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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 6 (Nos. 26, 35, 49)
BBC Music Magazine
Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809)
Symphony No.26 in D Minor, "Lamentatione"
Symphony No.35 in B Flat Major
Symphony No.49 in F Minor, "La Passione"
Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau in 1732, the son
of a wheelwright. Trained at the choir-school of St. Stephen's
Cathedral in Vienna, he spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching
and playing the violin or keyboard, and was 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-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy,
succeeded on his death in 1762 by his brother Prince Nikolaus. On the death in 1766 of the
and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, Haydn succeeded to his position, to
remain in the same employment, nominally at least, for the rest of his life.
On the completion of the magnificent palace at Esterháza, in
the Hungarian plains under the new Prince, Haydn assumed command of an increased musical
establishment. Here he had responsibility for the musical activities of the palace, which
included the provision and direction of instrumental music, opera and theatre music, and
music for the church. For his patron he provided a quantity of chamber music of all kinds,
particularly for the Prince's own peculiar instrument, the baryton, a bowed string
instrument with sympathetic strings that could also be plucked.
On the death of Prince Nikolaus in 1790, Haydn was able to
accept an invitation to visit London, where he provided music for the concert season
organized by the violinist-impresario Salomon. A second successful visit to London in 1794
and 1795 was followed by a return to duty with the Esterházy family, the new head of
which had settled
principally at the family property in Eisenstadt, where Haydn had started his career. Much
of the year, however, was to be spent in Vienna, where Haydn passed his final years, dying
in 1809, as the French armies of Napoleon approached the city yet again.
Whether Haydn was the father of the symphony is a question best
left to musical genealogists. His career, however, spanned the period during which the
classical symphony developed as the principal orchestral form. He himself certainly played
a major part in this development, from his first symphony some time before 1759 to his
final series of symphonies written for the greater resources of London in 1794 and 1795.
The London symphonies were preceded by similar works for Paris and a much larger body of
compositions of more modest scoring for the orchestra at Esterháza and at Eisenstadt,
many of the last calling for a keyboard continuo, at least with the relatively smaller
number of string players available.
Symphony No.26 in D minor
seems to have been written in 1768 or thereabouts and is scored for the usual Esterháza
forces of pairs of oboes and French horns, bassoon, strings and cembalo.
The symphony once had the spurious title Weihnachts symphonie,
giving rise to the false supposition that it once had a final Christmas pastoral movement.
The title Lamentatione has more
justification and the Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon has shown from other evidence that
the symphony is based on a traditional drama associated with the liturgical singing of the
accounts of the Passion of Christ in Holy Week. The first movement opens with a first
subject that sets the scene of the tragedy. It is followed by a change to F major and a
theme for first oboe and second violin that is derived from the liturgical chant, starting
with the familiar introductory words of the traditional text, followed by the more
measured words of Christ, the interpolation of the Evangelist narrator and the words of
the crowd. This forms the exposition or first section of the movement. The central
development opens with are turn to the material of the beginning of the symphony. The
final recapitulation has the thematic material of liturgical derivation in the key of D
major, the key in which the movement ends. The slow second movement again entrusts the
liturgical material to the first oboe and second violin, now using a melody derived from
the Lamentations of Maundy Thursday Matins, to which the first violin adds a very
different theme, a violin obbligato to what has been transformed into a chorale. The
symphony ends with a Minuet and Trio that might at first seem less appropriate to the
occasion, although the key of the Minuet ensures a continued element of solemnity.
Haydn completed his Symphony
No.35 in B flat major on 1st December 1767, scoring the work for pairs of oboes
and high B flat horns, bassoon, strings and cembalo. What starts light-heartedly enough
assumes a graver air in the central development, where contrapuntal use of earlier
thematic material introduces an element of stronger feeling, with the recapitulation
marked by the ascent of the first horn to unusual heights. The E flat major slow movement
is scored for strings only with music of considerable charm. The wind instruments return
for the Minuet, but are excluded from the E flat Trio, with its triplet rhythm handed from
second to first violin. The symphony ends with a cheerful Finale and the tone of the whole
work has led Robbins Landon to suggest that it might have been written to celebrate the
return from Paris of Prince Esterházy, who had visited France in the autumn of 1767 with
the presumed object of learning more about the Palace of Versailles that his own new
palace at Esterháza was to imitate and rival.
Symphony No.49, La Passione,
was written in 1768 and is scored for pairs of oboes, French horns in F, bassoon, strings
and originally cembalo. This work, in the key of F minor, belongs clearly to the dramatic
mood of Sturm und Drang, although not so
called until the publication in 1777 of Klinger's play of that name. Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), a
self-explanatory title, describes well enough the current literary mode of extravagant
expression of emotions, partly reflected in some of the music of the period. Haydn's
symphony follows the old pattern of the church sonata, opening with a slow movement. A
degree of tension is generated in the following Allegro di molto, not least by the wide
leaps and syncopation of the first violin in the opening of the movement, leading to a
calmer shift to the relative major key. The Minuet, in which first and second violins
double one another for much of the time, frames an F major Trio that makes use of the high
range of the first horn. The final monothematic Presto brings to an end a symphony that
enjoyed very considerable popularity in Haydn's life-time, the culmination of a particular
development of the symphony and the expression of a depth of feeling that ensured serious
consideration for the genre. A symphony of this kind was no mere diversion.
Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester
Formed in 1967, the orchestra has established itself as one of
England's finest chamber ensembles. Though often augmented to meet the requirements of the
concert programme, the orchestra normally contains 24 musicians and performs both in
concert and on disc without a conductor. Their repertoire ranges from the baroque era to
music of our time, and they have gained a reputation for imaginative programme planning.
Concerts take the orchestra throughout the North of England and
it has received four major European bursaries for its achievements in the community. With
a series of recordings for Naxos the orchestra makes its debut on disc.
Born in Manchester in 1952, Nicholas Ward was the son of
parents who met when they became members of the Hallé Orchestra. It was therefore natural
that music played an important part in his life from childhood. His early attempts at
piano playing having proved unsatisfactory, he moved to the violin, and at the age of
twelve had formed his own string quartet. It proved highly successful and remained
together for five years until he entered the Royal Northern College in Manchester where he
studied with Yossi Zivoni and later in Brussels with Andre Gertier. Ward moved to London
in 1977 where he joined the famous Melos Ensemble and the Royal Philharmonic when the
orchestra worked with Antal Dorati as its Principal Conductor. In 1984 he became co-leader
of the City of London Sinfonia followed by the appointment as leader of the Northern
Chamber Orchestra. Two years later he became the orchestra's Musical Director, and now
directs from the leader's chair. In this format the orchestra has become highly regarded
both in concerts and broadcasts.
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HAYDN: Symphonies, Vol. 6 (Nos. 26, 35, 49)