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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN: Piano Concertos, Hob.XVIII:3,4,9,11
While, unlike Mozart, Haydn never made a living as a keyboard soloist, he nevertheless came nearest to Mozart in the best known of his keyboard concertos, No. 11 in D major. First performed in Paris in 1784 this is a work of the composer’s maturity, with strikingly dramatic contrasts, an expressive slow movement and an infectious Hungarian Rondo. Although slight by comparison, if not in craftsmanship, Concerto No. 3 is notable for its wistful slow movement and lively Finale, while Concerto No. 4, with its elaborate solo part, includes a dramatic and sombre Andante cantabile, and an exuberant Rondo.
By David Denton
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Piano Concertos Nos. 3, 4, 9, and 11
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.
Unlike Mozart, a virtuoso soloist in his own piano concertos, Haydn had the usual competence of a successful professional musician of his time, able to lead the orchestras he directed from the violin, or, more commonly, from the keyboard. The demands on each composer were very different, with Mozart, particularly in the last decade of his life in Vienna, relying on his reputation as a performer and arranging his own subscription concerts, and Haydn, employed by a princely patron, with an orchestra and a theatre at his disposal, with the concomitant duties and relative security.
Before entering the service of the Esterházys Haydn had written works designed for keyboard, either harpsichord or organ, and a simple string ensemble. These now generally bear the title Concertino. The three concertos, the Concerto in F major, Hob.XVIII:3, Concerto in G major, Hob.XVIII:4 and Concerto in D major, Hob.XVIII:11, belong to a later period in Haydn’s career, a time when he was established at the palace of Eszterháza. The first of these, the Concerto in F major, was written before 1771, even as early as 1766, the date assigned to it in Haydn’s work catalogue, and the second, the Concerto in G major, Hob.XVIII:4, about 1770. Both concertos were originally scored for strings, with the horn parts in the outer movements of the Concerto in F major an apparently contemporary addition. The Concerto in G major was played in Paris in 1784 by the blind pianist Maria Theresia Paradis and was published there by Boyer, with revisions seemingly by the publisher, accretions now removed. It is scored for the usual orchestra of two oboes, two horns and strings.
The Concerto in D major, Hob.XVIII:11, similarly scored and now with the title Concerto per il clavicembalo o fortepiano, as opposed the designation ‘Oper il clavicembalo’ of the other two concertos, was once thought to be of doubtful authorship, its authenticity eventually confirmed by the discovery of a letter by Haydn to the French publisher Boyer, written in November 1784. An announcement of the new concerto by Boyer on 6th July 1784 provides a terminus ante quem non, and it was published in that year by Artaria in Vienna, by Boyer and Le Menu in Paris, by Hummel in Berlin and Amsterdam, and by Longman and Broderip in London. The work obviously enjoyed wide popularity, judging by the surviving copies from the period and its wide published dissemination. Particularly effective is the last movement, with its Hungarian Rondo. It might be added that the appearance of the Concerto in G major and the Concerto in D major aroused some contemporary scepticism, at a time when the attribution of lesser works to the famous Joseph Haydn had become too frequent.
The authenticity of the Concerto in G major, Hob.XVIII:9, has been doubted with greater justification. No original sources survive and the work was not entered into Haydn’s work-list, it is listed, however, in the Breitkopf catalogue of 1767, which at least provides a possible date before which it might have been composed. The relatively long minor key slow movement is an unusual feature for Haydn, and the concerto is scored, like the concertinos of Haydn, for harpsichord, two violins and bass.
The cadenzas for Concertos Hob.XVIII:3, 4 and 9 played here are by Sebastian Knauer, and those for Concerto Hob.XVIII:11 by Paul Badura-Skoda.
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HAYDN: Piano Concertos, Hob.XVIII:3,4,9,11