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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN, J.: Piano Trios, Vol. 4 (Bartolozzi Trio) - Nos. 8-12
Haydn’s thirty Piano Trios were written between 1784 and 1797, reflecting both changes in keyboard instruments, as the piano replaced the harpsichord, and developments in sonata form. The Trios included here, dating from the earlier years of this period, are lively, eloquent and often innovative works. The E fl at major Trio, Hob XV:11 won particular contemporary praise for its increased technical challenges and subtle interplay between strings and piano.
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Piano Trios, Hob XV: 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12
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.
On 26 November 1785 Haydn wrote to the Vienna publisher Artaria asking about progress on the publication of three Piano Trios, Hob XV:6–8, intended for Countess Marianne von Witzay (Viczay), a niece of Prince Nicolaus, who lived on the estate of her husband at Nagylózs, near Eszterháza. Two weeks later he wrote again to Artaria, complaining of inaccuracies and inadequacies in the proofs of the three trios that Artaria had sent him¹. In the event the works had to be engraved again and were published the following year. The third of the set, the Piano Trio in B flat major, Hob XV: 8, has the first of its two movements in sonata-allegro form, with the exposition repeated before the F minor opening of the central development section. The second movement, Tempo di Menuetto, has at its heart a B flat minor version of the principal theme.
The Piano Trio in A major, Hob XV: 9, was first issued by the London publisher, Forster, in 1786, the first of a set of three Trios, including an arrangement of an earlier Trio for baryton and the Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob XV: 10. The A major work starts with an Adagio which follows the pattern of sonata-form, modulating to the dominant and with a very short development section before the recapitulation of the original material, now with a quasi cadenza passage, as it draws to a close. To this the second movement, marked Vivace, offers a contrast, its exposition duly repeated and its recapitulation tentatively introduced. This and particularly the Trio in E flat major won particular contemporary praise. More technically demanding, it provides increased interest in the string parts and a challenge in the rapid triplet figuration of the Presto assai of the second movement.
In 1789 Artaria published a further set of three Sonatas for cembalo/pianoforte, violin and cello. On 8 March Haydn had written to the publisher, excusing his delay in sending him the third of the set, occasioned by the sudden decision of Prince Nicolaus to leave Vienna, which he disliked, and return to Eszterháza. The first of the group, the Piano Trio in E flat major, Hob XV: 11, explores still further Haydn’s chosen form. The first of the two movements, in sonata-allegro form, allows the violin to introduce the second subject, soon taken up by the piano, the repeated exposition leading to an extended development, and the following Tempo di Menuetto, with its own trio section, brings further surprises, not least in its conclusion.
The second of the 1789 set, the Piano Trio in E minor, Hob XV:12, opens with a first subject that suggests contrapuntal treatment. Both halves of an imposing movement are repeated, to be followed by an E major Andante. The final Rondo, in the same key, has a contrasting minor episode and variations of the principal subject, which returns to lead to a final coda. The work is further evidence of Haydn’s growing interest in a form that he continued to explore and develop over the immediately following years.
¹ Details of Haydn’s correspondence with Artaria are given in the second volume of Robbins Landon’s monumental work on Haydn’s life and works: Haydn at Eszterháza 1766–1790, p 673 and elsewhere.
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