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Hyperion Records

CDA66529 - Haydn: Symphonies Nos 9-12

Recording details: January 1992
Watford Town Hall, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: July 1992
DISCID: B110150D
Total duration: 68 minutes 12 seconds

Symphonies Nos 9-12
Allegro molto  [4'04]
Andante  [5'00]
Allegro  [5'07]
Andante  [6'30]
Finale: Presto  [3'05]
Adagio cantabile  [9'55]
Allegro  [4'32]
Minuet  [4'35]
Finale: Presto  [3'28]
Allegro  [4'34]
Adagio  [10'44]
Finale: Presto  [3'32]
In 1759, at the age of 27, Haydn gained his first secure musical appointment as Kapellmeister and Kammercompositeur to Count Morzin, who divided his time (as Haydn was now also required to do) between Vienna and his castle at Lukavec in Bohemia. At least a dozen of Haydn’s symphonies surface from the couple of years spent with Morzin. Their history is inevitably sketchy and, as ever with Haydn, the accepted numbering bears little relationship to their true chronology. The earliest of the four symphonies presented here, for example, are numbers 10 and 11. Neither was composed later than 1761, thus making them contemporary with numbers 1 to 5 (recorded on Helios CDH55111), yet with 15, 18, 27, 32, 33, 37 and ‘A’ pre-dating 6, 7 and 8 (on Helios CDH55112), his first works for Eszterháza.

Although sharing much in common with Nos 1 to 5, Symphony No 10 already shows a degree of development of the genre in the more independent role given to the wind (the standard pairs of oboes and horns) and there is also the relatively novel employment of sudden dynamic contrasts in the main themes of the outer movements. This feature is apparent from the opening bars, giving character to an otherwise relatively featureless idea. A sparer, more adventurous texture marks the brief second subject, which is structurally little more than a link to the codetta. Some of the writing in the slow movement is even sparer: scored for strings alone, the main theme consists of a simple idea in sixths beneath an inverted pedal G on the first violin and the occasional reassuring bass note. This restful, even static mood is briefly interrupted by a central section dominated by abrupt changes of dynamics. The symphony is rounded off with an exuberant Presto.

Symphony No 11, like No 5, harks back to the old Italian sonata da chiesa—the church sonata—in its four-movement form, having a fully fledged slow movement (for strings and horns) before the main Allegro. This itself is a monothematic sonata movement in a deliberately archaic, pseudo-polyphonic style, yet denying none of Haydn’s motivic and harmonic modernity. There follows a Minuet whose trio is dominated by a descending, syncopated figure that reappears in the main theme of the Presto finale, an indication that as early as 1759, Haydn was thinking of the symphony as a motivically coherent whole.

Most of the symphonies written between these two and the late ‘London’ symphonies of the 1790s were composed during Haydn’s three decades of service at the Eszterházy court. In the 1750s, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, one of the leading figures in the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy, founded a permanent orchestra at his court in Eisenstadt, south of Vienna. He first came across Haydn at an evening’s entertainment given by Count Morzin (reputedly containing Symphony No 1). When financial considerations forced Morzin to dismiss all his musicians in 1761, the prince saw his opportunity to invite this talented young composer (he was still only 29) to become Deputy Kapellmeister to the aged Georg Werner. Prince Nikolaus I succeeded Prince Paul Anton in 1762 and four years later Werner died, leaving the way open for Haydn to become Kapellmeister.

Haydn’s first symphonies for Eszterháza were certainly original in concept: they were the three programmatic works titled Le Matin, Le Midi and Le Soir, (numbers 6, 7 and 8). But this independent streak didn’t desert him in his subsequent symphonies for the court, of which at least twenty were probably composed between 1761 and 1765.

Symphony No 9 in C (1762) may well have its origins in an overture for one of the operas which Haydn was required to provide for the court theatre at this time, since it has no conventional finale, ending instead with a minuet. Where the work does show its originality, however, is in the handling of the orchestra: Haydn expands upon the conventional two oboes, two horns and strings by adding a pair of flutes (doubling the violins at the octave) for the slow movement and a solo bassoon (until this point merely doubling the string and keyboard continuo in the tuttis) for a brief passage in the Minuet’s trio. The Minuet itself is notable for Haydn’s penchant for odd phrase-lengths, opting for three-bar patterns in his opening idea, rather than the expected four-bar phrases that subsequently take over.

Symphony No 12 (1763) is one of the shortest symphonies Haydn ever composed, though it avoids the characteristic movement pattern of his early works by having at its centre an Adagio rather than a minuet. E major was a rare key for a Classical symphony, but Haydn takes advantage of its brightness in the radiance of the opening movement and in the heady joy of the finale, turning to the tonic minor for the heartfelt slow movement.

Matthew Rye © 1992

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