Project Haydn #19 – Symphony No.19

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.19 [10] in D major Hob.I:16 (1760/61) 

Here we have another of the so called ‘Morzin’ symphonies, which Haydn completed in the period he was employed by Count Morzin. The orchestral forces are typical for one of these early symphonies, with pairs of oboes and horns, together with a bassoon deployed to support the bass line.

Haysn Sym 19.jpg

In the Oxford Composer Companion: Haydn (ed. Wynn-Jones, 2002) this symphony is dismissed (together with the Symphony No.17) as being ‘comparatively unremarkable‘ – damned with faint praise indeed. And yet… well for the untrained amateur like me, spending a week in this symphony’s gentile company leaves we a little more affection than Wynn-Jones’s contributor might display. It is indeed true that this D major symphony offers slighter delights than those to come in Haydn’s later symphonies, and these early compositions are certainly embryoic, but there is enough charm and felicity to engage the careful listener.

This symphony, in the ceremonial and happy key of D major, was composed in the period 1760/61 and was in reality the 10th symphonic work from Haydn. As with many of these early symphonies it is another three movement work, this time with the Menuet-Trio omitted, leaving the overall movement structure as being fast-slow-fast.

The opening movement is a bracing Allegro molto in 3/4 time, featuring many of the stylistic habits Haydn had at this time. The mood is confident and joyous throughout and Haydn puts the horns to especially hard work, punctuating both the themes and providing a ceremonial blaze that empasises the movement’s structure. The tremelo passage in the first half appears in the second half of the movement, but with added emphasis, while Haydn playfully shares the music bewteen the first and second violins, using the light and shade of dynamics to add greater texture.

The D minor second movement Andante is for strings only, as often seems to be the case with these early slow movements. Reading around the general consensus seems to be that this is a fairly plain interlude, unworthy of much more than a gentle ear. Indeed it is short at 57 bars (without the repeats), but the synchopation against the gentle 2/4 rhythm gives the impression of something more solemn and thoughtful.

The 3rd movement is a full blooded Presto, at least on paper, although you would be hard pushed to tell from Hogwood’s rather po-faced tempo in his recording. The is no hiding the fact that the material here is pretty similar to that found in other symphonies, but who can begrudge the openhearted and disarming charm of the movement, which sparkles more than enough to leave a smile on the face.

It seems to me in music like this, the key to making the music ‘sing’ is to play it for all you can, perhaps a touch more assertively than some might wish, and with a strong emphasis on both the carefully marked rhythms and strategically placed dynamics. That is what is missing form Hogwood’s performance, while Doráti’s suffers again from a combination of stateliness and the intrusive, almost crooning continuo. Much more to my liking is the recent recording (and video performance) from Giovanni Antonini and the Kammerorchester Basel (see below). There is a light-footedness to the whole performance, plus a wonderful sense of the players boucing off each other, that gives the music a disarming, carefree swagger that dares one to keep from tapping along.

Grahm Greene once spoke of his books as falling into two categories, entertainments and novels, and it would be fair to say Haydn at this stage in his career was in the business of entertainments. However, we also shouldnt turn our noses up at ‘lesser’ Haydn, simply because the pleasures are, in their own way, small indications of the composer Haydn would become later.

 

Reference:

Jones, D. W. (Ed.). (2002). Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Project Haydn #18 – Symphony No.18

 

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.18 [3] in G major Hob.I:18 (1757-59)

Haydn Sym No.18

Although numbered No.18 by Hoboken, the general view today is that this three movement G major symphony was amongst Haydn’s earliest experiments in the symphonic form, composed some time between 1757 and 1759. In many ways the writing betrays this fact, as compared to some of the other symphonies I have listened to up to this point, its charms are simpler.

The Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon, who did so much to advance our understanding of Haydn, identified this G major symphony as being close cousins to both the No.11 and No.15 symphonies (chronologically composed 14th and 16th) which were completed a year after this symphony. All three have a similar overall pattern of movements to the traditional form of the Sinfonia da Chiesa (slow – quick – slow – quick). In the case of Symphony No.18 Haydn chose to eliminate one movement, and so the symphony comprises three movements. As ever, with these early symphonies, Haydn’s orchestral palette is limited to pairs of oboes and horns supporting the strings.

It is tempting to think that Haydn’s choice of form is significant. Certainly, in the period when Haydn was studying music, the sinfonia da chiesa was linked to performance in church, as its counterparts, the sinfonia da camera (in the chamber) and sinfonia del drama (in the opera) had evloved to be interchangeable with the overture. Unlike today’s understanding of the symphony as the most abstract, profound form of musical composition, symphonies often were bracketed at the beginning or end of entertainments, with solos and more spectacular pieces, instrumental and vocal, at the centre of the evening’s entertainment. Around 1739 , the composer and critic Johann Adolph Scheibe described symphonies as:

Johann_Adolph_Scheibe“comprising a three-fold genre: to wit, those used for church pieces, those for theatrical and other [secular] vocal pieces, and finally those intended as purely instrumental works, without connection to any vocal music… Thus we have sacred, theatrical and chamber symphonies.” ( Zaslaw, 2015)

 

In his analysis of the symphonies Peter Naur proposes that given the fact that Haydn is known to have been a man of strong faith, and that there are some resemblences between this symphony and the Salve Regina Hob.XXIIIb:1, composed in 1756, that the symphony, together with its two cousins, were probably inspired by the composer’s religious devotion. It may well have been that as part of his duties to Count Morzin, Haydn was asked to compose music for religous occasions. However, without more hard evidence it seems to me there is a in danger of straying into the circumstantial. Whatever the truth, the symphony has to stand on its own two feet, so to speak.

The opening movement is, as already noted above, a slow movement, marked Andante moderato. The opening theme begins gracefully in the second violins over four bars, before being taken up by the first violins, only to be disrupted by repeated forte/piano phrases before returning to the opening theme again. The sensation is one of switching from a comtemplative country stroll to something akin to riding at a gallop. With G major being ‘everything rustic, idllic and lyrical‘ (Christian Schubert, 1806) there is a suggestion to me less of the church but more of country air. This sensation is somewhat supported by the character of the second movement, a rollicking Allegro molto where the horns enter with what could easily be a hunting call, repeated at various moments as the quavers bound across an udulating landscape without so much as pause for breathe.

The symphony concludes Tempo di Menuet, taken at a leisurely pace. The trio is darkly shaded in the minor and here one feels the contemplation and devotional character that seems most in line with both the Sinfonia da Chiesa and Peter Naur’s conception of the symphony. Rather than return to the original menuet, Haydn chose to write the closing section again, adding in a small moment featuring dotted rhythms similar to those we heard in the first movement. It is a nice touch for the careful listener.

Having spent time listening to the Doráti recording while getting to know this symphony I then listening to Christopher Hogwood’s version, which uses a smaller period orchestra, compared to Doráti’s larger, full-bodied modern strings. Doráti’s perfromance has the benefit of horns that cut through the texture with more bristle and brawn, leading to the sensation of hunting that I described in my own reaction. We know that it is highly probable that the horn players at Haydn’s disposal during his time with Count Morzin were more than likely the same horn players that accompanied any hunt, so it makes sense to imagine they would have added to the feel of the music through their playing style. As I have noted before, Haydn seems to always have looked for ways to give his colleagues a moment in the sun, even if it is in the most modest of manners as in this symphony. However, as I found a couple of times before, the use of continuo is too forward and intrusive in Doráti. Hogwood offers no continuo and this brings the basses more to the front of the sound, creating a more chamber like texture that equally suits the music, particularly in the opening movement. Overall, as so often is the case, no one perfromance can quite capture everything, which is of course half the fun.

N.B. At this point I feel it necessary to add a disclaimer of sorts. I am neither a musician or musical in any real sense. Having begun this project simply as an exercise in exploration, and with a desire to do no more than get to know Haydn’s symphonies a little better, I am indebited to the work of those much, much wiser and knowledgeable than I. With each symphony my understanding grows a fraction, and perhaps as time goes on I’ll become a little better at conveying both the music and my responses, but I do stand on the shoulders of others. One of the glories of the internet, if used wisely, is the range of information available to the layman. In this case, Neal Zaslaw’s article on the Sinfonia da Cheisa (1982) was invaluable. So, to give credit where it is due, and hopefully inspire others to read further, I’ll be posting references of a sort at the end of each post.

 

References:

Zaslaw, N. (2015, March 30). Mozart, Haydn and the Sinfonia da Chiesa. Retrieved May 13, 2018, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249977262_Mozart_Haydn_and_the_Sinfonia_da_Chiesa

Project Haydn #17 – Symphony No.17

Haydn BW banner

Haydn Symphony No.17 [9] in F major Hob.I:17 (c1760-61)

Haydn Sym No.17.jpg

Haydn’s 17th symphony, in the key of F major, was actually the ninth to be composed, so around the years 1760 to 1761, when Haydn was employed by Count Morzin. If one was not aware of the date the character of the piece would easily draw one to a similar conclusion. Cast in three short movements, and with the orchestral parts reflecting the composition of players Haydn had at his disposal, this is as close to generic of early Haydn as one might get. That’s not to say the music is without charm and grace.

The opening Allegro is fresh and inventive, with the themes coming quickly and displaying a genial air. It’s music that is meant to entertain and there’s a feeling that Haydn was more intent on trying out ideas of structure and nuance rather than profoundity. The second movement is marked Andante ma non troppo and starts gracefully enough. There is however a hint of something deeper as the movement progresses and towards the final bars one has the sense that Haydn has, just beyond his fingertips, something deeper in mind. The tempo marking is an interesting point for reflection; adding ma non troppo inevitably brings the mood closer to an adagio, while the steady step of the bass line hints at either comtemplation or something more mournful. This is one of those movements when it is possible to imagine very different characteristics coming out in performance, depending on the interpretations of the players. Again, as before, we are missing a Minuet and Trio; Haydn closes the symphony with a brisk Allegro molto that is brief and flighty.

With these symphonies from Haydn’s time with Count Morzin I am progressively coming to the conclusion that they are better served by smaller groups of strings. When the number of players is spare the various lines and small shades of rhythm and interplay take on a whit and charm that a larger orchestra cannot manage so easily. For a composer of Haydn’s skills it is clear that in composing music he would have had in mind the forces at his disposal and would have cut his cloth to suit. For the listener, being able to get closer to the music in its original form and weight brings the pleasures of a subtle touch, almost like chamber music.

Project Haydn #16 – Symphony No.16

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.16 [28] in B flat major Hob.I:16 (1763)

Haydn Sym No.16.jpg

B flat major – ‘cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world’

– from Schubart’s ‘Ideen zu einer Aesthetick der Tonkunst’ (1806)

After the last three symphonies, which were all cast in a more traditional four movements, Haydn returns to a three movement structure with this symphony in B flat major, numbered by Hoboken as No.16 but choronogically the 28th to be written. The scoring is the usual for Haydn of this period, with pairs of oboes and horns accompanying the strings, although without bein spotlighted at any point as they had been in previous symphonies.

The opening Allegro has the feeling of a fuge about it, with counterpoint being used to grat affect. The main theme of the movement is marked staccato and appears in various subtle guises throughout the movement, insistent and nudging the listener along through the first half and into the second half with a cheerful gaiety.

The second movement Andante is again scored for strings only, with a line given to a solo cello to support, an octave lower, the first and second violins. It is a graceful andante, pure and delicate. Brahms is supposed to have made a copy of the movement for his own benefit in 1870 and wrote in a letter at the time that the movement was,

‘a paragon of beauty… no better example of the newly invented unending melody’

The problem is that the Andante is a very delicate piece and in both recordings I have heard choices seem to undermine Haydn’s skill and craft. Doráti’s recording suffers from being to big and bold, with the solo cello’s subtle involvement being drowned out by the use of a continuo. It also does help that Doráti uses what sounds like a larger body of strings than Haydn probably had at his disposal, so the balance between violins and cello is skewed. Hogwood doesn’t use a continuo, but he does use the basson to double the bass line. This is certainly something that is in the conventions of the time, and all Haydn’s scores indicate that the basson can double cellos, but again it proves a distraction to the interplay of violins and the solitary cello.

The missing movement from the conventional four movement symphonic structure is the Menuet and Trio, so from the gentle delicacies of the andante we move straight into a Presto finale. Again, while the horns and oboes are present, they mainly are there to support the argument rather than provide any character or feeling of their own. Set in 6/8 time, the Presto is a cheerful, rhythmic piece that does not outstay its welome. A nice touch is that at the start of the second half, the theme returns in piano, shorn of harmony and split between the first and second violins.

As I wrote above, I have yet to find a version of this symphony that I believe does full justice to the delicacies of the delicate Andante. But, even with that caveat, both Doráti and Hogwood and their orchestras offer performances worthy of attention.

 

 

Project Haydn #15 – Symphony No.15

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.15 [16] in D major Hob.1:15 (1761)

Haydn Sym No.15

Has there ever been a composer who was as consistently inventive as Haydn? The evidence is probably more interesting than the answer, which will always be too subjective to be meaningful. What can be said is that Haydn provided a lifetime of evidence to support any claim to the title. He seems to have an endless curiosity for what was possible. Given that the first 80 or so of his symphonies were forgotten or unknown to the general public in the years after his death it is difficult to measure the influence of the invention contained in these early symphonies on those that followed, but those that were able to get access to the music would surely have found an almost infinite amount of musical provocations to arouse their musical instincts and imagination.

The Symphony No.15 in D major is a case of disruption to the norms. The overall sequence of movements is highly unusual. The first movement is uniquely structured in three sections (Adagio – Presto – Adagio). The opening adagio contains an amorous exchange between first violins and two horns, over a pizzicato accompaniment in the bass. It is easy enough to imagine Rossini having created something similar. The adagio closes naturally (no real transition) and Haydn takes the orchestra into a vibrant, comic presto before we return to a shaded version of the adagio, where again the violins and horns exchange sweet nothings. As always Haydn is very clear about rhythm and notation, and the use of dotted notes needs to be followed with attention to bring out the best in the music.

After a highly unconventional first movement, Haydn doubles down by reversing the order of the two middle movements. In this symphony the Menuet and Trio come second, while the third movement is an Andante. The menuet has a character typical to Haydn, being both plain and simply scored, while being just the right side of stout. The trio is a wonderful contrast, scored for the strings only and in the sparest of orchestrations, with the viola and cello being marked as solos, giving the music the distinct feel of chamber music. It’s not hard to imagine that Haydn might have asked his small orchestra to reduce itself a quintet for the trio. As such, the character does echo the opening movement’s intimacy and tenderness.

The third movement andante offers a subtle contrast. Again, Haydn is very clear about the rhythmic character of the first theme, which is phrased in such a way as be invitational. The finale is another presto, not lacking in either fibre or gruff energy. The loveliest feature for me is the middle (minor) section, where Haydn creates a beautiful contrast between the violins and an elaborate bass accompaniment. The opening section then returns, closing off the symphony with a typical burst of enegry and fun.

You can find two very different approaches to Haydn if you listen to the Doráti and Hogwood recordings. Doráti leads a perfromance with modern instruments and strings that are unafraid to be expressive and use vibrato. While tempos are neither too fast or too slow, Doráti’s view is affectionate and certainly allows one to project a more amorous characterisation onto the music. Hogwood’s standpoint is clear from the opening bar, with his period players offering a much thinner sound, lacking vibrato. It is fair to say the music sounds leaner, somehow more objective. If some of the romance is lost, the rhythmic elements appear more pointed and the dotted rhythms have an extra pointedness, as if the playing has greater resolution. It really horses for courses and in this case I would plump for the Doráti as a first option, simply because his orchestra presents Haydn with an affection that Hogwood is less inclined to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

Project Haydn #14 – Symphony No.14

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.14 [25] in A major Hob.I:14 (1762)

And so, after the larger scale of Symphony No.13 Hoboken’s numbering leads us back to a the 14th symphony, composed a year earlier in 1762. The orchestral forces are more typical of the symphonies Haydn composed for Count Morzin, being restricted to pairs of both oboes and horns, with a basson available to double the bass line.

Haydn chose A major for the symphony’s key, only the second time he had done so up until this moment. There is a general air of contentment around this second A major symphony, which is a subtle work that even with repeats lasts only a little over 15 minutes. It would be easy to describe the symphony as a lesser work, and indeed the ambitions within it are far less expansive than what would come in later years. However, as so often seems the case with Haydn, there is more to things than meets the untrained ear or eye. One of the pleasure of this whole projct for me is that of discovery, not only in terms of listening to new music, but also in developing (slowly and somewhat haphazardly!) a greater appreciate for some of the elements of the craft of music. As always, I am indebted to others, far more musical than me, to pointing the way.

Haydn Sym No.14.jpg

The opening movement is a lively Allegro molto with the strings dominating the dicourse while the horns come in for texture and emphasis, rather than is the soloistic way we see in the later Esterházy symphonies such as No.13. For the Andante that follows Haydn, as often, scores the music for strings only. The bass accompaniment starts out staccato and throughout the music the walkingb tread is sustained within the bass line, while the first and second violins carry the melody together. It is succeeds in perfromance, I suspect this mainly due to the attention an orchestra pays to switching from dotted rhythms and back again. Haydn’s scores are always carefully marked in terms of dotted rhythms and this is surely because Haydn wanted to communicate to his musicans just how important the contrasts are in terms of phrasing and overall texture.

The Menuet and Trio almost feel like they may have come from a year later. Haydn brings back the horns and oboes; in the menuet horns and oboes engage in a brief polite dialogue, while in the trio the oboe is given an extended solo that floats above a soft accompaniment of violins and cello, with the other instruments silent. This change in textures accentuates the different characteristics of the menuet and trio.

The finale, marked Allegretto, builds on a descending scale in A major (as can be seen from the image above). Firstly Haydn adds a trill onto the second last note to add spice, then launches into a movement filled with counterpoint, which weaves it’s magic around the scale, which appears throughout the movement, either in part or whole, but each time within a different instrumental line. Given, like the three preceeding movements, Haydn keeps the music incedibly compact, this feels like a sketch of something bigger to come. However, for me, this is one of the occasions where Haydn’s musical invention seems more greatly invested in the last two movements of a symphony.

If there is any merit in my observations above it is really due to extended listening. As always I started by listening to the recording from Antal Doráti who has always proven to be a good guide for my untrained ears. However, once I listened to Christopher Hogood’s recording on YouTube I came to the view that, at least in this symphony, Doráti seems to have missed the mark slightly. I wonder if this is in part due to his use of keyboard continuo, which Hogwood avoids. In Doráti’s recording the continuo comes across as too prominent and distracts from the textures Haydn seeks to create. It may also be the case that Doráti’s strings just are too full and bright, while Hogwood’s players produce what I perceive to be a thinner, more transparent texture that exposes the composer’s felicities more vividly. This is of course a very subjective observation, and each listener has to make their own judgement, so I have linked to both peformances below.

 

 

Project Haydn #13 – Symphony No.13

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.13 [31] in D major Hob.I:13 (1763)

Listening to these early symphonies, switching between those composed for Count Morzin and then those for Count Esterházy, it seems to me that Haydn must have felt liberated once he moved to the Esterházy position. In the group of three symphonies Nos.6 to 8 Haydn used the larger (and more talented) forces at his disposal with greater variety and found ways to gift individual musicans opportunties to shine. There is a sense to that Haydn felt less restricted and contained and this shows in the music.

The 13th symphony is another of the early Esterházy symphonies, although it was composed in 1763, two years after Nos.6 to 8. It shares some of the fingerprints of its early symphonic cousins, including a genuinely touching concertante second movement and those moments throughout where Haydn creates spotlights on various individual instruments. However, this D major symphony has a broader canvas than previously numbered symphonies since, due to Count Esterházy’s great financial resources (and probably the composer’s persuasive pleading) Haydn was able to call upon a wider range of  instruments including four horns (double the normal compliment), a flute to join the oboes in the woodwind section, and timpani. The bigger orchestra creates a bolder canvas for Haydn and it really is not a surprise that he decided to write the symphony the D major, the ‘key of triumph, of Hallejuahs, of war-cries and victory-rejoicing‘ (Schubart). There is a festive and joyous vitality to the symphony that is infectious.

Haydn Sym No.13.png

The first movement Allegro molto is all bounding energy and carefree, galloping from the start. The timpani are used to great affect both in the opening bars and throughout the progress of the movement to enhance a slightly martial character to the music. Haydn also uses his four horns with great skills, although in this symphony he has them work as two pairs rather than more individually as he will in later works.

The second movement, marked Adagio cantabile, is as mentioned above, one of Haydn’s concertante-style slow movements. In this case the woodwinds, horns and timpani fall silent as a solo cello carries the melody throughout the movement, with the strings offering support. Haydn surely had a softspot for the cello and his cellist in the Esterházy orchestra must have been both highly skilled and grateful to his leader for the oppportunity to spend so much time in the spotlight. The music is less operatic than the Adagio from the 7th Symphony “Le Midi” but Haydn does give the cello a chance to sing in all its glory and across its full range. While the score only indicates one dynamic (piano) throughout the whole movement it surely is a piece that requires the most generous and sensitive of characterisation by the cello and his accompanists.

The third movement is another of Haydn’s rustic Menuet-Trio combinations. In this example the menuet is subtley shaded, with the main material shifting from violins to the lower strings and the horns supporting the textures. The trio is sweetly playful and prominantly features the solo flute, which seems to play the dainty tease to the more straightlaced strings.

The finale is Allegro molto, returning to the confident and festive character of the opening movement. What is most striking about this movement are two characteristics. The first is the main theme, which is exceptionally close in nature to that of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony, No.41 in C major K551, composed 25 years later in 1788. The theme itself dates back much earlier than Haydn’s symphony, so it is highly likely the similarities are coincidence rather than Mozart borrowing and improving somebody else’s work, as was his sometime habit and frequent genius. The second similarity is in how both Haydn and Mozart use the material. There is a hint of the fugue in Haydn’s treatment of the thematic material. Mozart’s final movement is much more substantial and undoubtedly one of the most magnificent of all symphonic movements with an incredible five theme fuge, but it is interesting to see two great composers choosing similar paths, especially as it is probable that Mozart had never seen or heard Haydn’s symphony by 1788.

My final observation of this symphony is that in terms of balance and unity this is for me the first of Haydn’s symphonies that creates a totally convincing whole across the four movements. It is a mark of where Haydn was heading in that the music has great balance both within and across the movements, from the first note to last. It feels, to my untutored ears, as a true Haydn symphony.

As usual, my guide has been the recording by Antal Doráti & Philharmonia Hugarica on modern instruments. Doráti’s choices in this symphony have undoubtedly had an affect on my view of the symphony. I would love to know how large a group of players Doráti used for this symphony, but I am fairly confident that is more than a historically informed period perfromance would countenance. The use of modern instruments also makes a difference, both to the weight of orchestral sound and the balance between sections. Finally, comparing Dorati’s tempos for the opening and closing allegros it does feel that he is slightly more relaxed than Chrisopher Hogwood or the velocity of Gianandrea Noseda’s recording wih the BBC Philharmonic (available here). One of the abiding problems with becoming familar with music through recordings is that when one first gets an understanding of the piece of music it is often bound to that first recording, either consciously or unsconciously. That first love can be so smitten that other beauties are discounted too quickly. So, in order to present different perspectives I have linked below to both the Doráti and Hogwood recordings. I hope you fall in love with one or both of them, because that means you might just have found a little pleasure in Haydn’s wonderful, affirming music.

Hogwood (with his period band):

 

And now Doráti and his old school charms:

Project Haydn #12 – Symphony No.12

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.12 [26] in E major Hob.I:12 (1763)

After the slighter merits of the last two symphonies (Nos.10 and 11) the 12th symphony comes as a minor delight, as its qualities are more substantial. However, in part this impression is surely down to the misleading chronology of Hoboken’s numbering. This symphony is actually the 26th Haydn composed, and three years on from the 10th and 11th symphonies. Again, the date of composition (Spring 1763 according to the Haydn100&7 information) indicates that it is another work Haydn probably wrote for Count Esterházy while relatively fresh to his new post in the Count’s household. While it lacks the richer use of winds and brasses that marked out prior “Esterházy” symphonies, such as No.6, the general freshness of the writing pays repeated and sympathetic listening.

Haydn Sym No.12.png

Again, one cannot help but be a little influenced by Schubart’s description of the symphony’s key, E major:

Noisy should of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E major.

The symphony is another three movement work, missing a Minuet and Trio. The opening Allegro is certainly joyous and openhearted, with a main theme that invites some foot tapping. What is interesting in the movement and the symphony as a whole, for me, is how Haydn uses dynamics to create more dramatic effects that we hear in the earlier symphonies. The use of light and shade as contrast is cleverly located for maximum effect. I read another view of the symphony which described this as ‘music by numbers‘, which really is to me a misunderstanding of Haydn’s skill and how much there is in the music if you are willing to dig a little deeper.

The Adagio second movement is close to the pick of the bunch from the 12 symphonies I have listened to so far and has something in common with the Adagio in the 7th symphony. That earlier adagio is much more operatic, with the woodwinds takes the place of the human voice. In this symphony the movement has a similar type of drama, although the woodwinds are silent and all the strings carry the movement. There is a plaintive quality to the way Haydn draws together the main ideas, with the violins calm introspection interrupted by the stronger outbursts of the lower strings. Naur describes the movement as a type of confession, with the violin pianissimo as the timid confessor while the priest (bass line) offers a stern rebuke. It is a fanciful picture Naur paints, but certainly the music in this adagio offers a play on emotions and offers a richness that is not often encountered with the early symphonies.

The Presto finale, again in E major, brings the symphony to a conclusion in exactly the way Schubart suggests, with a happy and careful energy. Again Haydn works with the use of dynamics at points to create a sense of urgency. If it feels a little knockabout that’s no bad thing in a finale.

This week I am going to link to two perfromances. One is the Antal Doráti recording from the seventies, with a traditional orchestra. It is a really wonderfully alive and vibrant performance. even though at times the continuo seems to have a more prominant part that is strictly necessary. The use of modern instruments gives the music an added weigh but Doráti continues his happy kack of ensuring the rhythms are always lightly sprung. The second performance is from 2016, with the smaller forces of Il Giardino Armonico conducted by Giovanni Antonini. It is a very different view of the symphony, with the turns and phrasing more sharply etched. The centre of gravity of the orchestral sound shifts towards the bass lines in this perfromance, probably helped both by a fewer number of violins and the lack of a continuo. As nearly always with period interpretation a little of the grace is lost in the absence of vibrato, but it great fun to hear how the players bring a little more taughtness to the phrasing and how Haydn’s use of counterpoint has slightly more clarity in this case. And the finale in Antonini’s Haydn is a true presto, hectic and vigorous, without ever descending into vulgarity. Overall I would not want to be without either recording.

 

Project Haydn #11 – Symphony No.11

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.11 in E flat major Hob.I:11 (1761)

Haydn’s first symphony in the key of E flat major was composed between 1760 and 1761. Although Hoboken numbered it as the 11th symphony, it is the 13th chronogically, meaning that it was probably composed in the period when Haydn was still working for Count Morzin. Like the 10th symphony, the orchestration is very similar to the earliest symphonies, relying on string textures with the use of horns for emphasis and support of the musical argument. Given Haydn’s abilities all of this suggests to me that Morzin’s group of musicians was capable but without the capacity for more virtuosic playing that Haydn would showcase once he had moved to the Esterházy court.

Haydn Sym No.11.png

Just like the 5th symphony (actually composed immediately after this symphony) the 11th is a four movement work (slow-quick-slow-quick) based on the ‘Sonata di chiesa’. In the case of the E flat major work the first movement, an Adagio cantibile, dominates the symphony in length. (With all repeats I would not be surprised if, in length, it did not exceed the following three movements combined.) As normal, the adagio is scored mainly for strings, with the horns deployed with discretion and the oboes silent. Through the movement is a little more explicit than usual with dynamics, switching from forte to piano and back again immediately, while at the end of the movement explicitly asking for some dynamics to decrease as notes are held, creating a subtle variety to the texture.

The second movement Allegro feels a little like the start of the symphony proper and feels much more Haydnesque, if there is such a thing. The oboes join the party and Haydn’s fingerprints are clearly audible in the way he uses the horns in a ‘call and response’ with the strings. The Minuet is in the typical style, rustic and not eloborate, although in the trio Haydn has the seocnd violins enter a beat behind in the bar, leading what sounds like a limping synchopation. Given the nature of a minuet, it almost seems if Haydn is  drawing a picture of a country dance, where one of the dancers is just behind the beat. We end with a Presto finale, with the oboes finally given just the slightest of free reign, not in the spotlight but more of flickering fizz to the general enegry and sparky writing.

We cannot really know if the 5th and 11th symphonies are twins in more than chronology and the shared Sonata di chiesa structure. While neither feels like they were composed with any specific or even implied religious feeling in mind it is interesing that this symphony was written in E flat major. Schubart’s description (1806) of the character of E flat major is:

“E flat major – the key of love, of devotion,  of initimate conversation with God”

If Haydn was indeed looking to create a symphony that showed devotion or conversed with God is it, for me at least, difficult to hear this in the music. It would be interesting to know the context of the composition. Was Haydn asked by his employer to create something with a devotional aspect? Certainly the general intention of symphonies of this period, in the early 1760’s, seems to have been to grab the listener’s attention with a quick opening movement, mimicking the origins of the sinfonia in the theatre house, where there was a need to capture the attention of a probably inattentive audience. For the 5th and 11th symphonies to work, their opening slow movements would have required an attentive audience from the opening bars. I wonder if, in programming the symphonies, Haydn made sure to have settled his audience down prior to introducing a slow opening movement on his audience?

Another conclusion, putting this symphony in the context of chronology, is the feeling that in part the interest of these early symhonies is not their singular qualities but instead the information they offer about Haydn’s exploration of what might be possible.

N.B. For this week’s perfromance I have chosen the Doráti recording, where he choses not to play all the repeats in the first movement, meaning it is kept to a trim 7 mins. The Hogwood recording includes all the first movement repeats and comes in at 9 mins. Personally I feel the repeats in this particualr case don’t add anything to the symphony and actually make the overall four movements lopsided.

Project Haydn#10 – Symphony No.10

Haydn BW banner

Symphony No.10 in D major Hob.I:10 (1758-60)

Although Hoboken numbered this as the 10th symphony, the updated chronology places this as the seventh that Haydn composed, somewhere in the period 1758 to 1760. That would mean that is was probably written while Haydn was working for Count Morzin and for the Count’s own orchestra. The fact that the symphony relies on the strings for most of the expression and development in the music, together with the lack of solo passages for the woodwinds, tends to support this revised chornology (at least for me!).

Haydn Sym No.10.png

This is another three movement work. This time Haydn chose not to include a Minuet, using a fast-slow-fast sequence of movements, similar to the first two symphonies. And, as noted above, the orchestration is for strings, pair of oboes and horns, plus a single bassoon added to the bass line. Haydn has also returned to D major, which gives the whole symphony an air of sunny confidence.

The opening Allegro has a bracing gusto to it, bursting through the door. In the first three bars Haydn juggles both dynamics and rhythms, with the second and fourth bars (marked forte) having a  stomping quality to them that bring a great forward momentum to the music – no modesty here. The same gesture appears again in the second half of the movement, matched with a bar of skimming quavers that momentarily temper the mood.

The following Andante is scored for strings only. It is not one of the most memorable movements that I have listened to so far during this journey, save for the delicacy with which Haydn manages to spin out the textures, particularly when he has the first violins hold their notes while the lower strings take on the music. The Presto finale returns to the gusto of the opening movement, although without quite the bracing air.