Haydn’s London Symphonies for Salomon
But what can we say about Haydn and his sublime and breathtaking symphonies? Such a marvel cannot be described in words: to understand it you have to have heard them…
Morning Chronicle (Londres, febrero de 1795)
Surely, I could not imagine Johann Peter Salomon, a phenomenal violinist, excellent conductor and skilled German businessman living in London, the immeasurable favor he did to the history of music when in 1790 he proposed Franz Joseph Haydn to travel to London to direct, play and compose the great legacy of the works that were written and performed in the public concert series that Salomon managed with enormous success in the English capital. Two are the journeys Haydn will undertake to the English capital, the first between 1791 and 1792, and the second between 1794 and 1795, a period that, say haydn himself, was ultimately the happiest of his life.
Knowing of the death of Prince Nicholas I of Esterházy, Haydn’s protector, Salomon, with an infallible commercial sense, does not hesitate to travel to Vienna to get to hire not only our composer, but also Mozart, both in those years (but “were “) possibly the most important figures, admired and imitated of the philharmonic universe, to give their series an even greater brightness.
Mozart is not interested, or perhaps other compromises tie Vienna; however Haydn, full of illusion and in some way rejuvenated by the interesting challenge, accepts blind eyes to go to a new and unknown country for him, embarking at 58, on the great adventure of his life after decades to the stable service of the Esterházy.
On December 15, 1790, Salomon and Haydn left for London, not without Mozart’s reluctance: “dear Dad, you’re not cut out for the world, and you don’t speak that language.” Haydn’s response is historical: “my language is understood by everyone.” Between tears, the farewell of Haydn and Mozart is particularly bitter and foreboding for the Salzburg, who would die a year later: “We will never see each other again”.
Raudo for the conditions of that time, Haydn arrives on 2 January 1791 in a London that offers in his first impression the spectacle of a dense musical life to the burden, brimming with sacred and profane concerts, academies and saraos in the myriad places in which We make and hear music: churches thousand, the Academy of Ancient Music, the Concerts of Ancient Music, the Professional Concerts, the Madrigal Society or The Glee-Club. Haydn is expected with maximum anticipation, and together with a frenetic social life of visits and event attendances, our musician works alongside two symphonies, 96 and 95, his first of the London series, on a new opera that will keep him busy until the summer , L’anima of the philosopher.
On March 11, his public debut finally takes place at the Hanover-Square concerts, in a variety of programs in which along with works by Rosetti, Dussek and Andreozzi we hear a Haydn “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No 96, “The Miracle”) with Haydn’s “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”) with Haydn’s “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”) with Haydn’s “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”) with Haydn’s “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”) with Haydn’s “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”) with Haydn’s “New Grand Overture” (his Symphony No. 96, “The Miracle”) this to the key and sharing the direction of the concert with Salomon himself, “leader of the Band” from the concertino lectern.
The success is total and absolute, and the Diary London is enthusiastic about the long-awaited event in which Haydn is finally heard as a conductor and composer. His triumph is immediate: Haydn, who in May of that year had been thrilled to tears hearing the Messiah at Westminster Abbey, is greeted by the Prince of Wales, by the Dukes of Cork and by a large part of the aristocracy “The Page” , and in July of that year he received the doctorate Honoris causa in music from the University of Oxford in an imposing ceremony. Haydn is happy and hardly to convince him that once the season is over, he would stay in London until June 1792, when he returns to Vienna. “Apple-converted-space” “”
Even in England, among many other works of his heard in London, always under the direction of the composer, he will compose the Symphony No. 95, premiered on an undetermined date in 1791; No 93, released on 17 February 1792; No 98 of 2 March of the same year; 94 ( “The Surprise”), of 23 March, and No 97, released in early May, thus completing the first group of the twelve great London symphonies. The success of each and every concert is always apotheotic, the reviews unanimously happy, and often there are to be bisar movements, as the first and last of the no. 98; symphony in which Haydn himself had reserved a small solo on the keyboard, wonderfully executed by him, according to the memoirs and diaries of many of those present at that concert.
If on his return to Vienna and Eisenstadt (Hungary) from London Haydn remains as busy as ever with the return to the Austrian routine, however he does not forget England. There he has been happy, has had some affair sentimental, even a thwarted surgical operation, and becomes recognized in his genius by all; his ego and self-esteem are to the highest degree, and his creative enthusiasm drives him to continue working for Salomon: the Quartets, op. 71 and 1793 1793, while beginning to perish new symphonies always having Salomon and his magnificent orchestra in mind .
In January 1794 he returned to London for a concert scheduled on 3 February (although he arrived with a day’s delay), this time taking with him a useful and efficient Johann Elssler as a servant and copyist. On this second voyage he will complete the series of his London symphonies, from No 99 to No. 104, but he will also write sonatas and threesomes, possibly the most mature, cantatas as sublime as the Scena di Berenice, or the Concerto-concerting symphony for oboe, bassoon, violin, cello and orchestra.
In London and in the circle of Salomon, a phenomenal violinist despite always having his mind in his business, he debuts the quartets he has written for him in Vienna; quartets who have the peculiarity of having been conceived, perhaps for the first time in the history of music, not to be heard in the inner circle of the chamber, of aristocratic chambers or cameristic enlightenments, but in the most vast of a room of Concerts for a large audience: Haydn is trendy and critics remain enthusiastic in all his performances and premieres.
From 1795 onst salomon’s concerts left The Hanover-Square venues and moved to the Royal Theater. Salomon’s orchestra, which now has the great Italian violinist Giovanni Battista Viotti as concertino, achieves its highest degree of quality and it is not surprising that in these conditions, with the possibly best-endowed orchestra of the moment in all of Europe to its Haydn’s genius shoots himself to its highest heights and creates revolutionary music that somehow pretakes his time and projects the symphony definitively into the future.
Passionate about Haydn’s music, the new Prince Esterházy, Nicholas II, has our musician in mind to reconstruct his orchestra and choir in order to give a new impetus to the music around him. Nicholas invites Haydn to return to Vienna to become his “Kapellmeister” with all the prerogatives, advantages and benefits, and Haydn, transitioned in pain, rich, famous and adored by the English, but with a huge flattering prospects, bids farewell to his ” dear English friends” forever and returns to Vienna not to compose any more symphonies in the fourteen years of life, but works as wonderful as the great masses (In tempore belli, Nelson, Theresien, Harmonien) , Creation or Stations. In England he had left an indelible memory but also some of his best works and possibly some of the most beautiful symphonies ever written, forerunners of the new language of the century to come.
Haydn’s London symphonies represent the highlight of a symphonic production dating back nearly forty years earlier, when around 1759 he wrote his first symphony, still deeply influenced by the Viennese instrumental tradition. Over the next few years Haydn develops a language of his own in which the external influences to which he will be happily permeable, but also his own idiosyncrasies, create a creative web of overwhelming strength and personality that does not has no choice but to culminate in one of the most interpreted cycles in the classical repertoire.
Of exceptional fecundity (it is also true that Haydn’s surprisingly lucid longevity is no less extraordinary for his time), Haydn’s symphonic production accumulates masterpiece after masterpiece already from the very first moment, as is the case with the very early Le matin, Le midi and Le soir of 1761, numbers 6, 7 and 8, respectively, of its symphonic production and the result of its collaboration with the magnificent and recently renewed orchestra of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, for which Haydn has just enter his service as vice president “Kapellmeister” in May of that year. Symphonies such as The philosopher (no. 22), Hornsignal (31), Fúnebre (44), The adioses (45), The distracted (60), The hunt (73), The Queen (85) or the symphonies for count d’Ogny (82, 86, 88) to quote , invite us to take an unparalleled walk from the purest tradition quasi baroque of the Italian overture to the modern Parisian vision of the orchestral world, passing through the Sturm und Drang most refined as possible of the pieces composed from 1765.
Salomon’s symphonies represent not only Haydn’s quintessence at a time when his quality is excellently tuned, but they enshrine, perhaps for the first time in the history of music, the figure of a universal artist whose music he does not know borders: Spain and Russia, the Balkans, Turkey or Scandinavia, the colonies of New England, New Spain or the ships that sail all the seas of the world: where there are musicians there is a score of a Haydn mass phenomenon, whose compositions over and over again repeated syllapods are common currency of academies and concerts. Unlike other authors equally prolific and not as inferior to Haydn as is often systematically assumed (we think of the Spanish pseudo Carl von Ordóñez, for example), Haydn’s music, no se as it was heard or played, was never “demodée” to his contemporaries, who found in it a universal language, clear, obvious and simple, the one that Haydn himself claimed as universal, in which the greatest of elegance never masks the sincerity and simple simplicity of a kind man and happy to live, to despite the many sinsabores and problems that life was bringing him.
Symphonies such as the Timbal Redouble or The surprise (no. 94), The Miracle (96), Military (100) or The watch (101), names all given by their contemporaries who are not by the author, immediately become something so familiar to the the lives of music fans, who from then until today have not ceased to have a constant presence in all concert halls, without their obsessive repetition over seasons and generations manages to wear down and degrade a few pages that have resisted like few others (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven) the devastating passage of time, fashions, tastes and trends.
Tenacious in his projects, Salomon, a restless businessman, does not want Haydn to leave as well as England without taking any honest additional benefit for both, and in August 1795, shortly before Haydn’s final departure for Vienna, they both signed a contract for means of which the composer cedes to the violinist and businessman the rights to his first six London symphonies. Later, in February 1796, Haydn signed the transfer of the last six, with which Salomon from this moment becomes the true owner of the twelve symphonies that have become in Europe the most heard and desired compositions. However, the violinist does not decide for the immediate publication of the London collection in its original orchestral form but, with clear commercial vision and intuiting a much easier and cheaper dissemination, and a safe and extensive sale, makes a first adaptation of the symphonies for a keyboard instrument (clavecín or fortepiano) with the accompaniment of a violin and an “ad libitum” cello in three niches, a first in June 1796 (the first four symphonies), another in July of the same year (the fifth and sixth) and one third, a little later, in October 1797 with the rest of the symphonies. It is clearly “music for the poor”, that is, transcriptions and arrangements that allow anyone who so wishes, to have at home, rich or poor, large or small, these symphonies to which very few had the means to access in their original version.
Arrangements of this genre were not a rarity in the latter years of the eighteenth century: antecedent of what represents today the album and the possibility of listening to the music when and where we want, the transfer of large and famous works to more manageable formats in order to bring them to the c Omedor or to the music hall of the bourgeoisie and the enlightened middle class, was a very daily event: reduced symphonies for piano to 4 hands, reductions of orchestra to piano for accompaniment of soloists (violin concertos, flute, piano, vocal arias), operas arranged for more modest ensembles, sometimes even without the vocals, such as Mozart’s wonderful anonymous arrangements of operas for two violins or flutes, for trios and string quartets or the most unimaginable and ingenious combinations.
Insufficient in its texture, however Salomon’s first arrangement of The London symphonies remained a really poor “music for the poor” because of the amount of detail, colors, “sfumature” and nuances that was hopeless than to omit from the original, in a a version so reduced and limited to a keyboard to which a violin and a filler cello were added. In 1798 the appearance of a new arrangement of our symphonies was announced, always by the skilful hand of Salomon, this time for quintet (flute, two violins, viola and cello) with the addition of a fortepiano “ad libitum” to which, not indicated but bound by tradition , you could (and should) add a double bass next to the cello, thereby bringing the richness in details, colors, nuances and relief of the internal structure of the works to improve radically, and, with a reduced organic, high degrees of sound fidelity of the without losing the accessibility of media that gives a reduced set to seven soloists.
This recording has been made from a copy of an edition of Salomon from around 1800 that, great fortune!, carries indications added “a posteriori” by the musicians who performed them in those years, who give special light to the reader of our day of how they were actually able to perform some musicians who were very close in time, and maybe even personally, the author and his spirit. There is no doubt that Salomon’s second arrangement brings the material infinitely closer to the original sound: the almost transparent and sober texture of a trio in which the fortepiano takes care of everything and only receives the faint-colored brushstrokes of a violin and a cello opt opt ativos, is replaced by the much more forceful and rich coloration of a string quartet to which the particular timbre of the flute and the harmonic richness of the piano, with the logical contribution of a double bass that the group La Tempestad intelligently adds, gives a package and orchestral texture to an ensemble that, without being obviously the full version with its perfect lighting technology and dynamic balance, is not “small” but resoundingly intimate, without losing the essence of masterpieces that today continue to sound so fresh and blublating as the day of its premiere.