HAYDN: Symphonies Nos. 85, 92 and 103 (Barry Wordsworth/ Capella Istropolitana/ Karol Kopernicky) (Naxos: 8.550387)
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Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony No.85 in B Flat Major "LaReine"
Symphony No.92 in G Major"Oxford"
Symphony No.103 in E Flat Major "DrumRoll"
Joseph Haydn was as prolific as anyeighteenth century composer, his fecundity a matter, in good part, of thenature of his employment and the length of his life. Born in 1732 in thevillage of Rohrau, near the modern Slovak capital of Bratislava, the son of awheelwright, he was recruited to the choir of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Viennaat the age of eight, later making a living as best he could as a musician inthe capital and winning useful acquaintances through his association with theCourt Poet Metastasio and the composer Nicola Porpora.
In 1759, after some eight years ofteaching and free-lance performance, whether as violinist or keyboard-player,Haydn found greater security in a position in the household of Count Morzin asdirector of music, wintering in Vienna and spending the summer on the Count'sestate in Bohemia, where a small instrumental ensemble was available. In 1760Haydn married1he eldest daughter of a wig-maker, a match that was to bring himno children and no great solace, and by the following year he had entered theservice of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, as deputy to the old KapellmeisterGregor Werner, who had much fault to find with his young colleague. In 1762Prince Paul Anton died and was succeeded by his brother Prince Nikolaus, whoconcerned himself with the building of the great palace of Esterhaza. In 1766Wernerdied and Haydn assumed the full duties of Kapellmeister, spending thelarger part of the year at Esterhaza, relatively isolated on the Hungarianplains, and part of the winter at Eisenstadt, where his first years in theservice of the family had passed.
Haydn's responsibilities at Esterhaza weremanifold. As Kapellmeister he was in full charge of the musicians employed bythe Prince, writing music of all kinds, and directing performances, bothinstrumental and operatic. This busy if isolated career came to an end with thedeath of Prince Nikolaus in 1790. From then onwards Haydn had greater freedom,while continuing to enjoy the title and emoluments of his position asKapellmeister to the Prince's successors.
Release from his immediateresponsibilities allowed Haydn in 1791 to accept an invitation to visit London,where he provided music for concerts organised by Johann Peter Salomon. Hisvery considerable success led to a second visit in 1794. The following year, atthe request of the new Prince Esterhazy, who had succeeded his elder brother in1794, he resumed some of his earlier duties as Kapellmeister, now in Eisenstadtand in Vienna, where he took up his own residence until his death in 1809.
Haydn may have been isolated for much ofhis life from the major musical centres of Europe, although there were alwaysoccasional visits to Vienna. His reputation, however, was international and bythe time of the commissioned symphonies for Paris, Nos. 82 to 87, he wasalready very well known there. The six new symphonies were written in 1785 and1786 for a young French nobleman, the Comte d'Ogny, for the Concert de la Logeolympique, for which there was a much larger orchestra than the two dozenmusicians who served Haydn at Esterhaza. The orchestra for the Loge olympique concertsincluded forty violinists and ten double basses. The symphonies were performedin 1787, when Queen Marie Antoinette expressed her preference for the Symphonyin B flat major, thereafter known as La Reine.
The symphony opens with all theinstruments playing in unison, according to established French custom, with adotted rhythm that recalls the French overture. This introduction is followedby a Vivace started by the strings, the bass descending in accompaniment to aninitial held note, taken over by the oboe in the abbreviated second subject.
The slow movement is a set of variations on a French folk-song, La gentilleet jeune Lisette, followed by a French-style Minuet, with the opening ofits Trio entrusted at first to violin and bassoon, later taken up in turn byoboes and flute. The bassoon doubles the violins in the announcement of themain theme, which dominates the final sonata-rondo movement.
During his first visit to England Haydnwas given the degree of doctor of music by the University of Oxford, an honourthat Dr. Burney induced him to accept. The ceremony took place in July 1791 inSir Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre. Symphony No.92, later to beknown as the Oxford Symphony, was played at the second of the concertsarranged, since the score had not been available for earlier rehearsal. Thefirst half of the programme included excerpts from Handel and a song composedby Mozart's friend Stephen Storace and sung by his sister, Nancy, Mozart'sfirst Susanna in Vienna. Franz Clement, who was later to give the firstperformance of Beethoven's violin concerto in Vienna, played a solo, andMichael Kelly, another of Mozart's Figaro cast, sang an Italian aria, and sothe concert continued with a medley of items, interspersed at regular intervalsby compositions by Handel.
The Oxford Symphony had been written in1789, with the Esterhaza orchestra in mind rather than the Paris forces ofComte d'Ogny, to whom it is dedicated, or, indeed, those under Cramer at theOxford performance. The symphony opens with a slow introduction, played atfirst only by the strings, who also open the ensuing Allegro with a themederived from the first section. The slow movement unusually includes in itsscoring the trumpets and drums and in its concluding section a passage for windinstruments. The Minuet and Trio that constitute the third movement arefollowed by a characteristic final movement, its main theme announced by thefirst violin over a repeated cello obligato octave. The symphony marks the endof a period in Haydn's career as a composer, his last symphony for Esterhazaand at the same time his last symphony for the ancien regime in Paris.
Haydn wrote the Symphony No.103,the so-called Drum-Roll, in 1795 during the course of his second visitto London. Here he could include clarinets in the scoring, as well as a secondflute, instruments not available to him at Esterhaza. The symphony was firstperformed at the King's Theatre on 2nd March at an Opera Concert, part of aseries that had replaced the earlier London concerts organised by Salomon.
According to custom the symphony opened the second half of the evening in aremarkably mixed programme. The slow introduction of the first movement startswith a drum-roll, followed by a long-drawn theme from cellos, double basses andbassoons, hinting at the Dies irae of the Requiem Mass, its finaldynamic contrasts leading to a lively Allegro, towards the close of which thedrum-roll and mysterious Adagio re-appear. The second movement is a set ofdouble variations, its first C minor theme announced by the strings, joined byoboes, bassoons and horns for the second theme, in C major, both of which areapparently of Balkan folk provenance and are then varied in turn with all thesubtlety of which Haydn was a master. The Minuet has a companion Trio thatallows the London clarinettists a dangerous prominence. French horns introducethe Finale, remarkably based on one theme and as original as anything Haydnwrote.
The Capella Istropolitana was founded in1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, at first as a chamberorchestra and then as an orchestra large enough to tackle the standardclassical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its name drawn from the an