph Haydn was born on 31st March 1732. Fromprovincial Austria, he went to Vienna, first as a chorister at St Stephen'sCathedral, and then to earn a living as an impoverished freelance musician. In1759 he served as Kapellmeister to Count von Morzin, but improved hisposition very considerably in 1761 with an appointment as Deputy Kapellmeisterat the Eisenstadt residence of the rich and powerful Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy.
In 1766 he succeeded to the post of Kapellmeister, by which time Prince Nicolaushad succeeded Paul Anton, and the family had moved to the new palace at Ezsterhazaon the Hungarian plains. The exigencies of his new post rivalled those of J.S. Bachin their relentlessness. Operas, symphonies, sonatas, Masses, works of almostevery contemporary genre were required of the composer on a regular basis andfor any occasion.
Symphonic composition occupied much of Haydn's creativelife. From the early works, influenced by the fast-slow-fast scheme ofItalian opera overtures, he began a life-long process of experimentation with thebasic multi-movement form. The first notable period in this process was between1766 and 1775, the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) years, ananachronistic description taken from an angst-ridden literary style of the1770s. The symphonies of this time lost a little of their customary genialityand instead betray a slight darkening of utterance. Many are in the minor mode,and display a more fiery melodic and harmonic vocabulary.
The 1780s saw a gradual breaking away from regularcompositions exclusively for Ezsterh1iza with works produced at the request ofpublishers around Europe. One result of this new contractual freedom was theset of so-called Paris Symphonies of 1784-1786. The climax of thecomposer's symphonic career, however, came after 1790, the year of Prince Nicolaus'sdeath. This event left Haydn free to accept an invitation from a Londonimpresario, Johann Peter Salomon, to travel to England. Two extended visits to London,in 1791 and 1794, occasioned the composition of twelve new symphonies forSalomon's concerts, numbers 93-104. These London Symphonies, Haydn'slast, are regarded as more ambitious in scale and more refined in orchestrationthan any written previously.
In 1795, Haydn returned to Austria. Though he composed nofurther symphonies, the period before his death in 1809, brought thecomposition of settings of the Mass, chamber music, and, of course, TheCreation. Two of the works here included were written in the period betweenthe Sturm und Drang and Paris Symphonies, during which Haydnconcentrated mainly on the writing of opera, culminating in 1783 with Armida.
Though from a supposed intervening period in Haydn's composition of symphonies,these works cannot be underestimated in comparison with their more famouscompanions.
Symphony No.70 in D major, dated 18th December 1779,begins conventionally enough. The material of the first subject of the opening Vivace,a D major triad, answered by a phrase in step-wise motion, also makes up thesecond subject in the dominant A major. It is in the brief development sectionthat something of the true nature of the work is revealed, as the triad motifis fragmented into three overlapping layers in upper and lower strings. Thishighly condensed stretto, though not exceptional for the period, is aforetaste of the archaism to come. The second movement Andante is ascold and beautiful as marble. Fluctuating between D minor and major, much of itis in sparsely scored invertible counterpoint, by which two simultaneous lines,first heard on muted strings, are so written as to be playable with one in theupper part against the other in the lower, or vice versa. Though subsequentrepetitions of the different sections are increasingly embellished, the rigorous,enigmatic contrapuntal structure remains throughout. This austerity of scoringis carried forward into the lithe Menuet, to lead into the final Allegrocon brio. Here, after an introductory passage of repeated high Dsinterspersed with terse cadences, these repeated notes grow into one of threeshort themes that are the building blocks of the remarkable main section, an asceticD minor triple fugue. Density and tension are progressively increased,mainly through the use of stretto, until a pedal-point on the dominant Aattempts to bring the music to a close. A sudden unison and dissonant E flatushers the fugal material into the brighter major mode, with which the movementends.
Dated to about 1780, Symphony No.71 in B flat major
is scored for a smaller ensemble than the two D major works, and its musicallanguage is correspondingly subtler. The Adagio introduction is functional,the Allegro first subject airy but assertive. The second subject area isanother matter altogether. In the midst of an otherwise optimistic exposition,two gradually layered, harmonically ambiguous chords cast a shadow over theproceedings. From then on, the question they pose causes a deceptive false recapitulationduring the development, and they go on to truncate the return of the firstsubject. Their influence even extends to the ensuing Adagio, in which aset of vatiations is interrupted by their "upbeat-rhythm" motif onsuddenly unaccompanied violins. After the Stampftanz of the Menuetto
and the Magyar violin duet and accompanying guitar effect of the Trio,the development section of the Finale still cannot rid itself of this"upbeat" motif, nor of the doubt its harmony casts. Nevertheless, aprominent wind section helps the symphony toward a positive conclusion.
Symphony No.73 in D major, "La chasse",
dated 1782, is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, withstrings. Two trumpets and timpani are added in the final movement, originallythe overture to the opera La fedelto premiata, a pastorale giocoso from 1781.
The main sonata-form Allegro of the first movement adopts the four-noterhythmic motif heard at the close of the preceding Adagio introduction.
This motif and a chromatic leaning figure, also from the
Adagio, make up both first and second subjectthemes, the latter, ma