|HAYDN AND DVOŘÁK AT SOUNDWAVES|
Franz Joseph Haydn
|Franz Joseph Haydn|
Symphony No. 85 in B-flat major, “La Reine
Franz Joseph Haydn had one of the most innovative and creative musical minds of his time. It is to Haydn that we owe the development of the string quartet into a mature and enduring form, and we can also credit him with vastly expanding the emotional range and harmonic vocabulary of the classical symphony. He was constantly seeking ways to counter the expectations of his audience and enliven standard musical forms with twists and surprises.
His long life spanned one of the great upheavals in the economics of the musical profession. It marked the demise of the aristocratic “ownership” of music and musicians and the rise of the middle class as patron, supporter and chief consumer of the arts. No one bridged this transition better than Haydn, who continued to be the darling of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy as well as the musical paragon for London's merchants – without offending either.
During the mid 1760s through the ‘70s, Haydn’s music underwent a profound transformation. His symphonies ceased to be mere light-hearted entertainment and became more intense and dramatic. By the 1780s, with his fame spreading, he began publishing his music as an independent composer although he was still technically a servant – albeit a highly esteemed one – of Prince Esterházy. In 1786 he wrote six symphonies (Nos. 81-87) for a fashionable Paris concert organization, Concert de la loge olympique; these were a giant leap forward both technically and emotionally.
The first edition of the Symphony No. 85 in 1788 bore the subtitle “La Reine de France” supposedly because it was a favorite of queen Marie Antoinette. Perhaps with an eye to the French audience, the second movement Allegretto, is a set of four variations on the French folksong “La gentille et jeune Lisette.” Referred to as the “Paris Symphonies,” the set was first performed without the presence of the composer, unlike the twelve “London Symphonies” which were all premiered under Haydn’s baton.
After the brief slow introduction, the first movement is unusual in that it has, in a sense, a main theme that keeps returning as a kind of refrain in different instruments. After the big cadence of the first theme, Haydn immediately launches into a second theme in the unexpected key and mode of F minor at that! The development section begins with the second theme, only in the major mode. The rest of the development concerns itself with the main theme, and it is difficult to discern the recapitulation since the second theme never recurs.
The second movement is labeled “Romance,” but it is also an unconventional set of variations. The set is not simply an increasingly elaborately embellished melody; rather, the variations diverge from the classic harmonic structure with a number of surprises in harmonies and modulations. The First Variation veers off into a passionate minor outburst after the first phrase. Variation Three is the obligatory minor mode variation but does not follow the harmonic structure of the melody. Variation Four contains a lovely flute obbligato.
The Menuetto and Trio are fairly conventional, except that the second strain of both Minuet and Trio are irregularly expanded. The movement features the solo oboe in both sections.
The Finale is a conventional rondo, giving the Symphony three movements that feature melodies with similar patterns of repetition. Haydn, however, has characteristically found ways to introduce original wine into the old formulaic bottles. Haydn doesn’t feel the need to go through the whole Rondo refrain before launching into two episodes introducing surprising new modulations and musical textures. Always generous with solos for his crack players at home in Esterháza, he offers the same opportunities to the French players, including a sprightly oboe solo in the coda.
Joseph de Boulogne, Chavalier de Saint-Georges
|Joseph de Boulogne, Chavalier de Saint-Georges|
Violin Concerto in A major, Op. 5, No. 2
Composer, violinist, conductor and master fencer Joseph Boulogne, Le Chevalier de Saint Georges, was the son of a wealthy French businessman living in Guadeloupe and his young slave of African decent named Nanon. The father got into trouble with the law for killing a man in a drunken brawl and went into hiding. His wife, the three-year-old Joseph – and Nanon – left Guadeloupe for France, where family influence obtained a pardon for the father from Louis XV, enabling the family to return to their plantation.
From age eight, Joseph lived and was schooled in France. At 13 he entered a fencing academy, an elite boarding school for the sons of the aristocracy. Mornings at the academy consisted of classes in mathematics, history, foreign languages, music, drawing and dance, while the afternoons were devoted to the most important subject, fencing. He quickly became known as the finest swordsman in Europe and at 17 was appointed an officer of the King’s Guard. From then on, he was known as Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, and in the world of fencing as "the god of arms." He also became a master swimmer and overall athlete.
In his spare time, he also studied music, becoming an accomplished composer, violinist and harpsichordist. By age 27 he premiered his first two violin concertos. He composed string quartets, symphonies concertantes, symphonies and ballets. He started conducting – a “natural” career move for a musical swordsman – but ran into racial prejudice when he tried to get the directorship of the Paris Opéra.
In 1787, Boulogne conducted the Concert de la Loge Olympique in the premiere of Haydn's six “Paris” Symphonies, Nos. 82-87. After the Revolution, he became a captain in the National Guard in Lille. Promoted to colonel, he chose his friend, Alexandre Dumas, also the son of a French aristocrat and an African slave, as his assistant. Dumas’s son and grandson became famous French novelists.
But the upheavals of the Terror and its aftermath derailed Boulogne’s career, and in 1796 he left France for the West Indies, returning to Paris and to a conducting job in 1797, where he died two years later of a bladder infection.
Boulogne composed the two violin concertos Op. 5 in 1775, during his tenure as Director of the prestigious Concert des Amateurs.
Flourishing as he did during the height of the careers of both Haydn and Mozart, it is no wonder that Boulogne’s music displays many characteristics of both composers. Composed in conventional sonata-allegro form with double exposition, the first movement of the Concerto in A is the most expansive of the three. There are three themes plus an unusual accompanied cadenza, which was part of the original manuscript.
The Largo consists of a single theme, which Boulogne varies and slightly ornaments. The poignant deceptive cadence at the end of the first phrase recalls some of Mozart’s more emotive slow movements. The cadenza, however, is probably not original.
The Finale is a standard rondo with some slightly folksy episodes, here, more in the style of Haydn.
Romance in F minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 11
The son of a Czech innkeeper and butcher from a small town in Bohemia, Antonín Dvořák showed his musical talent at a very early age. However, as a member of a minority in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he was looked upon as a second class citizen. In his early career, he sensed condescension in the support and encouragement of the Austrian musical establishment and was resentful at being forced by economic necessity to accept government stipends. Beginning with the 1870s, Dvořák 's music took on a decidedly more nationalistic tone under the influence of the emerging Czech demand for self-rule and of Bedrich Smetana's nationalistic music.
Dvořák wrote a String Quartet in F minor, Op. 9, in 1873, but could not find a publisher and the original manuscript was lost. It must have been performed, however, because a copy with annotations survived and was finally edited and published in 1929. Sometime between 1873 and 1877, Dvořák salvaged and transcribed the second movement, Andante con moto, with extensive rewriting, initially for violin and piano, later transcribed for violin and orchestra. The work was premiered in 1877, and published in 1879 as the Romance in F minor, Op. 11.
The term “Romance” was originally reserved for simple, ballad-like vocal works. From the mid eighteenth century, the title was expanded to include sentimental movements in instrumental works and in single-movement pieces in a similar vein. Dvořák probably took as a model Beethoven's two lyrical Romances for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 40 and 50.
Dvořák 's Romance is in a very free sonata form. The solo violin part is florid, but without virtuosic technical challenges. Dvořák introduces the lilting main theme as a canon in the orchestra before it is taken up and developed by the solo violin. It dominates the work much like a refrain, and a series of episodic passages reflects Dvořák 's legendary melodic inventiveness and poignant harmonies.
|Franz Joseph Haydn|
Symphony No. 83 in G minor, “La poule” (The Hen)
Haydn was always tweaking the conventions of musical structure, and often with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The symphony opens Vivace with an aggressive, almost threatening theme, lacking the composer’s usual slow introduction. It leads, paradoxically and humorously into the clucking second theme that gave the symphony its nickname. Its classic sonata form does not, however, give any hint to the originality of the succeeding movements.
The Allegretto second movement is a witty set of contrasts between forte and piano. While the opening melody, repeated immediately with embellishments is rather ordinary, Haydn then inserts a little theme that forces the listener to wait impatiently as the composer deliberately stalls its momentum and comes back with a roar. Haydn also adds a dash of pepper to an otherwise bland closing theme of the exposition. A brief transition – not enough to be called a development – loops back to a repeat of the first part of the movement.
For the Minuet, Haydn gives us a complex series of themes without the conventional repeat of the initial motive. The Trio, however, is melodically simpler and shorter.
Haydn occasionally composed movements based on a single theme or brief motive, a practice frequently involving an ostinato or rhythmic pattern to intensify the effect, as in the Finale.
|Copyright © Elizabeth and Joseph Kahn 2018|