HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 72, 93 and 95 (Bela Drahos/ Ibolya Toth/ Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia) (Naxos: 8.550797)
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Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.72 in D Major
Symphony No.93 in D Major
Symphony No.95 in C Minor
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son of a wheelwright. 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 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 a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzat. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, under the new prince, a complex of buildings emulating the palace of Versailles, constructed on the site of a former hunting-lodge set on the Hungarian plains, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and music 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 string instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked, only of use, Dr. Burney remarked, to a solitary castaway on a desert island.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert season organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterházy family, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
Whether Haydn was the father of the symphony is a question best left to musical genealogists. His career, however, spanned the 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 some time before 1759 to his final series of symphonies written for the greater resources of London in 1794 and 1795. The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and a much larger body of compositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra at Esterháza and at Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo, at least with the relatively smaller number of string players available.
Symphony No.72 in D major belongs to an earlier period of Haydn's career and was written at Eisenstadt between 1763 and 1765, the earlier year favoured by the Haydn scholar Robbins Landon, who sees in the symphony a precursor of Symphony No.31, also scored for four horns, available to Haydn at that time. It is otherwise scored for single flute and bassoon, two oboes and, in one contemporary copy, timpani, with strings and cembalo. The horns have an important role to play, one instrument in imitation of another in runs and arpeggios, after the strings have proposed the main theme. This re-appears in the dominant in the central section, with a recapitulation that starts with the four horns. The G major slow movement makes use of the solo flute, silent in the first and third movements. This Andante is in concertante form, with a solo violin leading the way, followed by the flute, accompanied by the other strings. The four horns return for the Minuet, used at first to echo the end of the first part of the theme and at the end. Oboes, horns and bassoon have the field to themselves in the contrasting Trio. The Finale is in the form of a theme and variations. The melody is entrusted to the strings, which accompany the solo flute in the first variation. The second variation employs a solo cello and strings and the third a solo violin, followed by a fourth for violone (double bass). Two oboes and horns appear for the fifth variation, joined by the whole orchestra for the sixth and final variation and the conclusion, marked Presto and in compound rhythm.
Haydn landed in England for the first time on New Year's Day 1791, shortly afterwards reaching London, where he lodged with the violinist-impresario Johann Peter Salomon, who had arranged the visit. The Salomon concert season began eventually on 11th March in the Hanover Square Rooms, where Johann Christian Each and his colleague Carl Friedrich Abel had earlier established a series of subscription concerts. Salomon's orchestra at this time consisted of some forty highly competent performers and it was for them that Haydn wrote the first of his Salomon or London Symphonies.
Symphony No.93 in D major was performed at the first of the second season of Salomon concerts in which Haydn was concerned, on 17th February 1792. The programme was of the usual variety, including concertos for oboe, for harp and for violin, songs and a new Grand Overture by Haydn, the first of his symphonies for London, acclaimed by one critic as \grand, scientific, charming and original". Scored for pairs of flutes and oboes, bassoons, horns and timpani, and strings, the symphony was presumably written in London in the preceding year, relying now on Haydn's familiarity with the abilities of the players at his disposal. The work opens with a slow introduction, based on a figure derived from the descending notes of the triad. The strings announce the first subject of the following Allegro assai, with a transition based again on the notes of the arpeggio. A violin scale introduces the string presentation of the second subject. The repetition of the exposition is followed by the central development, now moving into the minor. There are surprises, with sudden pauses, the last of which precedes the expected recapitulation. The G major slow movement starts with a solo string quartet. The rest of the string section enters, with the theme now doubled by the bassoon. This theme is used in various forms, interrupted by other material. There is a robust D major Minuet, after which the wind repeat the tonic to announce the Trio, the theme of which starts in B minor, changing key after each series of repeated notes. The strings state the principal theme of the Finale, continued with the help of the rest of the orchestra. A development of the theme then allows its re-appearance in the dominant, before a second theme is entrusted to oboe and baS5oon. There is a brief contrapuntal elaboration of material, ending with the hushed sound of a solo cello, capped by the same rhythmic and melodic figure from the whole orchestra, a prelude to the return of the main theme, followed by subtle modulation. The second theme appears in the oboe, leading to a definitive coda.
Haydn's Symphony No.95 in C minor was also written in London in 1791 and was performed at some time during Haydn's first season there, apparently proving less popular than some of his other new symphonies. The strong opening figure of the first movement is announced by woodwind and strings, followed by a gentler answer from the strings. The second subject, in E fla