Symphony No. 6 in D Major (Le Matin)
Symphony No. 7 in C Major (Le Midi)
Symphony No. 8 in G Major (Le Soir)
Serenade in D Major, K. 239 (Serenata notturna)
The Music of the Baroque Orchestra shines in three short Haydn symphonies — Le Matin, Le Midi, and Le Soir. Written in the concerto grosso style, with virtuoso writing for solo and groups of instruments throughout, these works are full of novelty and surprise. Mozart’s Serenata notturna rounds out the musical day. The program will last approximately 2 hours.
Dan Maki will give preconcert lectures on Sunday, February 28, at 6:30pm at the DoubleTree Hotel adjacent to the North Shore Center (Athens Room) and on Monday, February 29, at 6pm at the Chicago Cultural Center (Garland Room).
Sponsor: Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation
- Symphony no. 6 (Le Matin), mvt 4
- Symphony no. 7 (Le Midi), mvt 1
- Symphony no. 8 (Le Soir), mvt 2
- Serenata notturna K. 239, mvt. 3
Franz Joseph Haydn Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Hob. I:6 (Le Matin) Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Hob. I:7 (Le Midi) Symphony No. 8 In G Major, Hob I:8 (Le Soir)
Life as a member of the orchestra at the court of Esterházy differed radically from the lives of musicians today. The ensemble, including Franz Joseph Haydn, was effectively the sole property of the court. In many ways, this wasn’t much of a hardship—not only did the players receive a good salary, but the prince also provided food, lodging, and health care, and upon marriage assumed responsibility for the entire family. In return, however, Esterházy musicians’ time was devoted entirely to the prince, and they served at his pleasure. When Haydn signed his contract with Esterházy on May 1, 1761—a position that he was to hold during most of his career—it was particularly important that he gain the orchestra’s favor. These were not just employees, after all, but people with whom he lived and spent a large amount of time. At the beginning of his employ, not even the nobles knew who he was. According to popular legend, Haydn composed a symphony for the birthday of Prince Paul Anton on April 22, 1761 (just prior to his formal employment). During the performance, the prince was so impressed that he interrupted the orchestra to inquire who had written the beautiful music. After he was told the composer was Haydn, he said, “But you are already in my service—how is it I have not seen you?” Haydn did not know how to respond, so the prince ordered, “Go and get dressed like a Maestro.” From that point forward, Haydn wore the white wig of a courtier.
Haydn was well known by the time he composed the Symphonies 6, 7, and 8 a few months later, and it may even have been the prince who suggested the topic of “Times of the Day.” In 1755, a fashionable pantomime ballet premiered at the Burgtheater where the Prince had a regular box—Les quatres parties du jour en quatres ballets différens (The four parts of the day in four different ballets, subtitled “Le matin,” “Le midi,” “Le soir,” “La nuit”). While Haydn may have been pleasing the prince with the trilogy’s subject matter, the music suggests that it was the orchestra he was truly striving to satisfy. All three of the symphonies are packed with colorful writing for solo instruments and small ensembles. This would not only have been musically gratifying,but would have benefited the players financially as well—musicians who performed solos or unusually virtuosic music received a bonus from the prince.
There is ample evidence to suggest that the “Times of Day” symphonies were indeed conceived as a trilogy. Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7 begin with slow introductions—the first such instance in Haydn’s repertoire—while Symphony No. 8 kicks off with a movement in 3/8, a time signature often associated with finales rather than opening movements. All three have slow movements with soaring concertante writing: the sixth features a duet for violin and cello, the seventh a recitative for the same instruments,and the eighth a quartet for two violins, cello, and bassoon. The double bass figures prominently in the trio sections of each symphony’s minuet movement. And a contredanse caps off Symphonies Nos. 6 and 7, while a storm—“La tempeste”—concludes the eighth.
Subtitled “Le Matin,” Symphony No. 6 opens with a sunrise—a pastoral-sounding melody punctuated with the songs of birds and moments of dark harmonic color like bits of morning fog. Haydn deftly interweaves Classical-era sonata form—melodic statement, development, and then recapitulation or restatement—and Baroque principles like the alternation of solo and ensemble playing. In the opening movement, the recapitulation’s “false start” in the horn has been compared to the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. The operatic slow movement for solo violin and cello recalls a late morning singing lesson. Equally noteworthy is the trio, which features the unusual combination of double bass, bassoon, viola, and cello over pizzicato strings. Symphony No. 7, also called “Le Midi,” opens with a slow march. Some have connected this introduction and the following allegro to the entry of the prince and his retinue for lunch—as one scholar says, “Haydn’s own Servizio di Tavola.” Another compelling subtext is at work in Symphony No. 8 (Le Soir), the first movement of whichis based on a popular song about tobacco from Gluck’s comic opera Le Diable àquatre, which had premiered at the Burgtheater in 1759 and was revived in 1761. Why did Haydn use this tune? The Prince may have proposed the melody, or perhaps Haydn wanted to remind listeners of a festive evening at the theater. Musicologist Richard Will suggests that Haydn may have been equally drawn to the opera’s dramatic conflict. In the song Haydn borrows, “Je n’aimais pas le tabac beaucoup” (I didn’t like tobacco very much), an unhappy wife confesses that her husband’s disdain for tobacco makes her like it even more. According to Will, Haydn uses this tension to help create formal structure in the movement. The “Tempesta” finale vaguely recalls Vivaldi in its solo flourishes.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Serenade for Orchestra No. 6 in D Major, K. 239 (Serenata notturna)
Along with the operas, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music which we revere today, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote some of the finest party music ever composed—most famously, Eine kleine Nachtmusik. As W. H. Auden wrote of this music, “while bottles were uncorked / Milord chewed noisily, Milady talked.” Serenades, cassations, divertimenti, nocturnes—all were pieces intended to accompany various gatherings or celebrations. This music was not always of the highest caliber, however, either in composition or performance. In a letter to his son dated June 10-11, 1778, Leopold describes just such a moment:
The day after tomorrow is the feast of St. Anthony, and who, in your absence, will make a Nachtmusik for the Countess [Antonia Lodron]? Who? La Compagnie des Amateurs, that is who. Count Czernin and Kolb are the two principal violins, playing astounding solos; the composition of the Allegro and the Adagio is by Hafeneder, the Minuet with three Trios by Czernin, NB all newly composed, the March by Hafeneder, but everything is also bad and stolen—mincemeat to the highest degree [“Hickle Hackle bis in Himmel”] and out of tune—like the world. NB Cussetti is the hornist; nobles and court councillors alike all participated in the march, but not I, because I am so miserable and have lost my ability to play from memory. The pitiable rehearsal was held in our house yesterday.
Listening to the Serenata notturna,it seems that perhaps Mozart ultimately was incapable of writing music that faded into the background. Written in three movements,the work is scored for strings, timpani, and a solo group of two violins, viola, and double bass. Mozart uses this ensemble to generate constant musical variety, ranging from short timpani solos in the first movement, to the solo group alone in the trio, to seamless exchanges between solo and ensemble throughout all three movements.
-Jennifer More Glagov, copyright 2016