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ClassicsOnline Home » HAYDN, J.: Symphonies, Vol. 33 (Nos. 25, 42, 65)
The rarely recorded Symphony No. 25 is an unusual work. Lacking a slow movement, it opens with an Adagio-Allegro followed by a minuet. Symphony No. 42, with its compelling themes and keen sense of dramatic timing, is one of the composer’s finest middle-period symphonies. Wit, invention and originality abound in Symphony No. 65, which is thought to have been conceived as incidental music for one of the many dramatic works performed at Eszterháza.
By David Denton
With this final volume in Naxos’s complete recording of the Haydn symphonies, we come to the end of a musical pilgrimage that stretches back twenty years, and along the way has gathered considerable critical acclaim.
Only the third time it has been achieved on disc, it began in the Czech Republic in warm sounds of the Capella Istropolitana with five discs of the late symphonies. Moving to the early symphonies from England’s Northern Chamber Orchestra, Hungary’s Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra filled in much of the works between, the inspired Toronto Chamber Orchestra eventually returning us to the early scores. It has been left to the Sinfonia Finlandia Jyvaskyla under its French music director, Patrick Gallois, to place the final piece in the jigsaw. This use of a range of ensembles has enabled the series to replicate the very differing orchestral forces that were at Haydn’s disposal through his life. The Finnish ensemble is quite weighty, the three symphonies probably composed in the 1770s when Haydn was enjoying his time in the service of the Esterházys. They all contain an element of drama, the Sixty-fifth probably starting life as a Sinfonia used as an introduction to a dramatic presentation at Esterháza. Gallois finds the serious import by employing a wide range of dynamics, and with particular emphasis on the lower strings. This view is much helped by the sound created by the engineers, my sole regret being the reticence of the harpsichord in the Twenty-Fifth. The whole series will shortly be available in a boxed set that is not to be missed.
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphonies Nos. 25, 42 and 65
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 subsequently spent some years earning a living as best he could from teaching and playing the violin or keyboard, and was able to profit from association with the old composer Porpora, whose assistant he became. Haydn’s first appointment was probably as early as 1758 as Kapellmeister to a Bohemian nobleman, Count von Morzin, whose kinsman had once served as patron to Vivaldi. This was followed in 1761 by employment as Vice-Kapellmeister to one of the richest men in the Empire, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, succeeded after his death in 1762 by Prince Nicolaus. On the death in 1766 of the elderly and somewhat obstructive Kapellmeister Gregor Werner, who had found much to complain about in the professionalism of his young and resented deputy, 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 Eszterháza in the Hungarian plains under Prince Nicolaus, 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 music for the theatre, as well as 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.
Prince Nicolaus died in 1790 and Haydn found himself able to accept an invitation to visit London. There he provided music for concert seasons 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 with them. 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.
Haydn lived during the period of the eighteenth century that saw the development of instrumental music from the age of Bach and Handel to the era of the classical sonata, with its tripartite first-movement form and complementary two or three further movements, the former the basis now of much instrumental composition. The symphony may claim to have become the most important form of orchestral composition and owes a great deal, if not its precise paternity, to Haydn. He first attempted such composition some time before 1759 and wrote his last symphonies for London in the final decade of the century.
Haydn’s short Symphony No. 25 in C major has been variously dated, some choosing to place it before his entry into the service of the Esterházys and others preferring the early years of that employment but at least before the establishment of the new palace at Eszterháza. Scored for the standard ensemble of two oboes, two horns and strings, with bassoon doubling the cello and bass and a harpsichord continuo, the symphony opens with an Adagio introduction, leading to a sonata-form Allegro with what is almost a false recapitulation as the first subject seems about to return when the central development has barely started. The second movement Menuet, still in C major, has a Trio in the same key that gives due prominence to the oboes and horns, accompanied by pizzicato strings. The principal thematic element of the final Presto is heard at the outset in a movement that has the main features of sonata-form. The contrapuntal possibilities of the opening motif are marginally explored when the motif returns, imitated in canon by the lower strings in a combined development and recapitulation.
Symphony No. 42 in D major dates from 1771 and is similarly scored. The principal theme of the first movement, marked Moderato e maestoso, is marked by the lively acciaccature that appear in the first bar, while the secondary thematic material has the first violin answered by the other strings, with a figure that returns in the closing section of the repeated exposition. Acciaccature reappear at the start to the central development in which there is again a false recapitulation, when it seems that the first subject is about to return in recapitulation, which it eventually does in due course. The wind instruments are at first silent in the A major Andantino e cantabile, entrusted initially to muted strings, but later have a fuller part to play. Gaiety returns in the Menuet, framing a Trio for strings, and the symphony ends with a rondo marked Scherzando e presto, with the second episode entrusted mainly to the oboes and horns. The principal theme returns in a varied form, followed by a further episode, now in D minor. The first theme returns, to be followed by a characteristic closing section.
It has been suggested that Symphony No. 65 in A major, perhaps like Symphony No. 25, was originally intended as an introduction or incidental music for one of the many dramatic works performed at Eszterháza. It has been dated to the years 1771-1773, although some have preferred an earlier date and others a post quem non of 1778. It is scored for the usual forces. The lively first movement starts with three chords, a summons to attention, after which the first theme appears, with a transition to the secondary material. There is a very short central section before the recapitulation. The D major Andante interrupts the progress of its main theme with an intervention by oboes and horns and, on its resumption, by an odd series of repeated notes, suggesting extra-musical connotations. The Menuetto frames a Trio in A minor for strings, marked by first violin acciaccature, after which the final Presto embarks on a hunting movement in which the horns have an appropriate part to play.
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HAYDN, J.: Symphonies, Vol. 33 (Nos. 25, 42, 65)