In H C Robbins Landon’s majestic series of volumes on Haydn, there is an engraving of a parade in the courtyard of Eszterháza Castle, celebrating the installation of Prince Anton Esterházy as Governor of the County of Oedenburg, on 3 August 1791. Prominently featured is a group of gypsy musicians, with their violins low on their chests in traditional style. Haydn spent most of his working life at Eszterháza, which was in Hungary, and he would regularly have heard gypsy and Hungarian folk music. He often brought touches of it into his own works, and the Piano Trio in G major Hob XV:25 is the most famous example. Its finale incorporates a number of gypsy tunes, including ‘Recruiting Dances’ (verbunkos
). Austrian army officials used to engage groups of gypsy musicians to attract peasants to the recruiting posts with dance-tunes, and Haydn was one of the first composers to weave these into his music. He wrote this trio during the final weeks of his second visit to England in 1795, and its first edition was a great success. The effect of this finale is made all the more striking because it follows two very gentle movements. The first is a set of variations which alternate between major and minor (one of Haydn’s favourite procedures). The second movement is a Poco adagio with, in its central section, a particularly lovely melody for the violin. The cellist Pablo Casals used to take over the repeat of this melody from the violin—a delightful alteration that would not be allowed today.
from notes by Robert Philip © 2009