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Hyperion Records

CDA66522 - Haydn: Symphonies Nos 45-47

Recording details: October 1990
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: April 1991
Total duration: 76 minutes 14 seconds

Symphonies Nos 45-47
Allegro assai  [6'11]
Adagio  [9'45]
Finale: Presto  [2'48]
Adagio  [7'53]
Vivace  [7'12]
Poco adagio  [6'09]
By the early 1770s Haydn had been in the service of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy for a decade. At first this had meant living and working in Eisenstadt, a small town in the Burgenland south of Vienna, the site of the Esterházys’ castle. But in 1766 Nikolaus built his answer to Versailles, a sumptuous summer palace in the low-lying marshland to the east (an area now within Hungary). Eszterháza, as it was called, had its own opera house and a large concert room, providing nightly entertainment when the prince was in residence. There was even a special ‘musicians’ building’, in which the instrumentalists, singers and Haydn lived during the summer months. Here and in Eisenstadt, Kapellmeister Haydn worked hard to keep his musicians supplied with symphonies, operas and chamber music which he directed at the court’s various functions, both ceremonial or social. His contract was such that he was rarely able to spend time away from the court, though paradoxically his reputation as a composer soon managed to reach musical centres in other parts of Europe, most likely through the influence of visitors to performances at Eszterháza.

Unlike Mozart’s, Haydn’s musical development was relatively slow and his growth as a composer was undoubtedly helped by this isolation from the outside world. As he explained in a much-quoted statement:

As head of an orchestra I could experiment, observe what heightened the effect and what weakened it, and so could improve, expand, cut, take risks. I was cut off from the world, there was no one near me to torment me or make me doubt myself, and so I had to become original.

It was in the works of the late 1760s and early 1770s—the Opus 20 quartets and some dozen symphonies—that this originality became truly manifest. The three symphonies here all date from 1772.

No 45 is one of the best-known of Haydn’s Eszterháza symphonies, largely because of the famous circumstances of its composition. The prince and his court moved to the palace as usual for the summer of 1772, but this time he had decreed that no wives or families of the musicians were to visit them there. The only exceptions to this ruling were Haydn, two principal singers and the leading violinist, Luigi Tomasini. As the summer moved into autumn it soon became apparent that the prince had no immediate intention of returning to Eisenstadt and the restless musicians pleaded with Haydn to do something about it. His solution was in an artistic guise—his Symphony in F sharp minor (incidentally, the only symphony in the eighteenth century to use this rare key). The first three movements proceed relatively normally: a tense Allegro assai that saves its second subject for the development section; a delicate A major Adagio; and an F sharp major Minuet and Trio. The finale even begins as a typical sonata-form Presto, but it leads after a short pause into what is in effect a whole new movement, a 3/8 Adagio in which, one by one, the instrumental parts come to a stop. In the original performance at Eszterháza, each player in turn snuffed out his candle, took his instrument and silently left the room until at the end, in virtual darkness, only Haydn and Tomasini were left. (Haydn knew that the prince so enjoyed Tomasini’s solos that he was bound to stay to the end.) The prince, in good humour, got the message and is reported to have said, ‘If they are all going, so too must we’. And the next day the whole court moved back to Eisenstadt.

In this recording of Symphony No 45 Roy Goodman relinquishes the harpsichord at bar 205 in the last movement to play the solo first violin part in duet with Pavlo Beznosiuk. This practice, which Mr Goodman and The Hanover Band have also adopted in concert performances, is yet further evidence that the required presence of Haydn on stage at the end of this symphony did not preclude him from directing at the harpsichord.

For No 46, Haydn again turned to a rarely used key, this time B major. The first movement is one of Haydn’s most concise: its first subject is no sooner established than the music briskly moves to F sharp major and a second subject based on the same material. The recapitulation is even more tightly constructed, with the secondary theme emerging from the first after just one four-bar phrase. For his slow movement and the trio to the Minuet, Haydn moves to the tonic minor, though the rest of the symphony revolves around the major. The finale is a remarkable movement: not only does it contain extensive passages in only two parts (invariably the two violin sections), but often the music stops abruptly, or fades out, into one or more bars of silence, then, at the climax, some 34 bars of the Minuet are recalled, before the wittily downbeat coda returns to the music of the Presto.

For Symphony No 47 we are on more conventional tonal territory, G major. Here Haydn’s preoccupation is more with counterpoint, not so obviously perhaps in the delightful first movement, which plays on the alternation of strings and wind, but in the slow movement the main theme (subjected to a series of four variations) consists of two contrapuntal voices that are then inverted—the melody becomes the bass and the bass becomes the top line. Even more unusually, the third movement is literally a ‘reversible’ Minuet, in which each section is instructed to be followed by its exact mirror-image. By contrast the finale—apart from a couple of transitional passages—is almost anti-contrapuntal, with its main rondo theme heard over a doggedly homophonic accompaniment, and a number of passages played in orchestral unison.

Matthew Rye © 1991

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