This is our
last montage for 2016, and one that “feeds” an upcoming chapter of Project 366
(planned for March 2017) discussing “threesomes” in music.
We can highlight many fortunate
instances of “musical threesomes” or sets of three related pieces of music. I
remember reading once that Mahler’s nine symphonies could be viewed as a
threesome of threesomes, as each tranche of three symphonies address specific
periods of his life, and I think that tis brings its share of “insight” into an
important corpus of the symphonic repertoire. Another such threesome is the set
of Mozart’s last three symphonies (39, 40 and 41) which often get
discuss and analyzed together.
fewer examples of “symphonic triptychs”, or a set of three symphonies
purposefully composed as a group, a lot like Vivaldi’s quartet of
concertos “The Four Seasons”. One such example is this trio of early Haydn
symphonies known as Die Tageszeiten (The Times of the Day) with their
French subtitles “Matin, Midi et Soir” or morning, noon and evening. Here is a
fine introduction and analysis, reproduced here from Early Music
Vancouver’s program notes.
Morzin was an aristocrat of the Austrian Empire during the 18th century and he
is remembered today as the first person to employ Joseph Haydn as his
Kapellmeister, or music director. Haydn lived at a time when aristocratic
patronage was a necessity for a composer to survive and it must have been
devastating for him when the Count fell upon hard times financially; Haydn’s
position was one of the casualties.
closes one door, a new one opens, and Haydn was at the right place at the right
time when Prince Paul Anton Esterházy happened to attend one of Haydn’s
performances at the Bohemian summer home of Count Morzin. Haydn must have made
quite an impression because when the Prince heard of his situation, he quickly
offered him the position of Deputy Kappelmeister for his own court orchestra.
Haydn signed the contract with the Esterházy court in May of 1761 and thus
began one of the most prolific situations of musical patronage in all of music
history, lasting almost exactly 30 years.
As we have
written in past posts, Haydn used his situation as an opportunity to run a
veritable musical laboratory. He is oft-quoted as describing his working life
of an orchestra I could experiment, observe what heightened the effect and what
weakened it, and so could improve, expand, cut, take risks. I was cut off from
the world, there was no one near me to torment me or make me doubt myself, and
so I had to become original.
Esterházy spent some time in Naples as a diplomat and developed an Italian
taste in music. His collection of Italian music included Vivaldi’s ‘Four
Seasons’. It has been suggested that the Prince mentioned to Haydn that he
should compose a similar set of pieces inspired by the different times of the
day, and thus this trio of works, first performed in May or June of 1761.
No. 6 ‘Le matin’ begins with a slow introduction representing the awakening of
the sun, followed by entrances of the flute and oboe evoking the pleasant
chirping of birds responding to the dawning of a new day. This develops into
moments of virtuosity for the entire ensemble, undoubtedly written to highlight
not only Haydn’s compositional creativity but also the exceptional orchestra
hired for the court’s entertainment. The second movement is more of a Corelli-inspired
Baroque concerto for violin and cello than merely a symphony movement. The bass
and bassoon are featured during the trio of the Minuet, with a return to the
ensemble virtuosity for the Finale.
Symphony, ‘Le midi’ begins with another slow introduction which soon becomes
more feverish activity as two violins and cello take over with the energized
sense of purpose of mid-day. The second movement begins as a song without words
for the violin by using the operatic device recitativo accompagnato (or
accompanied recitative), another Italianate styling which surely pleased the
Prince. The lower voices are once again in the spotlight for the Minuet and
Trio, followed by a return to the fierce activity of the opening movement to
close out the symphony.
musicologist Daniel Heartz discovered in 1981, the opening melody of Symphony
No. 8, ‘Le soir’, is identical to a song from Gluck’s French comic opera
Le diable à quatre, performed in Vienna in 1759. It is likely Prince
Esterházy saw the opera in Vienna and requested for Haydn to use it in his new
set of pieces. The words of this song are quite cheeky:
like tobacco very much, I don’t use it much, often not at all, but my husband
objects. Presently, I find it tempting, if I take a little when alone,
because it relieves boredom, no matter what my husband says.
movement, like the others, is another moment for the soloists to shine,
starting with the violins, then cello, followed by bassoon. The Minuet features
the woodwinds, with another bass spotlight for the Trio. For the final
movement, the rapid succession of repeated notes in the violin and cello
suggests the rumble of thunder during an evening storm, while the flute can be
seen as either delivering lightning strikes or falling arpeggiated raindrops as
an evocative ending to the evening.
I used for this week’s podcast involves a “period setting” provided by the
Hanover Band in their quasi-complete set of Haydn symphonies issued under the
Hyperion label. These were recorded in February 1991.
I think you will love this music too.