HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 74, 75, and 76 (Cologne Chamber Orchestra/ Helmut Muller-Bruhl) (Naxos: 8.554109)
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Symphony No. 74 in Eflat major
Symphony No. 75 in Dmajor
Symphony No. 76 in Eflat major
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 of theelderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeededto his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for therest of his life.
On the completion ofthe magnificent palace at Esterhaza, under the new Prince, a complex ofbuildings emulating the palace of Versailles, constructed on the site of aformer hunting-lodge set on the Hungarian plains, Haydn assumed command of anincreased 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, only of use, Dr. Burneyremarked, to a solitary castaway on a desert island.
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 settled principallyat 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 finalyears, dying in 1809 as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yetagain.
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 1794and 1795. The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and amuch larger 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.
Symphony No. 74 in E flat major has beenconjecturally dated to 1780. English publication rights were received on 22ndAugust 1781 by the publisher and violin-maker William Forster, the first sucharrangement, brought about through the agency of General Sir CharlesJerningham, British ambassador in Vienna. Scored for a flute, with pairs ofoboes, bassoons and horns, with the necessary strings, the first movement,marked Vivace assai, calls the immediate attention of the audience withthe strong chords for the whole orchestra, answered by a gentler string response,ornamented on repetition. The strings offer a second subject, with violins atfirst in octaves, and lower strings in octaves with the double bass. Thecentral development has natural recourse at first to the opening subject, asnew keys are explored, before the inevitable recapitulation. Muted firstviolins and cellos share the first twenty bars of the B flat major Adagiocantabile, the latter instruments providing a moving accompaniment to themelody of the former. The theme is then offered in a number of variations,continuing until the counterpoint of second and first violins, as the movementcomes to an end. The Minuet is characterized by the Lombard accentedshort-long rhythm, contrasted with a trio in which flute and oboes are silent,while one of the bassoons doubles the first violin. The strings open the final Allegroassai, the violins at first sharing the melody and then providing, after apause, an ornamental and rapid accompaniment to the lower strings, as they takeup the theme. Another pause is followed by a subsidiary theme, in B flat major,after which the material is developed, to return in a concluding section.
Symphony No. 75 in D major dates from a similarperiod. It seems finally to have been scored for flute, two oboes, bassoon, twohorns and strings, with an added pair of trumpets and drums, these lastnaturally omitted from the slow movement. The symphony opens with a solemnintroduction of marked dynamic contrast, after which the strings burst intoactivity with a Presto sonata-form movement. The transition from firstto second subject breaks into a triplet rhythm, before the first violin leadsthe way down to the new material. The first theme is varied in the opening ofthe central development, of which it forms the principal substance, before theemphatic return of the first theme in its original key. Muted strings proposethe theme of the second Poco adagio movement, music that, Haydn noted inhis diary of a later visit to London, caused a clergyman to fall into amelancholy, hearing in it a premonition of his death, which took place shortlyafterwards. The G major movement is in the form of a theme and four variations,the first embellished by the first violin, the second of greater dynamiccontrasts, the third for solo string instruments, accompanied by the pluckednotes of the other strings, and the fourth with a rapid and continuing secondviolin accompaniment. The Minuet performs its function in restoring theoriginal key and a more out-going mood, contrasted with a Trio in whichHaydn couples solo violin and flute in the gently accompanied melody. The finalrondo offers a varied series of episode, framed by the cheerful principaltheme.
Symphony No. 76 in E flat major belongs to agroup of symphonies written to meet the requirements of a proposed visit toEngland, an event to which Dr Burney, for one, was looking forward, but whichtook place only ten years later. The first of the three symphonies intended forthis foreign audience, Symphony No. 76, is scored for flute, pairs ofoboes, bassoons and horns, and strings and starts with an emphatic enoughestablishment of the key in its first subject, followed in due course by asecondary theme, shared at first by oboes and violins. The central developmentcontinues, at first, a figure from the close of the exposition, before takingthe principal theme into new keys and the return of the material of theopening, still marked by the repeated note accompaniment of the lower strings.
The slow movement offers two themes, the first more lyrical, the second moreominous. Both these elements are twice varied in turn, with the second givingrise to a distinct feeling of drama. Once again the Minuet returns tothe normal world, contrasted with a Trio in which Haydn again shows hisskill in varying instrumentation. Here first violin, flute and bassoon sharethe melody, with considerable support from the two French horns. It is theflute that initially shares with the first violin the principal theme of thelast movement, a tripartite sonata-form movement, a scheme within the li