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Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809): "Haydn News - Chamber music arrangements by his contemporaries"

Hannah Morrison, sopranoa
Nuovo Aspetto
Dir: Michael Dücker

rec: Nov 10 - 13, 2017, Blaibach (D), Konzerthaus
Prospero - PROSP 0017 (© 2021) (56'06")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

anon: Je ne vous dirais point: J'aimea; Franz Joseph HAYDN: The Despairing Bard (H XXXIb,19), arr Nuovo Aspettoa; The Inspired Bard (H XXXIb,25), arr Nuovo Aspettoa; Franz Joseph HAYDN, arr anon: Concertino (Divertimento) in G (H II,1); Franz Joseph HAYDN, arr Meingosius GAELLE (1752-1816): Symphony in C 'Le Distrait' (H I,60);

Martin Sandhoff, transverse flute; Mayumi Harasaki, violin; Corina Golomoz, viola; Ulrike Becker, cello; Johanna Seitz, harp; Elisabeth Seitz, hammered dulcimer; Michael Dücker, lute

In the course of history many compositions have been arranged and adapted in all sorts of ways and for very different scorings. This practice was widespread in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and it basically never ceased. In the baroque period composers often left it to the performers to choose the instruments on which to play their sonatas. In the later stages of the Baroque composers often mentioned specific alternatives, such as transverse flute or violin. At that time music that was published, was within the grasp of amateurs, either playing it in private circles or as members of musical societies. That not only concerned trio sonatas - the favourite genre of amateurs - but also concerti grossi, which could be performed with one instrument per part. That became increasingly difficult when in the course of the 18th century larger-scale works came from the press, such as symphonies and solo concertos. Music lovers may have heard them in public concerts, and then wanted them to play at home or in social circles. That was only possible if these works were available in pocket size, and preferably adapted for instruments which were available to them. This explains the huge numbers of arrangements of orchestral and large-scale vocal music, such as oratorios and operas, for chamber ensembles. Among the composers whose music was arranged were Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, which attests to their status and the popularity of their works.

The present disc focuses on pieces by Haydn. He was one of the most celebrated composers of his time, especially when his music was published and played in public concerts, for instance in Vienna and Paris, and in the 1790s also in London. He is said to have told his friend Mozart, when the latter was concerned how he would fare in London: "My language is understood all over the world". He was right: he enjoyed a rapturous welcome in London, and his music was received with great enthusiasm. It made the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon to make arrangements of his symphonies.

In the programme that was recorded by Nuovo Aspetto the harp plays a key role. This instrument was quite popular during the 17th century, but seems to have taken a back seat during the high baroque era (although that may well be an optical illusion, due to a lack of information about its role at that time). It became very popular again in the second half of the 18th century. One of the places where it was frequently played was Paris; Marie-Antoinette was one of them who played it. In 1786 Haydn's Symphony in D (H I,53), with the nickname L'Impériale, was printed in Paris. The theme of the second movement was adapted to a song interlude for a play at the Théâtre des Variétés au Palais Royal, with the title L'inconséquente ou Le Fat Dupé. The piece appeared as Ariette du Fat Dupé in song collections, such as the Parisian harp edition Terpsichore. In this performance a variation by Johann Baptist Krumpholz, one of the great harp virtuosos of the time, has been added.

The Symphony in C (H I,60), nicknamed Le Distrait, is different from most of Haydn's symphonies, in that it comprises six movements, which makes it a kind of suite. The name is derived from a comedy by Jean-François Regnard; the symphony is based on the incidental music for this work. The adaptation for harp, violin, viola and cello performed here dates from 1809 and was made by Meingosius Gaelle, a Benedictine monk and composer from Salzburg who was also a skilful player of the harp.

The Concertino (Divertimento) in G was originally scored for transverse flute, oboe, two violins, cello and bass. This is an example of a piece that requires a rather small ensemble, which should not create any problems for performance in a private environment. The arrangement for lute, transverse flute and string trio performed here has been found in the Augsburg State Library, and has its origin in the circles around Bernhard Joachim Hagen, the last lutenist at the Ansbach court. In this case, the anonymous arranger (Hagen himself?) may have been inspired by the wish to play Haydn's music. The lute was still in vogue in Haydn's time. Unfortunately, only the lute part of this arrangement has survived, and Michael Dücker has reconstructed the missing parts on the basis of the original.

Most arrangements were made by performers who are little known, although some of them also were active as composers in their own right. Many of them have remained completely unknown. However, sometimes composers of name also made arrangements. Johann Nepomuk Hummel, for instance, arranged orchestral works of his teacher Mozart. Haydn also made arrangements of some sort, and among them traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They were given to him after his two sojourns in England, and he set them for voice with an accompaniment for keyboard, violin and cello. Two Welsh songs are included here. They are not performed as they were conceived by Haydn, but rather in arrangements of the ensemble.

That brings us to a few specific aspects of performance practice. First, in three of the items a hammered dulcimer is participating. This is not required in any of the arrangements included here. The liner-notes mention that it was a very popular instrument at the time. It would be interesting to know in how many compositions of the time this instrument is specifically mentioned. If it is not, it may well have participated in performances just like timpani, which were sometimes added without being specifically mentioned. In general, I think that if performers decide to play arrangements, they should not arrange them again, but rather play them as they were intended by the arrangers.

However, given the nature of this disc and the level of the performances, this is a relatively minor issue. I am happy with this disc, which sheds light on a very interesting aspect of music life in the classical era. Salomon's arrangements of Haydn's London symphonies are very well-known, but here we become acquainted with a far lesser-known kind of Haydn arrangements. The prominent role of harp and lute respectively makes this recording all the more interesting.

The performances leave nothing to be desired. There is some excellent singing from Hannah Morrison, and Johanna Seitz and Michael Dücker deserve special praise for their important contributions. However, this is very much a team effort. The ensemble is outstanding, with a perfect balance between the various instruments. Lovers of music from the classical era have the chance here to add a disc with music that they almost certainly have never heard before.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Nuovo Aspetto

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