The enduring structure of the classic symphony was perfected and established for the generations by Haydn. Rubinstein was in the habit of referring condescendingly to “papa Haydn.” Von-Biilow rejoined: “Yes! But when he is great-grandfather Rubinstein, Haydn will still be `papa’ Haydn!” The conventional view of Haydn is that of a man who was principally a formalist in music, whose feelings did not run deep, who had little contact with life, who was content to pin eighteenth-century patterns of tone, very charming but with little significance beyond the grace and felicity of the musical design.
As a matter of fact, Haydn knew life and knew it at first hand. He lived it with curiosity and gusto, and expressed a vigorous and often imaginative disposition in his music. He was anything but the slavish follower of convention, being in fact a pioneer in his art, always experimenting and reshaping the symphonic form, of which he was the first great and acknowledged master. Into this form he wove fabric of the court and country-side, for he knew both phases of existence. Modern research shows that Haydn was almost certainly not Austrian, but Croatian, which means Slav, by birth. Himself of peasant origin, he was politic, respectful, and at home in the presence of the haute monde. He was quick and shrewd enough to estimate accurately the conditions that encompassed him, and make them stepping-stones to honor and frame, but he was neither the insulated musician nor the lackey of nobility that some would make him. He wore a uniform and fulfilled with genius the duties of musical factotum to Prince Esterhazy. After all, it wasnt a bad uniform.
Socially speaking, Haydn was fenced off from the nobles whom he served, but he had his own orchestra to work and experiment with, and not one but two theatres equipped for drama, opera or marionette performances. Steadily he grew in his art. His position was the one conventionally assigned to a musician of that day. Sometimes one wonders whether the social insulation of that period, and the hard routine labor to which he was subjected, did not benefit the composer. Today a Stravinsky is dined and wined by our best people. European princesses and American millionaires shower entertainment upon him. In the olden time a Bach or a Haydn was expected to turn out his weekly scoresa quartet, a symphony, a piece of hack music belikeall in the day’s work, and no fuss about it. Thus he acquired an immensely fluent and solid technic. When it came to the higher things of life and the thoughts that go to the creation of masterpieces, he was thrown back on himself. He plumbed his own soul and drew from within and not from some outside source the creative power that stood him in such good stead with posterity.
The industrious composer of the first classic symphonies, quartets, this “Creation” and innumerable other works found life intensely worth living; mingled with the great “nor lost the common touch”; married a Xantippe of a wife, but loved more than one fascinating woman; more than gave value received for the existence with which God had endowed him; and lived to a ripe age, complaining at the last that he was only beginning to know how to compose music.
Symphony in D major (“With the Horn Signal”)(B. & H. No. 31)
IV. Finale (Theme with Variations)
In the year of Our Lord 1764 Haydn composed his “symphony with the horn-call.”Haydn makes the three movements of the symphony as cultivated by Sammartini four. He also uses, probably for the first time in the history of the symphony, four horns in place of the customary two. Haydn found relief from music-making, while retainer of Prince Esterhazy, by shooting and fishing on his estate. This symphony is said to echo “the joy of the chase.” The horn-call is heard at once, played by all four horns in unison. In a moment the answering call of a solo horn, as from far off, is heard. There were no clarinets in the Haydn symphony. Mozart was to sponsor that instrument. Haydn uses only flutes, oboes, the four horns and the customary strings. In the second movement there are dialogues between the instrumentsfirst a violin solo, then dialogue between solo violin and two horns, then solo ‘cello, and the string choir. Haydn was constantly making new experiments in instrumental combinations. The third movement is the customary minuet. The finale is a set of variations.
As you listen to this music you realize in it the taste of another period, and also the slower tempo of an age and environment not that of today. This symphony could never have sprung up in the period of radio, aeroplanes, taxicabs, and noise which the human race packed in .the cities incredibly endures. We can envy its adorable beauty, serenity and superfine workmanship!
Symphony in E flat major (B. & H. No. 1o3)
I. Adagio; Allegro con spirit o
III. Menuetto; Trio
IV. Finale: Allegro con spirito
In his later years Haydn travelled twice to London, where he was lionized and rewarded ,munificently. Students of his works find the symphonies which he wrote for the London impresario Salomon richer in their content than other compositions that Haydn cast in the same form. This special importance is attributed by them not only to Haydn’s maturity as a composer, but to the effect of the new experiences and impressions of his journey, and, very possibly, the fertilizing influence of his contact with the younger Mozart.
The twelve Salomon symphonies were published in two sets of six each. The one here discussed is No. 3 of the second set. It is the so-called “symphony with the kettledrum-roll.” In its pages Haydn conducts several experiments, some of them looking to the future of symphonic music. One of these is the reappearance of a theme heard in the introduction in the main movement which follows.
Ordinarily, in Haydn’s day, the slow introduction of the first movement of a symphony was a mere ceremonious prelude to what followed. It established atmosphere and gained the attention of the audience.
But in this symphony the portentous theme, preceded by a drum-roll, which stalks about in the opening measures of the introduction, returns, like a spectre at the feast, in the midst of quick and gay music that follows. This occurs towards the end of the movement, after a brilliant passage and a pause, or “fermata.” There, again, we hear the drum-roll, followed by the theme in its original form. But Haydn has done subtler things than that. In a later place he gives a fragment of the introductory theme to his violas and ‘cellosfollowing another “fermata”; and the coda, or concluding part of the movement, begins with a phrase of the same introductory theme, so altered in rhythm and form that one must look twice to realize its origin.
The second movement is a theme with variations. The theme has among other distinguishing characteristics the fact that it is half in the major key and half in the minor. The first section is C major, the second C minor. The variations hold to this harmonic scheme. It is not until the coda that Haydn allows his fancy to wander freely through distant keys and tonal vistas that freshly enchant us. Croatian melodies are in this symphony, including the first theme of the first movement proper: the theme on which the variations of the slow movement are built; the chief theme of the last movement.
Symphony in C minor (B. & H. No. 95 )
I. Allegro moderato
II. Andante cantabile
The very popular symphony in C minor is another of the set that Haydn composed for Sal Salomon. At the concerts where this symphony was performed Salomon led the orchestra, standing. Haydn sat at the harpsichord. Not only the composer but. Salomon had reason to be gratified with the symphony’s reception. The work dispenses with an introduction. The first theme has a virility not unsuggestive of the young Beethoven. This theme is dwelt upon by Haydn; it is extensively manipulated. The closing pages of the movement, which begins in the minor hey, are in the major. The second movement is a characteristic theme with variations. The menuetto is well known for the charm of the ‘cello solo which makes its middle part, and the finale is unusually vigorous and substantial in workmanship.
THE CLASSIC SYMPHONY
THE classic symphony is an evolution and synthesis of what had been going on in instrumental composition for centuries. It assembled within its walls the technical achievements of centuries of harmony and counterpoint, formal elements of dance and song, and the resource, new in the late eighteenth century, of brilliant and varied instrumental color. For it happened that the orchestra developed coincidentally with the symphony.
The movements were arranged in such succession and proportion as to secure an architectural structure, and within the outlines of that structure richness of content and balance of design.
The perfected symphony of Haydn and Mozart was in four movements, contrasted in form, tempo and key.
The first movement, often preceded by a stately introduction, had customarily a lively pulse, and while other designs were optional, was likely to be cast in “sonata form.”
The second movement, ordinarily the slow movement, had a prevailingly lyrical character, and was usually in the form of the extended song or the sonata movement of abridged character.
As the origin of the slow movement was the song, so was the following movement, the minuetor scherzo, as it became latera three-par: form derived from forms of the dance.
The finale could take various forms. That of the sonata was frequently employed. Another form was the rondo, which derived its name from’. the poetical verse with a recurring refrain. Another was the theme and variations. With Haydn the last movement of a symphony had usually the quality of lively entertainment, but with the symphonists from Beethoven on this movement tended to become a dramatic climax or monumental summing up of the entire symphony.
The movement-structure bearing the :.name “sonata form” is essentially a three-part design, based upon two leading themes, contrasted in character and key. The main divisions, closely linked together, are known as Exposition, Development or Free Fantasia, and Re-capitulation. The Exposition publishes the musical material of the movement. In the Development section that material, or any part of it, is freely developed. The Recapitulation is the repetition and often amplification of the material of the Exposition, with emphasis of the key of the movement. At the end there is added a concluding passage, known as the “coda.”
The first theme of the sonata movement is likely to be the more energetic of its two leading motives, and the second to be more lyrical in character. As the symphony develops, these themes are the more significantly contrasted. The entrance of the second theme is in most cases carefully prepared. Between the two principal themes is musical connective tissue in the form of passage-work, or even a sub-theme of accessory character. After the second theme comes further material designed to round out the Exposition. It may be an extension of motives already heard, or fresh passage-work, or other subsidiary matter. By some this completion 6f the Exposition is called the “codetta”that is, the “little coda”anticipating in its purpose the greater coda that comes at the end of the movement.
Generally, in order to impress this material on the listener, and give added definition to the .movement, the Exposition is repeated before the composer proceeds to the Development. There he manipulates his themes and modulates into such keys as he pleases. This part of the movement gives him special opportunity for original procedure, always keeping in mind that he must stick to his ideas, develop them with skill and interest, and return in a logical and interesting way to his initial theme, in its original form, for the Recapitulation. The principal difference between the Recapitulation and Exposition is the fact: that both the principal themes, originally stated in different keys, are now restated in the basic key of the movement; that the connecting passages between the themes are altered in their progress with this end in view; and finally, that to the customarily amplified material of the Exposition is added the coda, as completion of the composer’s thought.
The details of the other movements of: the symphony can best be exemplified by describing them as they actually occur in a work which is a supreme model of classic beauty, Mozart’s symphony in G. minor.