Original Haydn

THE SEVEN-VOLUME traversal of the complete Mozart symphonies that the Academy of Ancient Music recorded on original instruments for L’OiseauLyre several years ago has been such a success that it was only a matter of time before the orchestra and its director, Christopher Hogwood, turned their attention to Haydn. Their first two records of Haydn symphonies have recently appeared, and are very fine. So far Hogwood has confined himself to Haydn’s last and greatest works, the group of twelve “London" symphonies (Nos. 93-104) written in the 1790s for the two London concert series arranged for Haydn by the impresario J. P. Salomon. Nos. 94 {Surprise) and 96 {Miracle) are on L’Oiseau-Lyre 414 330-1; Nos. 100 {Military) and 104 {London) are on L’Oiseau-Lyre 411 833-1.

Just as with the Mozart recordings, one is struck by the way in which a return to original instruments (or authentic modern copies) and to original styles of execution, particularly by the strings, effects a reversal of the sonic values to which the modern symphony orchestra has accustomed us. We are used to a thick, intense, vibrato-laden string sound and to fine-grained, elegant wind playing. But the eighteenth-century stringed instruments, strung with gut strings and played almost entirely without vibrato, yield thinner lines that allow the heavier, sweeter eighteenth-century woodwinds and brass plenty of room to cut through, even in soft passages, as the winds rarely do in modern orchestras. Moreover, the tympani, played with unpadded or leather-covered sticks rather than modern felt-padded ones, also cut through sharply, giving the tutfis an almost raucously festive air.

These differences show up immediately, in the lightness and transparency of string sound in the slow introductions to the four opening movements. And once we are into the Allegros that follow, one notices that in place of the sustained richness of modern orchestral strings we have a mercurial alternation between heightened crispness and edge in the brilliant staccato passages and an almost languishing expressiveness in the legato ones. The performances are straightforward and free of eccentricity, the tempi very much in line with those of the best recent modern performances—the ones recorded several years ago for Deutsche Grammophon by Eugen Jochum and the London Philharmonic, for example. The slow movements, chough they are never rushed, are true Andantes (or, in the case of No. 100, a true Allegretto) rather than the dragging Adagios often heard during the 1930s and 1940s. The Minuets are never stolid but always brisk, and yet are leisurely enough to capture the air of the country dances from which they derive. The finales fly. ‘Throughout, the rhythm is precise yet always relaxed. The baroque custom of having a keyboard instrument provide a basso continuo (filling in the harmonies and doubling the bass line) in orchestral performances persisted until the end of the eighteenth century, long after the richness of Haydn’s and Mozart’s orchestration made it unnecessary. Hogwood adds a continuo on fortepiano, but it is very discreet. It never intrudes to muddy the texurcs—as does the harpsichord continuo on some other recent Haydn performances, such as those by Leslie Jones and the Little Orchestra of London on Nonesuch. If the playing on the Hogwood records is sometimes a trifle impersonal and uninflected, it is surely because this ensemble, playing these instruments, has not had the years of practice with these works that, say, Beecham’s London Philharmonic or ‘Toscanini’s NBC Symphony or Szell’s Cleveland Orchestra had with them. All in all, these records are indispensable, and one hopes they will soon be followed by more.

Hogwood’s excellent two-disc album of a few years back, Haydn: Music for England (L’Oiseau-Lyre D263D2, now out of print), included a performance of the arrangement that Salomon, who was also a violinist, made of Symphony No. 94 for flute, string quartet, and keyboard; a new record, L’Oiseau-Lyre 414 434-1, presents performances, led by Hogwood, of similar Salomon arrangements of Symphonies Nos. 100 and 104. (Salomon arranged all twelve London symphonies not only for this combination but also for violin, cello, and keyboard.)These cut-down versions are delightful in themselves and fascinating to compare with Hogwood’s full-scale orchestral versions of the same works. Moreover, they serve to remind us both that such arrangements were very useful in disseminating symphonic music before the advent of the phonograph and that the classical symphony is firmly rooted in chamber music.

THE TWELVE LONDON symphonies are of course established masterpieces, works of undoubted greatness that have been thoroughly plumbed by great orchestras for generations. While Hogwood’s performances cast the four that he has recorded in a new (and very welcome) light, they provide no revelations, Something of a revelation, however, is provided by some even more interesting original-instrument Haydn performances now being issued by CBS Masterworks. These performances, by the British chamber group L’Estro Armonico, are of the far less well known Sturm und Drang symphonies that Haydn composed during the late 1760s and early 1770s, works that have attracted a great deal of scholarly attention but have never entered the standard repertory.

The name Sturm und Drang, usually rendered in English as “Storm and Stress,” was taken over from the German literary movement of the late eighteenth century which arose in impassioned protest against the principles of the Enlightenment and which is associated with such writers as Klopstock, Herder, and the Goethe of Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. The phrase has seemed an apt one to apply to the Haydn symphonies of 1766-1774, because several of them—Nos. 26 (Lamentatione), 39, 44 (Trauer, in Mourning), 45 (Farewell), 49 (Lapassione), and 52—are in minor keys and are characterized by strong, tempestuous emotion. Minor-key symphonies from the classical period are extremely rare. In all, 107 Haydn symphonies survive: the 104 on the list compiled in 1907 by Eusebius Mandyczewski when he began editing the never completed Breitkopf & Hartel edition of Haydn’s works; two early symphonies, known as A and B; and the Sinfonia concert ante of 1792. Besides the six from this brief period, only four others—Nos. 78, 80, 83, and 95—are in minor keys, and they are very different in character, not at all tempestuous and quite like the Haydn major-key symphonies of the same period.

In 1841 Schumann wrote patronizingly of Haydn: “One can learn nothing more from him; he is like a regular house-friend, who is always gladly and respectfully received; but he has no deeper interest any longer for our age.” Thus was born the image of Haydn that has prevailed in the minds of most music-lovers until fairly recently: “Papa Haydn,” that familiar periwigged presence, cozily genial but decidedly limited in emotional range—a sort of musical Mr. Chips who somehow managed to pave the way for Mozart and (more important) Beethoven. As twentieth-century Haydn scholars have increasingly grown aware that the real Haydn was not only one of our very greatest composers but also an extraordinarily various artist, they have insisted on the importance of the so-called Sturm und Drang symphonies. These often jagged and brooding works seem to offer, at last, evidence that Haydn was, at least for a short time, a genuine precursor of Romanticism, and thus to provide a way of rescuing him from the “Papa Haydn" pigeonhole.

In his great and influential 1955 book, The Symphonies of Joseph Haydn, H. C. Robbins Landon declared of the Sturm und Drang works: “In no other symphonies, except in the twelve composed for the British capital, did Haydn reach the high artistic standard achieved in the dozen or so written within this small space of time.”And it was “with profound regret" that Robbins Landon turned to the lighter, more elegant and sociable symphonies of 1774—1784, “a decade which, taken as a whole, reflects little credit upon the composer.” In order to explain Haydn’s seemingly sudden change of course in the mid-1770s, Robbins Landon indulged in some highly fanciful (and distastefully moralistic) speculation about Haydn’s relations with his employer, Prince Nicolaus Esterházy:

In 1774. the breadth, the monumentality, the soaring freedom of thought which many of Haydn’s compositions had been displaying seems not to have pleased the Prince at all. We may imagine him saving to Haydn, as another Prince Esterházy was to say to Beethoven many years later, on the occasion of the latter’s Mass in C major being produced at Eisenstadt: ‘what has he done now?’

Thus the Prince demanded something more amusing, the composer acquiesced, and (according to Robbins Landon) “the gradual disintegration of Haydn’s artistic conscience” set in, a “spiritual deterioration” that soon led Haydn to see “the material advantages to be derived from pursuing such a course” and to adopt the “commercial attitude” that resulted in “the slick symphonic productions of 1781—1785.”

Not only are the symphonies of 17741784, which include such minor masterpieces as Nos. 70 and 77, far better than Robbins Landon maintains; the Sturm und Drang symphonies, despite their great intrinsic interest and the important role they played in Haydn’s development, are by no means to be classed with the London symphonies of two decades later. Even in their finest recorded performances to date—those by Antonio Janigro and the Symphony Orchestra of Radio Zagreb, which were once available on Vanguard—they have always seemed very uneven works, blustering and overly rhetorical, their emotional extravagance often threatening to burst them at the seams.

This is where the new CBS recordings come in. L’Estro Armonico, led by the violinist Derek Solomons, employs a string complement that at first seems shockingly small: six or eight violins, and only one each of viola, cello, and double bass. Yet, as Robbins Landon has discovered, and pointed out in the second volume of his five-volume Haydn: Chronicle and Works (1976—1980), this was approximately the makeup of the string section of Haydn’s orchestra at Eszterhaza, the orchestra for which these works were composed. Heard with such a small ensemble, the minor-key movements—even the most driven and forceful of them—seem less overbearingly rhetorical, lighter and more theatrical, more of a piece with the movements and symphonies not in minor keys. The playing of L’Estro Armonico is impeccable and sensitively shaded, and the music is never allowed to sink under its own weight.

So far four albums have been issued. Though Mandyczewki’s numbers have long been known to be chronologically misleading, Haydn scholars have retained them simply because they are familiar. The CBS albums use these numbers but they present the works in the strict chronological order that Robbins Landon established in Haydn: Chronicle and Works, from which the album notes are also taken. CBS I3M 37861 contains Nos. 39, 35, 38, 59, 49, and 58 (17661768); CBS I3M 39040 contains Nos. 26, 41,48, 44, 52, and 43, together with the overture to Haydn’s opera Le pescatrici (1768—1771); CBS I3M 39685 contains Nos. 42, 51, 45, 46, 47, and 65 (1771 — 1773); and CBS M3 42111 contains Nos. 50, 64, 54, 55, and 57 (1773-1774). This fall a fifth album will be issued, CBS M3 42157, containing Nos. 60, 68, 66, 69, 67, and 63 (1774-1777).

As an example of the ways in which the performances by L’Estro Armonico illuminate these works, take the two earliest ones, Nos. 39 and 35, the former probably composed in 1766 or early 1767 and the latter surviving in an autograph dated December 1, 1767. No. 39 is in G minor and, at least partly because of its key, it has often been associated with Mozart’s two G-minor symphonies, the great K. 550 and the early K. 183, as a work of near-tragic power. Robbins Landon speaks in The Symphonies of Joseph Haydn of its “restless, gloomy spirit,” and in Haydn: Chronicle and Works of “the harshness of its language.” In both books he deplores the fact that the slow movement and the trio of the Minuet are in a considerably lighter vein than the first movement and the finale. “Haydn has not yet learned the secret of maintaining tension throughout a whole work,” he writes in Haydn: Chronicle and Works. Vet as played by L’Estro Armonico, the first movement sounds not tragic or powerful but delicately and deftly conspiratorial—the image evoked is not Lear on the heath but Charlie Chaplin getting out of some scrape or other. And the lighter, more elegant and jovial sections of the work seem finely modulated in relation to the opening and closing movements. For the first time, No. 39 seems all of a piece and very satisfying. Moreover, hearing it in this way makes it all the more understandable that Haydn should have composed, at virtually the same time, a work like No. 35 in B-flat, which has often been seen as disconcertingly and disappointingly lighthearted, a regrettable throwback to pro.—Sturm und Drang days. Now we notice that while the first movement begins cheerfully enough, the development section has some of the same air of conspiracy and theatrical intrigue as the opening and closing movements of No. 39. The two works seem closer together than they did before, composed of the same elements but in different combination.

So it is with the other minor-key symphonies in these performances. The lighter orchestral textures and polished playing make the emotional intensity seem more controlled, and set the works in clearer relation to splendidly joyous major-key symphonies like Nos. 47 and 48, which, we now see more clearly, have their own moments of dark intensity. It is most interesting to compare the L’Estro Armonico performances with four other fine ones, also on original instruments, that have recently appeared on the Titanic label. The ensemble is Monadnock Music, directed by James Bolle, and though it is somewhat larger than L’Estro Armonico, and the playing somewhat weightier, the same points get made. Symphonies Nos. 42 and 43 (Mercury) are on Titanic Ti-101; Nos. 26 and 49 are on Titanic Ti-102,

WITH PERFORMANCES like these available to us, we are no longer tempted to think of Haydn in this period as suddenly obsessed by some mysterious, darkly Romantic spirit that bursts out now and then, only to Hag as he falls back on the sociable cliches of his earlier work. When one returns to the rather faceless impersonality of the earlier symphonies (many were excellently performed by L’Estro Armonico in two three-disc albums on the British Saga label, which now seem to be unobtainable), one feels that Haydn, in the Sturm und Drang symphonies, was moving ahead expressively on several fronts at once: not just giving voice to a new restlessness and melancholy but also sharpening his wit and releasing his abundant high spirits as he had not done before. Though these symphonies remain minor works, they no longer seem pre-Romantic excrescences. Rather, they present, for the first time, the unique fusion of urbane wit and emotional depth that came to perfect fruition in the London symphonies and that is, in fact, the essence of the classical style.

Just as it is misleading to glorify the Sturm und Drang symphonies by stressing only those in minor keys, so it is historically invalid to link them to the literary movement of that name. In the first place, the literary movement did not get under way until Haydn had once again changed his style, in the mid1770s. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers was published in 1774, and Friedrich Maximilian Klinger’s play Sturm und Drang, from which the movement took its name, came two years later. Moreover, there is no evidence that Haydn had any serious interest in literature or ideas or cultural movements of any sort. His biographers, aware of these facts, have thus attributed “the volcanic eruption of his genius” in these symphonies to “an entirely unconscious attunement to the spirit of the time” (Rosemary Hughes) or else to “the starvation of his emotional life" (Karl Geiringer). Leaving aside unconscious attunements, which are tricky (if not impossible) to prove, there is no evidence of emotional starvation in Haydn’s life at this time—indeed, the richness and variety not only of his symphonies but also of his string quartets and keyboard sonatas would seem to argue exactly the opposite. Though his marriage was not a happy one, it does not seem to have soured him emotionally—“My wife was unable to bear children,” he confided to his first biographer, George August Griesinger, “and ! was therefore less indifferent to the charms of other women.”And his relations with his co-workers, the musicians over whom he presided as Prince Nicolaus’s Kapellmeister, seem to have been exceptionally close and warm: he was often a witness at their marriages and at the baptisms of their children.

The real cause of the extension of emotional range one hears in the symphonies of the late 1760s and early 1770s seems to have been a purely musical one: namely, Haydn’s growing involvment with opera. In 1766 Prince Nicolaus’s previous Kapellmeister, Gregorius Werner, whose assistant Haydn had been until that time, died, leaving Haydn in full charge of vocal music. And in the same year Prince Nicolaus’s magnificent palace at Eszterhaza, which contained both a conventional opera house and a marionette theater, was completed, and the court was moved there from Eisenstadt. Thus began Haydn’s extraordinarily busy career as conductor, producer, and composer of operas. Though he had written a few earlier operatic comedies, now lost, his composition of opera began in earnest in 1766, with La can term a. Moreover, it was probably about this time that he made the acquaintance of Gluck’s Orfeo (1762).

Until quite recently, music historians intent on tracing sources of the classical style tended to concentrate on the evolution of sonata form and thus to ignore opera. But the greatest instrumental music of the classical period is saturated with theatricality, set off from the baroque music that precedes it and the Romantic music that follows it by a swift and effortless juxtaposition of spaciousness and abruptness, charm and profundity, and by a pervasive sense of wit and irony. The role of opera in the development of this unique art grows more important the more closely one looks. Also, the language of classical music seems to have developed autonomously, with little outside influence from the worlds of literature and ideas. Performances by L’Estro Armonico of Haydn’s Sturm und Drang symphonies (like Mandyczewski’s numbers, the name, though inadequate, is handy and is probably best retained) enforce this double lesson. That is a revelation to be grateful for. □