Friday, November 24, 2017

In Memoriam: Sir Jeffrey Tate (1943 - 2017)

No. 265 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast265



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Earlier this year, I posted a Tuesday Blog saluting g the career of conductor Sir Jeffrey Tate, who passed away this past June. This week’s post is another tip of the hat to Sir Jeffrey, this time in three symphonies by Joseph Haydn.

In 1985 Tate was appointed the first Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and began a major recording programme for EMI which included the complete Mozart symphonies as well as a number of Haydn's. Tate's Haydn and Mozart are in a class of their own. Using modern instrumental forces and often adopting tempi which are much broader than we have come to expect from period orchestras, Tate achieves a lightness and lyricism which make every note compelling.

As we discussed in yet another Tuesday Blog earlier this year, Haydn’s London symphonies can be categorized into two groups: Symphonies Nos. 93–98, composed during Haydn's first visit to London, and Symphonies Nos. 99–104, composed in Vienna and London for his second visit. Today’s trio of symphonies date from the first set and were presented to London audiences in a different order – they were his third, sixth and fourth.

Haydn's music contains many jokes, and the Surprise Symphony (no. 94) includes probably the most famous of all: a sudden fortissimo chord at the end of the otherwise piano opening theme in the variation-form second movement. The music then returns to its original quiet dynamic, as if nothing had happened, and the ensuing variations do not repeat the joke. (In German it is commonly referred to as the Symphony mit dem Paukenschlag - "with the kettledrum stroke").

The symphony no. 96 has been called the Miracle symphony due to the story that, during its premiere, a chandelier fell from the ceiling of the concert hall in which it was performed. The audience managed to dodge the chandelier successfully as they had all crowded to the front for the post-performance applause, and the symphony got its nickname from this. (More careful and recent research suggests that this event actually took place during the premiere of his Symphony No. 102).

Haydn was composing the Symphony no. 98 when he heard, and was greatly distressed by, the news of Mozart's death. The Adagio, solemn and hymn-like, makes noticeable use of material from two works by Mozart, the Coronation Mass and Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter").


I think you will love this music too.