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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN, J.: Concertos for 2 lire organizzate, Hob.VIIh:1-5 (Cologne Chamber, Muller-Bruhl)
Joseph Haydn’s five Concertos for two lire organizzate were written in 1786-7 for King Ferdinand IV of Naples whose favourite instrument was the now obsolete lira organizzata , a fascinating hybrid resembling a hurdy gurdy, often heard in the city’s streets, crossed with a small chamber organ. However, as here, these concertos were also performed with flutes, recorders and oboe as solo instruments instead, losing none of their charming vitality thereby. Like so many of Haydn’s concertos they deserve revival, especially in the hands of these outstanding artists.
By David Denton
Composed around 1786, the disc is a perfect example of Haydn’s commercial instincts, the series of concertos for King Ferdinand of Naples, being for Lire Organizzate, a hybrid that brought together a chamber organ and the popular hurdy-gurdy. He would have composed the normal group of six concertos, though only the five here recorded now remain. Without a surviving instrument, they are here performed by various permutations of recorders, flutes and oboe as soloists, though I doubt that it really matters who plays them as I guess the composer would not have been interested. Scored for orchestra comprising strings and two horns, they are the product of a competent kapellmeister of the time, and though the choice of instruments for this recording brings a nice rustic character to the pieces, a chamber organ might have been more appropriate. Yet even in shavings from a master-craftsman’s bench you will find little gems, the finale to the second concerto having a catchy tune that is pure delight. There are one or two ‘woody’ recorder notes that sound awkward, but throughout the solo playing gets around a lot of notes with suitable agility, while conductor, Helmut Muller-Bruhl, receives the customary polished response from the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. The disc forms part of Naxos’s Haydn Concerto Series and the sound quality is first-class.
Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Concertos for Two Lire Organizzate, arr. for 2 recorders, 2 flutes, flute/oboe
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.
It was perhaps through Haydn’s former pupil Ignaz Pleyel that Haydn received in 1785 or 1786 a commission from King Ferdinand IV of Naples, whose wife Maria Carolina was a daughter of the Empress Maria Theresia, for a set of concertos for two lire organizzate. Pleyel, a protégé of Count Erdödy, had studied with Haydn for some five years, until 1777. He later persuaded his patron to allow him to visit Italy and in Naples had been received by King Ferdinand and written music for the King’s particular instrument, the lira organizzata. While a simpler form of hurdy-gurdy was familiar on the streets of Naples and elsewhere, the royal instrument had been further developed by Norbert Hadrava, secretary of the Austrian legation in Naples, continuing the pattern of earlier instruments that combined the wheel, strings and keyboard of the hurdy-gurdy with organ pipes. The range was similar to that of the oboe, and it was limited to the keys of C, G and F, while the pipes could double the notes on the keyboard at the unison or at the octave. Haydn’s concertos for the lira organizzata are scored for two such instruments, to be played by the King and his teacher Hadrava, with two horns, two violins, two violas and cello. It may be supposed that he wrote the usual set of six, of which five now survive, with a possible second concerto in C major now lost, retaining copies for his own use at Eszterháza, where the lira organizzata parts could easily be transferred to flute and oboe, or, as in the present recording, to recorders, as in two of the concertos, or to two transverse flutes, all aptly reflecting the probable sound of the instruments for which the concertos were written. Haydn had, in the course of his long employment by Prince Nicolaus Esterházy, become familiar with another combination instrument that was to become obsolete, the baryton, with its bowed and plucked notes.
The first of the group, the Concerto in C major, Hob.VIIh:1, like the others suggesting a chamber Divertimento rather than a concerto in style and here including two recorders, has a sonata-form first movement, followed by a gentle Andante. The concerto ends with a lively rondo, its course interrupted by an Adagio, an operatic element, in keeping with the general mood of these works.
The second, the Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIh:2, with the lire organizzate parts given to flute and oboe, again has a sonata-form first movement. For the second movement Haydn had recourse to a da capo insertion aria ‘Sono Alcina’ that he had written in 1786 for a revival in June at Eszterháza of Giuseppe Gazzaniga’s L’isola d’Alcina, of which two performances were given. The final rondo has the mood of a popular dance.
Lira parts are allotted to two flutes in the Concerto in G major, Hob.VIIh:3. The sparkling sonata-form first movement leads to a second movement Romance, marked Allegretto, that was to serve Haydn again for the second movement of Symphony No. 100 ‘The Military’, composed for performance in the London Salomon concerts of 1794. The concerto ends with a lively Allegro.
Flute and oboe are used in the Concerto in F major, Hob.VIIh:4, which opens with an effective sonata-form movement. An elegant dance movement leads to a final rondo that finds room for a brief cadenza.
The Concerto in F major, Hob.VII:5, played here with two recorders, provided in its second and third movements material for Haydn’s Symphony No. 89 of 1787. Scholars have pointed out the affinity between the opening theme of the first movement with the last movement theme of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, already heard at the beginning of the finale of Haydn’s Symphony No. 13 of 1763. This sonata-form movement, with its minor key development, leads to a dance-like Andante and an inventive final Vivace.
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