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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / BOCCHERINI: Cello Concerto in B-Flat Major
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)
Cello Concerto in B Flat, G. 482
The greater part of
Joseph Haydn’s working life was spent in the service of the Princes of
Esterhazy, from 1766 in the magnificent new palace built in the Hungarian
marshes on the site of a former hunting-lodge. There Haydn was the director of
a musical establishment that included an opera-house, a puppet-theatre and an
orchestra, as well as the usual obligations of church music. For much of the
time he served the prince known as Prince Nikolaus the Magnificent, a patron
with a keen understanding of music & a particular liking for the baryton, a
stringed instrument with added sympathetic strings that could also be plucked,
a fact that led the English musician Dr. Burney to describe it as only suited
to a desert island, where a player might pluck his own accompaniment.
The death of Prince
Nikolaus in 1790 released Haydn from his regular duties at Esterhaza, although
he retained the title of Kapellmeister to the Esterhazys until his death in
Vienna in 1809. He was able to travel twice to England, where he was made
much of, and to
settle in Vienna to enjoy in his final years the kind of society that had
largely been denied him earlier in his career.
Haydn was a
prolific composer, with some 106 symphonies to his credit, 83 quartets and 175
works for baryton, among much else. He wrote relatively few concertos, some 30
in all, if we are to accept all that have been attributed to him. Of three
known cello concertos, two survive, the first of them, the Concerto in C Major,
discovered in Prague in 1961 and dated 1765, the year before the Esterhazy
establishment moved to the new palace.
Concerto in C Major is in the usual three movements. The first of these opens
with an orchestral introduction after which the soloist enters in the grand style
associated with this choice of key for the cello, its most resonant. The
soloist is allowed to make much of the lyrical possibilities of the thematic
material, as well as providing an element of technical panache in the central
section and the cadenza. There follows a slow movement, scored for strings
only, which offers music of quiet intensity before the brilliant finale, with
its impressive display of the technical possibilities of the cello.
Haydn’s Concerto in
D Major was at one time thought to be the work of Anton Kraft, the cellist of
the Esterhaza orchestra, who presumably offered help in the writing of the solo
part. It is, however, the work of Haydn and was written in 1783. Like the
earlier surviving concerto it is scored for pairs of oboes and French horns,
The concerto opens
with an orchestral introduction in which the two principal themes of the first
movement are presented, followed by the solo cello with an embellished version
of the same material. The expressive A major slow movement is followed by a
lively rondo, diverted briefly into a dramatic D minor, before its cheerful
The Italian cellist
and composer Luigi Boccherini was often compared, in his life-time, with Haydn,
particularly in his chamber music. Nowadays he is seen in rather a different
perspective, although one or two of his works remain extremely popular.
Boccherini was born
in Lucca in 1743, the son of a double-bass player. As a cellist he undertook
tours with the violinist Manfredi, a pupil of Nardini, and the two caused a
sensation in Paris, whence they proceeded to Spain, attracting, after some
initial difficulties, the patronage of Don Luis, the King’s brother. The
Boccherini family had distinction in other spheres, both as poets and dancers,
and was involved at various times in the theatre in Vienna, a city that
Boccherini himself visited on more than one occasion early in his career.
On the death of Don
Luis Boccherini’s Spanish pension was continued, but he was able to assume the
title and presumably the obligations of composer to Friedrich Wilhelm II, who
in 1787 succeeded his uncle Frederick the Great as King of Prussia. There is no
evidence that Boccherini ever lived or worked in Berlin, where the
cello-playing king had gathered other players and composers for the instrument,
and whatever employment there was came to an end with the King’s death in 1797.
Boccherini died in
Madrid in 1805, and contemporary accounts suggest that he was living in some
squalor, if not indigence. He had not been without patrons, however, including
the French ambassador to Madrid, Lucien Bonaparte.
Boccherini for the cello include a number of quintets, with formidable parts
for the first of the two cellos employed, as well as a number of other examples
of chamber music. Recent scholars list eleven concertos for the cello, of which
the present work is the ninth. The concerto is in the usual three movements and
is possibly better known in a version arranged by Gruetzmacher in 1895 from
various sources. Whether in that version or in its authentic form it makes
considerable demands on the soloist.
Ludovit Kanta was
born in 1957 and trained at the Conservatory in Bratislava and at the College
of Music and Drama in Prague. Since 1982 he has been principal cellist in the
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and is also a member of the Slovak Piano Trio. He
is a laureate of the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, in which
he took part in 1982.
Istropolitana was founded in 1983 by members of the Slovak Philharmonic
Orchestra, at first as a chamber orchestra and then as an orchestra large
enough to tackle the standard classical repertoire. Based in Bratislava, its
name drawn from the ancient name still preserved in the Academia Istropolitana,
the historic university established in the Slovak and one-time Hungarian
capital by Matthias Corvinus, the orchestra works principally in the recording
studio. Recordings by the orchestra on the Naxos label include The Best of
Baroque Music, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, fifteen each of Mozart’s and
Haydn’s symphonies as well as works by Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann.
started piano lessons at the age of four, and went on to study at Bratislava
Conservatory and at the Prague College of Music and Drama, concentrating at the
latter in composition. In 1981, having completed his studies, he began work as
musical supervisor in the Czechoslovak Radio in Bratislava and for OPUS Records
and Publishing. He has had a varied career, involving the direction of the
Czechoslovak Radio Children’s Choir, playing jazz on the piano and working as
an orchestral conductor and arranger.
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