JOSEPH HAYDN (1732 – 1809)  Symphony No 45 in F sharp major, (Farewell) (1772)

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732 – 1809) Symphony No 45 in F sharp major, (Farewell) (1772)

i.  Allegro assai     ii.  Adagio     iii.    Menuet and Trio    iv.   Finale: Presto – Adagio

The life of a professional composer to this day very often remains precarious, necessitating canvassing for commissions or sending scores to potential performers, unless there is reliable patronage available in the form of employment or retained artistic connections. For composers such as Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven the challenges were still greater, and  penury was a spectre which haunted them for much of the time; Mozart for example, after a childhood during which his father touted him round Europe as an infant prodigy, found it hard to find congenial patronage, even getting sacked by the Archbishop of Salzburg, while Schubert constantly fell victim to his own inability to ‘market’ himself.

Haydn, however, spent his career in enviable security, having found and continued to satisfy a family of enlightened patrons, namely the Esterházys, one of the richer aristocratic families of the Austro-Hungarian empire, whose court was near Eisenstadt, south of Vienna in Lower Austria. Haydn was appointed deputy to the Kapellmeister in 1761 by Prince Paul Esterházy, responsible for everything musical except the religious music, and was retained the following year when Prince Paul died childless and was succeeded by his brother Prince Nikolaus, who would become one of the great musical patrons. Haydn became Kapellmeister in his own right in 1766, and would remain in the Prince’s employ until the succession of Nikolaus’s son Prince Anton in 1790 set in place a looser employment regime. Prince Nikolaus was known as ‘The Magnificent’ on account of his tremendous wealth and generosity, and it is an indication of the value he placed on music in his court and the esteem in which he held Haydn that the composer was the third highest-paid member of his court, after the property manager and the Prince’s personal doctor. How times change!!

Despite his full-time employment Haydn was occasionally free to travel to Vienna where from about 1784 he numbered Mozart as one of his friends and string quartet colleagues, and later taught an up-and-coming composer called Ludwig van Beethoven. It is also well-known that in the early 1790s he visited London for several years in two extended and very popular visits, having had his last twelve symphonies, Nos 93-104, commissioned by the impresario Johann Peter Salomon.

Of course this means that, whilst in the Esterházy Court, amidst all Haydn’s many secular and religious compositions he wrote dozens of symphonies for his resident, hand-picked Court Orchestra, developing the genre to the extent that he became known as The Father of the Symphony. His symphonies are full of vitality, beauty and wit, and it is clear that he must have been a genial and popular figure.

In the late 1760s and early 1770s Haydn’s symphonies numbers 41 to 49 achieved a new maturity as well as exploring a darker energy, and this has become known as his as Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) period. It coincided with a similar driving force in literature, in which emotions were heightened and starker motivations such as greed and power were explored, a prime example being Goethe’s reworking of the legend of Prometheus. Two of Haydn’s symphonies from this period were given characteristic nicknames – No 44 is known as Trauer (‘Mourning’) and No 49, possibly the finest of this period, La Passione.

Parts of No 45, Farewell, also fit into this style; in this context the symphony’s first movement and the first half of the last movement could be descriptive of the discomfiture of the players in his Court Orchestra at the time. Their work at Esterházy required them to be away from their families for extended periods and on one occasion in 1772 they became extremely restless, whereupon Haydn,  ever the diplomat and wit, decided on a musical means of gently nudging the Prince into allowing them to go home.

Imagine the scene: the final Adagio of the last movement was underway, and the Prince realised that the work had suddenly turned into something resembling a serenade. Suddenly 1st oboe and 2nd horn closed their music, blew out their candles and quietly left the stage. Moments later the bassoon, then 2nd oboe, then 1st horn did the same, leaving the strings, who then proceeded, desk by desk, to depart too. With the stage becoming ever darker, even Haydn himself walked away, leaving only the concertmaster and principal second violin, muted, to play out a final, poised duet before snuffing out their own candles. The Prince only took a moment to realise that Haydn had created a wonderful means of expressing his players’ needs without any confrontation.

Apart from its highly original structure, another unique feature of the Farewell is that it was the only symphony until the 20th century to be written in the key of F sharp. The first movement is in F sharp minor – only three sharps and not too tricky for most – but the MInuet and the final ‘serenade’ are in F sharp major, which has six. The work is scored for strings plus two oboes, two horns and a bassoon.

The opening Allegro assai (‘very fast’) is in true sturm und drang style – the 1st violins’ descending arpeggios are driven by lower strings and syncopated 2nd violins, with sustained block harmony in oboes and horns, the tensions exacerbated by rapid changes between extreme dynamics. Another complete contrast comes in the development where a new, elegant theme appears after a pause, before the recap restores the anguish.

The Adagio is in A, the relative major to F sharp minor, and despite the first theme’s disjointed nature, the overall impression is comfortable but with a suggestion of longing. The Minuet is in F sharp minor and forthright, with vitality being added by persistent syncopation. The Trio, led off by the horns, is more reflective.

The Finale begins dynamically, once again redolent of sturm und drang with mercurial changes of dynamic, and fights its way towards what appears to be a completed sonata-form movement, except that the halt is inconclusive. What follows is the further, final slow movement, which begins to sound valedictory, especially as the players gradually leave. It’s a uniquely imaginative conclusion not only to a marvellous symphony but also to a ticklish public relations challenge!

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OTTORINO RESPIGHI (1879-1936) Ancient Airs and Dances: Suite 3 (1930)

i.  Italiana       ii.  Arie di Corte   iii.   Siciliana    iv.   Passacaglia

Respighi was born into a musical family in Bologna, and was luckier than many talented youngsters, for example Berlioz, in that his family encouraged his musical inclinations, his father Giuseppe initially teaching him both piano and violin. Eventually he studied for seven years at music college in Bologna, specialising in violin and viola, and, later in his course, composition with Giuseppe Martucci, At the age of 21 he became principal viola at the Russian Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg for a season of Italian opera, and during the season met the eminent Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, whose composition style and orchestration he already hugely admired; such was the promise his composing already showed that Rimsky took him under his wing for no less than five months for further advanced study.

Having completed his composition course in Bologna he then spent some years touring as first violin of the Mugellini Quintet, before finally settling in Rome and becoming Professor of Composition at the St Cecilia Conservatoire, a post he held from 1913 until his death in 1936.

When Italy entered the First World War in 1915 Respighi’s position at the Conservatoire gave him immunity from military service; throughout turbulent political times for the rest of his life, including the rise of Mussolini, he managed to steer a middle course, remaining in favour with all sides of the political spectrum.

He composed prolifically from his college days until his death, showing a profound interest in the flamboyant and exotic, presumably the product of his time with Rimsky-Korsakov, and in older Italian musical forms, on which his three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances are based.

His big breakthrough came with his tone poem The Fountains of Rome in 1917, which would be followed in due course by The Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, each full of exuberance and virtuoso orchestration; taken up by the great conductor Arturo Toscanini these three works in particular made his reputation, and also gave him a route into fame in America. On his first visit in 1925 he was also able, as soloist, to give the premiere of his Piano Concerto, Concerto in the Mixolydian Mode, at Carnegie Hall, New York, on New Year’s Eve. A number of his works were premiered in America, and he received commissions from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He even travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a concert season of his works in 1927.

His interest in early Italian composers led him to edit and publish performing editions of  both Monteverdi and Vivaldi, and another of his own works showing the ancient influence was the suite The Birds; older audience members may recall one of the earliest TV antiques programmes from the 60s and 70s, the quiz Going for a Song, which used a theme from The Birds.

The three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances are based on compositions for lute and baroque guitar by Renaissance and baroque composers. The Third Suite is the only one of the three written entirely for strings, and is the most often performed, its premiere taking place under Respighi himself in Milan on 31 January 1931.

The opening Italiana is in the style of a Minuet, in which each part from cello up to first violin shows fluidity in terms of both musical independence and harmony.

Arie di Corte is based on 16th century dances by Besardo, and is framed in a number of sections ranging from Andante cantabile to Vivacissimo, using a variety of time signatures and phrase-lengths.

The Siciliana, once again resembling a Minuet, is by Ignoto, once again from the 16th century, and is perhaps the most conventional of the four dances.

The final dance is a Passacaglia, a complex set of variations on a ground bass, based on a work for lute by Roncalli from 1692. As in Pachelbel’s Canon, the spacious stride of the first section becomes more and more intensely active before the brief coda brings a grand conclusion.

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WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791)  Flute Concerto No 1 in G, K313 (1778)

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Flute Concerto No 1 in G, K313 (1778)

i.  Allegro Maestoso    ii. Adagio non troppo        iii.    Rondo: Tempo di Menuetto

 In 1777 Mozart resigned from his first turbulent period of some four years as Court Composer to the Archbishop of Salzburg, Count Hieronymus Colloredo. Despite the fact that he had received a regular, although somewhat ungenerous, salary for one of the few times in his life he had felt stifled musically; longing to spread his wings he even found his movements restricted by the Archbishop, and in 1775 the Court Theatre had been closed, circumscribing his operatic ambition, although a compensation was the composition of his five Violin Concertos.

Eventually Mozart’s father Leopold would broker a return to working for the Archbishop in 1779, but the composer would remain discontented, eventually to be summarily dismissed in 1781, whereupon he moved to Vienna to set up as a freelance musician.

Following his resignation in 1777, however, Mozart had determined to travel to seek his fortune and set off with his ailing mother, first calling at Mannheim, where the orchestra at that time was possibly the finest to be found anywhere. Mozart was vastly impressed by the standard of orchestral playing and resolved to stay for a while to explore opportunities, but his first commission came from an unexpected source.

He was introduced to a Dutch doctor working in the Dutch East India Company named Ferdinand Dejean (variously ‘de Jean’ and ‘Deschamps’), who was an amateur flautist and offered to pay 200 gulden for Mozart to write three ‘short, easy’ flute concertos and four flute quartets. Apart from in an orchestral context the flute was not an instrument he had written for to date, having professed a dislike for the instrument, and he delayed starting on K313 until January 1778, earlier also downing tools after only two-and-a-bit quartets, K285, K285a and K285b (flute and string trio). Since he was normally a rapid worker, the time it took to fulfil even part of Dejean’s commission suggests a degree of reluctance; indeed a poem written to his mother mentioning the G major concerto expresses in scatological terms what he thought of the job, and this was compounded by the fact that to minimise his effort for the second concerto Mozart transcribed his earlier C major Oboe Concerto into D, K314. The Andante, K315, all that he wrote of a third concerto, is also thought to have been a possible alternative slow movement for K313. Dejean was not amused and paid Mozart only 96 gulden.

Nevertheless the works are attractive and purposeful and remain staples of flautists’ repertoire to this day. Certainly Mozart’s apparent reluctance is by no means reflected in the G major concerto. The work certainly does not treat the flute as a pretty and inconsequential instrument, but opens with a virile and athletic orchestral exposition, which is continued by the flute in kind. The movement follows a classic sonata form with rapid passagework often handed between flute and strings.

The  Adagio non troppo bathes us in warm D major from the start, strings muted; first violins and orchestral flutes introduce the first theme, which is then reiterated and elaborated by the soloist.

The finale is an elegant Minuet, which in its episodes gives plenty of scope for both soloist and orchestra to embark on flights of fancy.

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WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Serenade: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K525 (1787)

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) Serenade: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K525 (1787)

                  i.   Allegro
ii. Romanza
iii. Minuet
iv. Rondo: Allegro

There are some classic works which one feels are instantly recognisable to almost everyone, no matter what their musical tastes – it’s almost as if they have been breathed in through the air. Amongst these would perhaps be the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Johann Strauss the Younger’s waltz On the Beautiful Blue Danube and the Largo from Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony From the New World, and the opening of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (‘A Little Night Music’, or, if you like, ‘A Little Serenade’) is surely also one of these.

It is actually a late work, completed in Vienna in August 1787 shortly before he began work on his final great triptych of symphonies, numbers 39, 40 and 41 (Jupiter), and, although it is not known for what occasion the piece was written, we may be sure that it was an event of the greatest elegance and style. Indeed, for a composer who was during the final years of his all-too-brief life often subject to money worries and stress, K525 seems to portray a composer at ease with himself and the world, however temporarily. Its genial style and attractive themes have made it one of Mozart’s most popular works, in fact the most popular according to many respected commentators over the past two hundred years, but no matter how it has been arranged and presented in all that time its sovereign quality has never been in dispute.

K525 was actually his thirteenth serenade, others including works for wind and small orchestral forces. It remained unpublished at Mozart’s death, and was sold to a publisher by his widow Constanze amongst a number of works in 1799, but publication was delayed until 1827. The work as a whole smiles, full of elegance and energy, leaving little doubt as to why it has remained so popular for nearly 250 years.

The opening is an arresting fanfare heralding music of dynamic energy. The second subject, in D major, is more graceful, and forms the basis of the development.

The Romanza too is the epitome of elegance, the main theme returning twice more between poised episodes – a Rondo in all but name – before the coda brings the movement to a quiet end.
The Minuet is quite forthright compared with some more melting examples, the Trio spinning a slightly more relaxed tale before the return of the Minuet.

The finale is a sonata form with main themes, development, recap and coda, despite its official designation as a Rondo. Its busy opening scarcely relaxes, and the development and eventual coda are dramatic and thrusting.

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