HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 80, 81 and 99 (Cologne Chamber Orchestra/ Helmut Muller-Bruhl) (Naxos: 8.554110)
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Symphony No. 80 in DMinor
Symphony No. 81 in GMajor
Symphony No. 99 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 ofthe elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydnsucceeded to his position, to remain in the same employment, nominally atleast, for the rest of his life.
On the completion,under the new Prince, of the magnificent palace at Esterhaza, built on the siteof a former hunting-lodge set on the Hungarian plains, Haydn assumed command ofan increased musical establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musicalactivities of the palace, which included the provision and direction of instrumentalmusic, opera and theatre music, and music for the church. For his patron heprovided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds, particularly for thePrince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string instrument withsympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
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 settledprincipally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started hiscareer. Much of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydnpassed his final years, dying in 1809 as the French armies of Napoleonapproached the city yet again.
Haydn occupies aposition of great importance in the development of the classical symphony,although attributions of paternity suggest a far too simple account of thematter. His career spanned the period during which the form developed as theprincipal orchestral form and he himself certainly played a major part in thisprocess, from his first symphony some time before 1759 to his final series ofsymphonies written for the greater resources of London in the 1790s. TheseLondon symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and a much largerbody of compositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra at Esterhaza andat Eisenstadt, many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo, with therelatively small number of string players then employed.
Symphony No. 80 in D minor was written in 1783 or1784, one of a group of three symphonies that includes No. 79 and No. 81. Thesewere published in Vienna, Paris and London, and by the Netherlands-German firmof Hummel, based in Berlin and Amsterdam, testimony to the wide popularity thatHaydn's work now enjoyed abroad. Symphony No. 80 is scored forflute, with pairs of oboes and bassoons, two horns in D and in high B flat, andstrings. It opens in a dramatic D minor to which the lilting F major secondsubject provides a marked contrast, continued in the central development, withthe return of the second subject in recapitulation ensuring a D major ending forthe movement. The B flat major slow movement, with its high B flat horns, movesforward to a subsidiary passage for flute and first violins, accompanied by anarpeggio figure from the second violins and violas, with a fuller secondarytheme, material that is further developed, before its recapitulation. The Dminor Menuetto has a contrasting D major Trio with a melody inwhich oboe, horn and first violin join. The last movement is characterized bythe urgent syncopation that marks the principal theme. The movement is in Dmajor, with excursions into D minor and other keys in the central developmentsection, making the general mood of the symphony, in spite of its opening,cheerful, rather than an expression of storm or stress.
The third symphony ofthe group, the Symphony No. 81 in G major, similarly scored, withhorns in G and in D, opens with a repeated pedal-note from the cellos, overwhich the first violins propose the principal theme. It is to these that thesecond subject is entrusted, over a bass in which strings are joined by abassoon. The material is varied in development, as it is in recapitulation,when the first subject returns over what turns into a sustained dominantpedal-note from the lower strings. The D major slow movement offers a theme andvariations, the second of which is in D minor, with a third using rapidertriple rhythms and a final version accompanied by plucked strings. The originalkey is restored for the Menuetto, with a bassoon sharing the first partof the Trio melody with the first violin and finally leading to the keyof G minor, before the return of the Menuetto itself. The last movementhas varied rhythms in its secondary thematic material, the whole couched in thenow established tripartite form, with a central development of dramatic varietyand a final recapitulation.
Haydn's last sixsymphonies were written for his second visit to London, the earlier workscompleted before he reached England in early February 1794. The first of these,the Symphony No. 99 in E flat major, had been completed the previousyear in Vienna and was first performed in London at a Hanover Square concertpresented by Johann Peter Salomon on 10th February in a programme that includedthe usual mixture of vocal and instrumental music, with a new concerto writtenand played by the famous violinist Viotti and a new piano concerto by Dussek.
Salomon had mustered an orchestra advertised as employing some sixty musicians,including two clarinettists, their instruments in B flat and in C, nowappearing for the first time in a Haydn symphony. Otherwise the work is scoredfor pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, horns in E flat and in G, trumpets in Eflat and in C, timpani and strings. There is a slow introduction to the firstmovement, leading to a Vivace assai, in which the principal theme isintroduced by the first violins, to be taken up by the wind instruments, with asecond theme that also makes melodic use of the clarinet. Haydn here makesfuller use of the wind instruments and later in the work treats them with agreater degree of independence. The G major slow movement provides an immediateexample of this, when flute, oboes and bassoon echo the end of the first stringphrase and are then allowed to develop this material on their own. The laterreturn of the first theme finds a place for contrapuntal imitation and thereare elements of drama as the movement draws to a close. The key of E flat majorreturns for the Menuet, with its dynamic contrasts, while the Trio, scoredfor oboes, clarinets, bassoons and strings, shifts to G major. The lastmovement is in sonata-rondo form, with two related subjects, the secondallowing wind instruments their own moments of relative exposure, with adevelopment that makes contrapuntal use of elements of the thematic materialand a recapitulation that brings its own surprises.