SymphoniesNos. 77, 78 and 79
Joseph Haydn was horn inthe village of Rohrau in 1732. the son of awheelwright. Trained at the choir- school of St Stephen's Cathedra1 in Vienna,he subsequently spent some years earning a living as best he could fromteaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to profit fromassociation with the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn ' sf1fst appointment was in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Countvon Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Viva1di. This wasfollowed in 1761 by employment as Vice-KapelImeister to one of the richest menin the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, succeeded after his death in 1762by Prince Nicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhatobstructive Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had found much to complain aboutin the professionalism of his young and resented deputy , Haydn succeeded tohis position, to remain in the same emp1oyment, nomina11y at least, for therest of his life.
On the completion of themagnificent pa1ace at Esterhaza in the Hungarian plains, under Prince Nicolaus,Haydn assumed command of an increased musica1 establishment, Here he hadresponsibility for the musical activities of the pa1ace, which included theprovision and direction of instrumenta1 music, opera and music for the theatre,as well as music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity ofchamber music ofa11 kinds, particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument,the baryton, a howed string instrument with sympathetic strings that could a1sobe plucked and one that the English scholar Dr Bumey thought to have its onlyproper use on a desert is1and, where a castaway might accompany himse1f.
Prince Nico1aus died in1790 and Haydn found himse1f able to accept an invitation to visit London. There he providedmusic for concert seasons organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. Asecond successful visit to London in 1794 and 1795 was followed by are turn to duty with the Esterhazyfamily, the new head of which had settled principally at the family property inEisenstadt where Haydn had started his career. Much of the year, however, wasto be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed hisfinal years. He died in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached thecity yet again.
Haydn 1ived during theperiod of the eighteenth century that saw the deve1opment of insttumenta1 musicfrom the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the c1assical sonata, with itstripartite first-movement form and complementary three or four movements, thebasis now of much insttumenta1 composition. The symphony may claim to havebecome the most important form of orchestral composition and owes a great deal,if not its precise paternity, to Haydn. He first attempted such compositionsome time before 1759 and wrote his last symphonies for the London impresario andviolinist Salomon in the last decade of the century.
In 1782 it had beenhoped that Haydn wou1d visit London to grace with his presence aseries of concerts that wouldinclude his new compositions. Willoughby Bertie, the Earl of Abingdon, who hadbeen actively interested in the concert series offered by Johann Christian Bachand his colleague Car1 Friedrich Abe1, was keen to attract Haydn to England andwent so far as to advertise his coming. As matters turned out, London had to wait a furtherten years. Symphony No.77 in B flat major was written in 1782,the second of a group of three written with London performances in mind. In the event they wereoffered to the French pub1isher Boyer the following year. Scored for flute,pairs of oboes, bassoons and French horns, with strings, the symphony lacks, asHaydn pointed out to Boyer, concertante elements. It opens with a lively firstsubject, with a second entrusted to the strings and a single bassoon, soon tobe joined by the flute. The repeated exposition is followed by a subtlycontrapuntal central development, which brings an element of surprise that isoutdone as the third section of recapitulation nears its end. The gentle Andantesostenuto, in F major, is introduced by muted strings, the first violinmelody later doubled at the octave by the flute and subsequently taken up bythe oboe. There is contrast of key and figuration in a central section andsubtle imitation of the opening of the principal melody as it returns. The Menuetto,marked Allegro rather than Allegretto, has a Trio thatgives due prominence to oboes and a bassoon, before the former is repeated. Thesymphony ends with a lively finale based on a single theme that provides thematerial for a varied second subject and for a central development marked byits cunning use of counterpoint, before it makes its final appearance in theconcluding recapitulation.
Symphony No.78 in C minor, similarlyscored, is the third of the set written for Haydn' s proposed visit to England. The choice of keyinvites an element of drama, as it did for Mozart in his Piano Concerto in Cminor, although here it is modified by the major-key second subject. Thefirst section, the exposition, is repeated, as now are the second and thirdsections, the development and recapitulation.
The beautifully craftedE flat major slow movement finds a place for gentler drama. It is followed by aC major Menuetto and a Trio that allows the winding melody playedby oboe and the first vio1in, light1y accompanied, to be capped by the returnof the Menuetto. The principal theme of the fina1e allows the wholeorchestra to answer a question posed by the strings. The last movementcontrasts a 1ively enough principal theme, in C minor, with a C rnajorsecondary theme presented by the first violin and an oboe. What follows ismarked by sudden silences, shifts of key and imitative treatment of the openingfigure of the principal theme, before the triumphant coda.
The occasion ofcomposition of Symphony No.79 in F major is not known, although like itspredecessors it found pub1ishers in Vienna and abroad, one of a group of three such works.
The symphony was written in 1783 or 1784 and is scored for similar forces. Itopens with a first theme offered by the first violin, doubled an octave lowerby a bassoon and followed by an operatic second subject. After the repeatedexposition the central development abrupt1y changes key, leading to dramaticcontrapuntal imitation and a varied recapitulation. There is great de1icacy inthe B flat major Adagio cantabile, with a subt1e use of the woodwind,the flute now sometimes doubling the first violin but an octave below ratherthan above. Haydn moves forward to a final passage, a country dance marked Unpoco allegro, again a surprise for any audience. The Menuetto, afterthis, restores a degree of so1idarity, making subt1e and de1icate use of thewoodwind instruments. It frames a cheerful Trio in the same key of F major.
The finale is now a true rondo, with a recurrent principal theme that serves asa framework for intervening episodes, the first in F minor and the second in Bflat major, bringing to an end an elegant rococo masterpiece.?á