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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809): "Music for the Prince Esterházy and the King of Naples"

Haydn Sinfonietta Wien
Dir: Manfred Huss

rec: Oct 1992a, Sept 1993b, Jan 1995c, Sept 1996d, Vienna, Casino Zögernitz
BIS - CD-1796/98 (6 CDs) (© 2009) (5.41'01")

Concerto a due lire in C (H VIIh,1)a; Concerto a due lire in G (H VIIh,2)a; Concerto a due lire in G (H VIIh,3)a; Concerto a due lire in F (H VIIh,4)a; Concerto a due lire in F (H VIIh,5)a; Divertimento in D (H X,1)c; Divertimento in D (H X,2)c; Divertimento in A (H X,3)c; Divertimento in G (H X,4)c; Divertimento in G (H X,5)c; Divertimento in A (H X,6)c; Divertimento in D (H X,10)c; Divertimento in G (H X,12)c; Notturno in C (H II,25)d; Notturno in F (H II,26)d; Notturno in G (H II,27)d; Notturno in F (H II,28)d; Notturno in C (H II,29)d; Notturno in G (H II,30)d; Notturno in C (H II,31)d; Notturno in C (H II, 32)d; Scherzando in F (H II,33)b; Scherzando in C (H II,34)b; Scherzando in D (H II,35)b; Scherzando in G (H II,36)b; Scherzando in E (H II,37)b; Scherzando in A (H II,38)b

Neil McLaren, Sylvie Azer-Höflinger, Siu Pleasgood, Reinhard Czasch, transverse flute; Paul Goodwin, Vincent van Ballegooijen, Stefaan Verdegem, oboe; Gary Brodie, Craig Solomon, clarinet; Michael Brain, bassoon; Josef Brazda, Miroslav Rovensky, horn; Simon Standage, Petr Zajicek, Fiona Duncan, Vladimira Rosypalova, Ingrid Singhofferova, Milos Valent, Julia Bishop, violin; Patrick Cardas, Jan Grener, violin, viola; Christoph Angerer, Karol Nemcik, viola; Peter Kiral, cello; José Vazquez, baryton; Zoltan Janikovic, violone; Manfred Huss, harpsichord

At a time when orchestras and string quartets were still exploring Haydn's orchestral and string quartet oeuvre Manfred Huss and his Haydn Sinfonietta Wien paid attention to those parts of his oeuvre which were virtually unknown. They are still largely ignored, and that makes the reissue of these recordings which were originally released by the Koch/Schwann label all the more welcome. Normally I don't review reissues at this site, but this time I have made an exception. I have a good excuse: four of the 'Notturni for the King of Naples' were recorded in 1996 but not released as yet, and they appear here for the first time.

The first disc is devoted to a set of six Scherzandi which were probably written in 1761, the year Haydn took up his job as Vice-Kapellmeister in the service of Paul Anton I, Prince Esterházy. The title was invented by Breitkopf, the publisher who printed these pieces in 1765. In the catalogue of his own works Haydn called them 'symphonies'. There are strong similarities between these six pieces. All are scored for transverse flute, two oboes, two horns, two violins and bass. The structure is also identical: they are all in four movements - allegro (allegro molto in No 1), menuet, adagio and presto. The trios of the menuets are all solos for the transverse flute. The prestos are by far the shortest: in this recording the presto of Scherzando No 5 takes just 32 seconds, whereas that in No 6 is the longest with 1'07". Despite the many similarities Haydn achieves considerable variation in content.

The second and third disc contain the Divertimenti a otto which date from 1775. These seven pieces are scored for baryton, 2 violins, viola, cello, violone and 2 horns. Because of this scoring the dark colours are dominating. All seven pieces consist of three movements - five start with an (allegro) moderato, followed by an adagio, whereas the other two begin with an adagio and continuo with an allegro. The last movement is in a fast tempo, either an allegro (allegretto) or a presto; one ends with a menuet. That is also the case with the Divertimento in D (H X,10), which is a quintet, scored for baryton, 2 horns, viola and bass. These eight compositions were written to be played by the Prince with the best musicians of his chapel. The horn parts are particularly noteworthy, as they are very virtuosic. One of the players participating in the performances was the hornist Carl Franz, who was a highly-skilled player and much appreciated by his employer. Haydn gave him the opportunity to shine, especially in requiring some very high or very low notes. Some movements are written in the form of variations which also gave other players the chance to show off. The baryton part is technically modest: Nikolaus I was an enthusiastic, but according to all accounts not specially skilled player of the baryton. Haydn made sure the Prince was always supported by someone else as the baryton usually plays unison with one of the other instruments. The ability to pluck the sympathetic strings is also not exploited. The seven 'baryton octets' as they are often called, and the 'quintet' are not only highly entertaining: the slow movements are quite expressive, and the adagio of the Divertimento in G (H X,12) is even outright dramatic.

As the repertoire for the baryton is almost exclusively due to Prince Esterházy's lust for music to play at his favourite instrument, the music for lira organizzata is the result of the love of King Ferdinand IV of Naples for this instrument. He commissioned several composers to write for it, like Adalbert Gyrowetz and Ignaz Pleyel. It is a token of his wide reputation that Haydn received the commission to compose concertos for two lire organizzate from Ferdinand in 1786. Apparently the King liked them so nuch that he asked Haydn to compose more. The result are the Notturni, again scored for two lire organizzata. One of them was to be played by the King himself, the other by Norbert Hadrava, an Austrian diplomat who had developed the instrument especially for Ferdinand. The lira organizzata is a development of the hurdy-gurdy, an instrument which had always been popular in Naples. It was equipped with a small keyboard and a crank handle through which sounds were produced by the Flötenwerk (small organ pipes) and the Saitenwerk (sympathetic strings), which were tuned an octave apart. Unfortunately no specimen of this instrument has survived, and therefore it is impossible to play the music as it was written. Even if it would be possible to reconstruct the lira organizzata, at least Haydn's music for it could not be played as it was conceived. When Haydn travelled to London in 1795 he took the concertos and notturni with him, but in arrangements. The parts for the lire organizzata were set for either two transverse flutes or transverse flute and oboe. The original versions have not been preserved.

King Ferdinand was mainly interested in entertaining stuff, and therefore the composers couldn't come up with too serious music. But one can leave it to Haydn to make the best of it, and produce something which is well worth hearing. And so the three discs with the five concertos and the eight notturni offer plenty to enjoy. It is certainly not music which goes in one ear and out the other. The notturni all consist of three movements, with the exception of No. 1 which has four. The Notturno No. 6 originally also had three movements, but only two have survived. In the Notturni 1 - 6 the flute(s) and oboe are joined by two clarinets, two horns, two violas, cello and double bass, whereas in the last two the clarinets are replaced by violins. The inclusion of clarinets is remarkable, since Haydn - unlike Mozart - never particularly favoured this instrument. Moreover, the chapel of the Esterházys didn't have clarinets at all.

The fact that Ferdinand's wish for entertaining pieces didn't withhold Haydn from writing substantial music becomes even more clearer in the concerti. Here we hear several movements which also turn up in more famous works, in particular his symphonies. Two movements from the Concerto No 5 in F, for instance, appear in the Symphony No 89, and the middle movement of Concerto No 3 in G appears as the second movement of Haydn's Symphony No 100, the 'Military'. In contrast to the notturni the concertos have all the same scoring: transverse flute, oboe, two violins, two violas, cello and violone.

The music on these discs is quite eccentric and therefore not often performed and recorded. That makes this production all the more valuable. Haydn lovers certainly will not like to miss it, in particular as these six discs are offered for the price of three. But it is of a wider interest: I can hardly believe anyone who likes good music from the classical era is not going to enjoy this set. The music is of an exceptional quality and often infectious. It is remarkable that Haydn has been able to compose at such a high level almost all the time. The Haydn Sinfonietta Wien is one of the best advocates of his music, in particular those parts of his oeuvre which are largely neglected. Here they are in top form, and the performances of the hornists are particularly impressive.

This production includes extensive liner-notes by Manfred Huss in German, English and French, and a list of the players participating in the performances, with a reference to the pieces in which they play. This production is a true monument for one of the greatest masters in music history.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Haydn Sinfonietta Wien

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