Saturday, November 19, 2005
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.
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.
Links to this post: