Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Menuet
Movement 4: Finale: Andante – Presto
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.
from notes by Matthew Rye © 1991