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Hyperion Records

CDA66520 - Haydn: Symphonies Nos 73-75

Recording details: May 1990
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: January 1991
Total duration: 68 minutes 59 seconds

'Joyous performances' (Classical Express)

'Interprétations nerveuses, dynamiques, incisives, magnifiquement résolues et contrastées' (Compact, France)

Symphonies Nos 73-75
Andante  [4'59]
Vivace assai  [10'10]
Adagio cantabile  [4'47]
Grave – Presto  [8'19]
Poco adagio  [7'52]
Finale: Vivace  [3'22]
The three decades Haydn spent in the service of the Esterházy family proved one of the most artistically fruitful relationships in the history of musical patronage. By the middle of the eighteenth century the Esterházys were the wealthiest and most powerful family of the Hungarian aristocracy and had its seat at Eisenstadt, a small town in the Burgenland hills south of Vienna, close to the current Austro-Hungarian border. Here, in the 1750s, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy founded a permanent orchestra and established seasons of theatrical and operatic performances. Haydn was engaged to the court in 1761, first as Deputy Kapellmeister, then as Kapellmeister.

In 1764 Paul Anton’s successor, Prince Nikolaus (known as ‘The Magnificent’), visited Versailles for the first time and he was inspired on his return to Hungary to build his own sumptuous palace on the southern shore of the Neusiedlersee. More or less completed by 1766, when Haydn moved there, and named Eszterháza Castle, it became the Esterházys’ summer residence—the rather damp climate and surroundings forced them to winter in Eisenstadt—but its facilities out-did any of their other properties. There was an opera house (opened in 1768) that could seat over four hundred, a puppet theatre (1773), and a special Music House of over ninety rooms, providing living quarters for Haydn, all the musicians, actors and other servants. With its extensive season of opera (Haydn often had to conduct two or three works a week) Eszterháza soon became renowned all over Europe as a centre for musical and cultural excellence, with regular visits from aristocrats and musicians from far and wide. Haydn was required to provide a steady stream of symphonies, operas, and liturgical, vocal and chamber music for each of these special occasions that came along.

So by the early 1780s—when the three symphonies recorded here were composed—Haydn had been in the employ of the Esterházy family for twenty years. Although comfortably off as regards pay and conditions, he had by now begun to resent the claustrophobic environment of Eszterháza (despite being free to visit Vienna in the winter) and, flouting the terms of his original contract, he wrote increasingly for outside bodies. Symphonies 73, 74 and 75 represent both sides of this divide. The great paradox was that, cut off as he was from much of the rest of the musical world outside, his music was, largely unbeknown to him, already making him something of a celebrity all over Europe. Indeed, by the late 1770s his symphonies were featuring regularly on concert programmes in Paris and London, the two cities that soon would do more than any others to nurture some of his greatest works in the medium.

By this stage in the development of the symphony as a genre, the four-movement form was well established and is that followed by all three symphonies here, though two—73 and 75—feature a slow introduction to the opening movement, one of Haydn’s favourite formal devices, right up to the last ‘London’ symphonies of the mid-1790s. The slow movements proper range from the delicacy of the violin-and-cello duet in No 74 to the rich, hymn-like solemnity of No 75. The minuets are a typically Haydnesque mix of the rustic and the aristocratic, while the finales are all vivacious yet each distinctive and memorable in its own way.

Of these symphonies only one, No 73, has any definite link with the prince. Nikolaus had been particularly impressed with Haydn’s opera La fedeltŕ premiata (‘Fidelity Rewarded’), first performed in February 1781 to reopen the opera house at Eszterháza which had burned down the previous winter. The symphony borrows the original overture to the opera for its finale, and it seems quite likely that Haydn assembled the work to celebrate the prince’s return from a trip to Paris later in 1781, welcoming him home with a surprise reworking of one of Nikolaus’s favourite pieces—an affectionate rather than sycophantic touch. The music of the slow movement was also borrowed, this time from one of Haydn’s German Lieder, Gegenliebe (published at around the same time). The subtitle ‘La Chasse’ properly only applies to the finale. Haydn was himself a keen huntsman and made use of a then famous hunting call for the wind band solos that follow the introduction.

Symphonies Nos 74 and 75 probably date from the year before No 73 (the traditional numbering of the symphonies of both Haydn and Mozart contains many discrepancies of chronology). The first recorded appearance of No 74 is its arrival in August 1781 at the London publisher William Forster, to whom Haydn had sold the rights through the intercession of the British Ambassador to the Viennese court, General Herningham. Forster issued it with the title ‘Overture I. Composed by Giuseppe Haydn of Vienna and Published by his Authority’. This score is fuller in editorial markings (crescendos, accents, and so on) than many of his surviving manuscripts, suggesting that back at Eszterháza he was used to giving such instructions verbally to his players (the original sets of parts of his works are always more copious in markings than the orchestral scores) and with publication he had to be more explicit in his requirements.

Symphony No 75 also first appeared in print in 1781, though it too had probably been written the year before. It also has an English connection, though of a rather different nature. The symphony was performed in London during Haydn’s first English trip in 1792 and he reported in his diary:

On 26 March at Mr Barthelemon’s concert, an English clergyman was present who fell into the most profound melancholy on hearing the Andante (or ‘Poco adagio’, as it was more usually marked) … because he had dreamt the previous night that this piece was a premonition of his death. He left the company at once and took to his bed.

Today, 25 April, I heard from Herr Barthelemon that this Protestant clergyman had died.

The symphony has no other morbid associations, however. Indeed, the finale is one of Haydn’s wittiest, complete with sudden pauses, unprepared changes of direction, and a whispered coda that springs one last surprise …

Matthew Rye © 1990

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