Symphony No.19  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.
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.
Jones, D. W. (Ed.). (2002). Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.