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Hyperion Records

CDA66526 - Haydn: Symphonies Nos 70-72

Recording details: July 1991
St John's, Smith Square, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: February 1992
Total duration: 75 minutes 39 seconds

Symphonies Nos 70-72
Vivace con brio  [4'38]
Adagio  [11'40]
Menuetto  [4'00]
Finale: Vivace  [8'24]
Allegro  [5'34]
Andante  [6'58]
Menuet  [4'19]
In the chronological list of Haydn’s symphonies prepared by Eusebius Mandyczewski for Breitkopf und Härtel’s complete Haydn edition in 1907, one of the worst calculations was No 72. This work is now long known to have been written during Haydn’s earliest years at Eisenstadt, a time which would yield a number closer to the ’teens than the early ’70s of more than fifteen years later.

Haydn spent his first few years in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s employ gathering around him an orchestra of some of the greatest musicians of the day. His first Eisenstadt symphonies, numbers 6 to 8 (1761), had amply demonstrated to the prince the virtuoso capabilities of the court’s string soloists, and a couple of years later we find Haydn extolling the virtues of his horn players. In April 1763 two new recruits, Franz Reiner and Karl Franz, arrived at the court, thus doubling the contingent of horns to four—quite a rarity in those early days in the development of the modern orchestra. Later the same year, Haydn wrote his Symphony No 72 more or less as a display piece for his new horn quartet (it was followed soon afterwards by a companion ‘mit dem Hornsignal’, No 31, a work of even greater bravura).

Of the two new players, Karl Franz was undoubtedly the more virtuosic and was much prized by Haydn himself (who successfully persuaded Franz to stay when he tried to resign in 1769). The writing for all four players in Symphony No 72 is demanding enough, but that for the first (Karl Franz?) is often stratospherical in its tessitura. There are many times in this symphony when the quartet is treated as a concertante group—within a few bars of the opening, for example. In the slow movement, however, the horns are silent and a new concertante pairing comes to the fore, with much florid duetting for solo violin and flute, the latter not having been heard until this point. In the Minuet the flute is again silent and the horns return. This time, and particularly in the trio scored for wind alone, there is frequent use of echo effects, suggesting that Haydn originally placed the two pairs of horns antiphonally at either side, or front and back, of the orchestra—a practice followed in this recording. After all their exertions, the horns take a relatively low-key role in the Finale, which is a set of variations on an Andante theme with a march-like tread. After the strings introduce this theme, the variations spotlight in turn the flute (Variation 1), cello (Variation 2), violin (Variation 3), violone (double bass, Variation 4) and oboes (doubled by two horns, Variation 5), before the restrained tutti Variation 6 leads suddenly into a Presto coda, a Kehraus, or kind of signal to ‘go home’, complete with hunting-horn-like flourishes.

Three years after this symphony, Prince Nikolaus’s rival to Versailles was completed. This new summer palace of Eszterháza, in the marshes bordering the Neusiedlersee, now became Haydn’s home for much of the year, and it was here, with the regular performances of operas and concerts, that the court’s reputation as one of the most cultured in Europe soon began to grow. The palace boasted its own opera house as well as a marionette theatre. But in November 1779 a fire, which started when stoves over-heated and exploded in the Chinese ballroom (while being prepared for a wedding ceremony several days later), swept through the neighbouring opera house. Haydn lost his harpsichord and countless manuscripts (particularly of his operas) and the cultural life of the palace seemed doomed. Yet the opera company retired to the small puppet theatre and the puppets to an even smaller pavilion in the gardens and exactly a month after the fire a ceremony was held in which the prince laid the foundation stone for a new and even grander opera theatre. It was for this occasion that Haydn wrote a new Symphony, No 70 in D major.

Always ready to respond to particular circumstances, he produced a work worthy of the occasion, beginning with an overture-like first movement that sets an optimistic tone. In the second and fourth movements we see him little short of showing off his contrapuntal powers. The Andante is a two-part canon, or ‘specie d’un canone in contrapunto doppio’ as he wrote in the score, in which the two parts are capable of being inverted—and indeed are in the second half of the opening paragraph. The Finale is even more remarkable. Not only is it primarily in the tonic minor (not unknown, yet not that common in a major-key work of the time), but at its heart is a contrapuntal tour de force—a triple fugue ‘in contrapunto doppio’, in other words three concurrent two-part fugues. (Haydn later added trumpet and timpani parts to the third and fourth movements when he managed to enlist some instruments from the prince’s Forchtenstein Castle to replace those lost in the Eszterháza fire, though none of these additions are included in the present recording.)

Symphony No 71 most likely dates from the following year, 1780. It may lack the adventurous sonorities of No 72 or the sense of daring in No 70, but it remains a fine representative of the more straightforward Eszterháza symphonies. It opens with a brief Adagio introduction to a genial ‘Allegro con brio’. A generally peaceful Andante (the violins are muted and sforzando chords only briefly ruffle the flow) and untroubled Minuet (the trio is scored for two violin soli and largely pizzicato accompaniment) lead to an exuberant finale.

Matthew Rye © 1991

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