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Notturno No 8 in G major, Hob II:27

composer

 
Haydn’s Notturno No 8 in G major, Hob II:27, belongs to a set of nine works written between 1788 and 1790 for Ferdinand IV of Naples. In their original form these notturni were for an ensemble which, like the ‘Gran Partita’, emphasized delicate alto sonorities: two clarinets in C, two violas, two horns, a ‘basso’, and two lire organizzate. The lira organizzata, a favourite of King Ferdinand, is a hybrid instrument combining features of the hurdy-gurdy and the organ. In its disembodied vocality, the lira’s unique sound is as enchanting, otherworldly and uncanny as that other eighteenth-century musical curio, the glass harmonica. Haydn took his new notturni to London in his first visit of 1791–2; but, aside from the impossibility of sourcing lire organizzate, the private, late-night context of the works’ Neapolitan origins could hardly be replicated in the large concert spaces at Haydn’s disposal in the English capital. So Haydn rescored the pieces, replacing the lire and clarinets with flute, oboe and violins respectively. In doing so, he let the daylight back into the music.

The Notturno has all the scintillating argumentativeness and wit that one might expect of mature Haydn. Its outer movements, in particular, occupy a niche between the conversational style of Haydn’s contemporary string quartets and the grand public statements of his ‘London’ Symphonies. The central ‘Adagio’ is one of his sublime ternary-form inspirations, with a particularly muted minore section in the middle. In the fragility of its textures, which often diminish into just two voices, the ‘Adagio’ looks back to the delicate symphonic slow movements so characteristic of Haydn in the early 1770s. And in its London version the ghostly nostalgia which ought to have permeated the midnight performances in Naples still echoes through the new scoring. But energetic comedy has the last word. The ‘hunting’ ‘Finale’ certainly brings a smile to the face, but repose? It must have been hard to get off to sleep after this.

from notes by Timothy Jones © 2016

Recordings

Mozart: Gran Partita
Studio Master: CKD516Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Movement 1: Largo – Allegro
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Finale: Vivace assai

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