Saturday, November 19, 2005

 

Haydn Symphonies

Out of the formidable list of 104 Haydn symphonies there are eighteen which constitute the best and most mature of his orchestral creations---six Paris Symphonies and the twelve English ones which he composed during his two sojourns in London; and it is upon these that his fame as creator of the first Master-Symphonies rests.

Those which sprang from his early period were written with more speed than reflection, no doubt, usually a half-dozen at a time; but they all contain some original and lovely touches, which reveal the rare genius of the youth; and are a foretaste of the choicer fruits of his maturer years. The quaint titles of many of his early Symphonies (the first forty, from 1759 to 1770) imply a disposition on Haydn's part to adopt some poetic and dramatic basis for the work. Thus we encounter: Le Midi, Le Matin, Le Soir (closing with a thunderstorm), Philosopher, Absentminded, Farewell (or "Candle" Symphony), Schoolmaster, fire, La Chasse, L'Ours, Children's Symphony, and many others. This descriptive tendency, however, is not to be taken seriously; it does not detract in the slightest degree from the seriousness with which Haydn prosecuted his art---notwithstanding the utterly unconquerable buoyancy and cheerfulness of his temperament. It may be accounted for largely as a transient concession to the widespread custom of the day (compare the titles of many of the harpsichord compositions of Couperin, Rameau, Kuhnau, etc.) And, in any event, it afforded Haydn an effective means of fathoming the powers of tone from this natural angle.

It must be admitted that the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach already presages many of the excellent traits that are so abundant and distinctive in that of Haydn, and this would account for Haydn's veneration of him.

What immense influence the imposing works of the "great" Bach might have exerted upon Haydn's whole manner, had he known them, it is hard to determine. But these works, excepting the Well-Tempered Clavichord, were for many reasons only locally familiar to North German music lovers, and even there they were soon neglected, and might have been forgotten, but for the resurrection of the St. Matthew Passion, by Mendelssohn in 1829, which led to the restoration of much of the greatest music that has ever been penned.

Cheers,

Comments:
Haydn must be credited with two extremely important and far-reaching innovations, in his efforts to standardize the type of the Symphony, and give it more adequate and perfect character and form. These are: (1) the insertion of one of the Dance-forms (most commonly a Minuet) borrowed from the Suite; and (2), the adoption and confirmation of the sonata-allegro plan, as the most consistent design for a lofty scholastic and artistic rank of the Symphony. His genius quickly discerned the psychologic interrelation of the Movements (increased by himself from three to four).
 
In looking at Haydn's early symphonies, we may be sure that the composer was well acquainted with the form of the Italian sinfonia; indeed his first two symphonies (1759-60) were based upon that form. But Haydn was not content to adhere to Italian models; the striving for originality which animated his entire creative career became evident in his works from 1761. One problem to which he gave immediate attention was that of unifying thematic material; it is out of such attempts that his great innovation of the 1780's was evolved. Sometimes an entire movement is based upon a single melodic fragment; more often, when decided harmonic contrasts exist between theme groups, the second theme is derived from the first. Haydn seems to have not appreciated, in these early works, the importance that would later be attached to just the element he tried to expunge, namely, the element of thematic contrast or conflict. Even in his later works the contrasts were seldom as clearly established as in, say, the compositions of Mozart and early Beethoven. Thematic conflict is missing almost entirely in these symphonies, Nos. 3 to 42 (1759-71), and lyric themes, such as occur in Mozart repeatedly, are equally rare. Usually the same bright, bustling mood that animates first-Theme sections is carried over to the second as well.

Cheers,
 
Here and there in the symphonies of the 1760s, and to a greater degree in those of the following decade, a new subjective attitude took the place of the objective writing-to-a-formula; the symphony became a personal expression of Haydn's aims, abilities, and emotional constitution. One evidence of this is provided by the concertante elements that are introduced in a few of these works.

Now, other composers of the period 1740 to about 1770 had occasionally introduced solo passages into symphonic movements; but in such cases the solo melodies were scarcely different from the tutti. In Haydn, on the other hand, a degree of intimacy and a sensitive expression characterize the solos. Haydn apparently became aware, early in his career, of the essential differences between solo passages and those for large ensemble. After the 1780s, when he accomplished the separation of quartet style and symphony style, he mixed them no longer; solo passages in his later symphonies hold a decidedly minor place.

Cheers,
 
g4aPov The best blog you have!
 
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