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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN, J.: Piano Trios, Vol. 2 (Kungsbacka Trio) - Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30
Haydn’s Keyboard Trios possess a rich variety of themes and musical inventiveness, with strong demands on the pianist. The C major is dramatic and eventful. Patterns are varied in the E major where Haydn gives the violin major lyrical statements, whilst in the E flat major he uses all his wit and guile to launch the finale’s captivating and joyful dance finale. The E flat major Hob. XV: 30 is notable for is subtle thematic development and commanding drama. Volume 1 (8.572040) of this series has been greatly admired, not least by Gramophone which stated that the Kungsbacka Piano Trio had nothing to fear from any other account.
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Piano Trios, Hob. XV:27, 28, 29 and 30
Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau, near the modern border between Austria and Slovakia, Joseph Haydn was the son of a wheelwright. He had his musical training as a chorister at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and thereafter earned a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard. During these earlier years he was able to learn from the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn’s first regular employment came in 1759 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin. This was followed in 1761 by appointment 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 Nicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, remaining in the same employment, nominally at least, until his death in 1809.
Much of Haydn’s service of the Esterházys was at the new palace of Eszterháza on the Hungarian plains, a complex of buildings to rival Versailles in magnificence. Here he was responsible for the musical establishment and its activities, including regular instrumental concerts and music for the theatre, opera and church. For his patron he provided a variety of chamber music, in particular for the Prince’s favourite instrument, the baryton.
On the death of Prince Nicolaus in 1790 Haydn was able to accept an invitation from the violinist-impresario Salomon to visit London, where he already enjoyed a considerable reputation. He was in London for a second time in 1794 and 1795, after which he returned to duty with the Esterházy family, now chiefly at the family residence in Eisenstadt, where he had started his career. Much of the year, however, was passed in Vienna, where he spent his final years, dying as the city fell once more into the power of Napoleon’s army.
Haydn’s keyboard music was at first written for the harpsichord, with later works clearly intended for the pianoforte, as dynamic markings show. His career coincided with changes in the standard keyboard instrument, as the fortepiano and then the pianoforte, with their hammer action and dynamic possibilities, gradually replaced the harpsichord and clavichord. At the same time there was a parallel change in instrumental forms, as the structure that has come to be known, among other titles, as sonata-allegro form, developed. Haydn’s Keyboard Trios, of which he left some thirty, are generally given the title of Sonata, whether for harpsichord or piano, with the accompaniment usually of violin and cello. The earliest work of this kind dates from 1784 and the last from 1797.
Haydn’s Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV.30, presumably written in Vienna in 1796, after his return from England, was published by Artaria in 1797 and the next year in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel. The first movement, relatively extended in scale, is marked Allegro moderato and treats the thematic material with Haydn’s usual well concealed subtlety, finding room for rapid piano figuration in the central development. The C major second movement, Andante con moto and in three sections, frames a central part that brings some display in the rapid keyboard figuration that has a rôle to play in the returning version of the opening material of the movement. The G major ending leads directly to the final Presto, with its initially ascending principal theme and subsequent episode in E flat minor, the six flats of which are removed before a tonally varied transition to the returning main theme, which also provides material for the closing bars of the work.
The three Piano Trios, Hob. XV:27–29, seemingly written in 1796, were published in London by Longman & Broderip in 1797, with a dedication to Mrs Bartolozzi, née Jansen. The daughter of a distinguished dancing-master from Aachen, Therese Jansen had won a considerable reputation in London as a pianist and as a teacher. She married Gaetano Bartolozzi, an art dealer and son of the engraver Francesco Bartolozzi, and moved to Vienna in the final years of the century. They were the parents of the London-born singer and theatre manager known as Madame Vestris. Originally Elisabetta Lucia Bartolozzi, she married and was subsequently deserted by the dancer Auguste Armand Vestris, but, retaining her married name, won a very considerable reputation in the theatre in England and elsewhere. The first of the set, the Piano Trio in C major, Hob. XV:27, reveals, in the demands it makes on the pianist, the technical ability of Therese Jansen, as do the keyboard sonatas that Haydn also wrote for her. In the sonata-form first movement there is particular drama in the central development section. The slow movement is in the key of A major, with an A minor central section and a final cadenza for the piano, which opens the last movement, marked Presto, a brilliant rondo, which brings surprises in its intervening episodes.
The Piano Trio in E major, Hob. XV:28, starts with a theme characterized by the use of grace notes in the piano before each note of the principal theme, doubled by the plucked notes of the string instruments. The piano then repeats the theme in a higher register and in a more chromatic form. In the central development there is a shift to the key of A flat, to be heard as the mediant of E major, G sharp major. The second movement, marked Allegretto, is in E minor, its winding initial theme shared by all three instruments, until the piano takes its own course, leaving the violin and cello to 28 bars of silence, to return as the music shifts to G major. The movement ends with a piano cadenza. The final Allegro entrusts the principal theme to the violin and piano, with the violin taking the lead in an E minor passage, the original key to be restored with the return of the main theme.
The third of the set, the Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob. XV.29, starts with the main theme, played by the violin and piano. The movement then offers another version of the theme, now in E flat minor, the melody taken by the violin, finally returning to the original theme and key. The B major second movement has the direction Andantino ed innocentemente, allotting the statement of the theme first to the piano, before it is taken up by the violin, later to appear in canon. There is a change to E flat major for the last part of the movement, which ends in suspense with the dominant chord of E flat, the key of the last movement, which starts immediately, a German-style dance movement, as its original title indicates.
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