Three on Three
Bach: Orchestral Suite No 3
in D major, BWV 1068
Haydn: Symphony No 3 in G major
Beethoven: Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, Op 55 "Eroica"
Allegro con brio
Marcia funebre - Adagio assai
Joseph Haydn did not invent the symphony but he was responsible for making it a major form of musical expression in the Western classical tradition. The early transformation of the lowly sinfonie or sinfonia from a minor instrumental interlude within an opera or oratorio into a larger, stand-alone composition was given impetus first by the Mannheim School of composers, under the leadership of Carl Stamitz. Stamitz himself produced a good number of three movement symphonies designed more as light entertainment along the lines of so-called table music.
Haydn's first two forays into the symphony followed the Mannheim prototype, three movements in contrasting tempos - fast, slow, fast. The Symphony No 3 in G major, however, is in four moverments, a form that became over time the standard for the typical symphony. It reflects the style and manner of Haydn's orchestral writing around the time that he took up employment as Kappelmeister with the Esterházy family, a noble, propertied clan that stretched back into the Hungarian Middle Ages. It was here on a vast estate, isolated from fellow composers and the 'new sounds' of music that Haydn honed his craft. It was here at Esterházy that he developed and expanded the simple symphony of the Mannheim school into the more complex four-movement symphony - a form that Ludwig van Beethoven, a Haydn student, would exploit and, in so doing, change the face of music forever.
Although Haydn was isolated from the contemporary stream of music that flowed through Vienna, he, nevertheless, managed to absorb the trends on his infrequent visits to Vienna. He found to his surprise that he himself was often the trendsetter in fashionable music of the day. This was particularly true in the shape of the symphony and the string quartet that Haydn evolved over the decades - to such a degree that both became preferred forms in orchestral and chamber music, respectively. Haydn's symphonies became so popular throughout Europe that each was received with the greatest of public enthusiasm. Soon, he began to get outside commissions for symphonies which he, with Esterházy approval, eagerly accepted to supplement his income. From these commissions emerged three sets of symphonies that are considered the peak of his production: the six 'Paris' Symphonies 82-87 of 1786 and the twelve 'London' Symphonies 93-104 of 1791 and 1795.
Seventeen ninety was a watershed year for Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). In that one year Haydn's life and fortune were turned upside down. Emperor Joseph II died on February 20, 1790, an event that threw Austria and its empire into a period of prolonged mourning. Less than a week later, the wife of his patron and employer Nicolaus Esterházy died; Haydn spent a good deal of his time trying to console the desolate Nicolaus, but Nicolaus himself succumbed by the end of September, to be succeeded by his brother, Anton. Anton, seeking to save on expenses at an uncertain time, released nearly all of the court musicians, and relegated Haydn to a part-time position with commisserate pay. Anton, to Haydn's delight, had little use for his services and permitted Haydn to travel as he saw fit. Haydn wasted little time in using his new-found semi-independence and rented an apartment in Vienna. At long last he was away from his isolated existence at Esterházy and free to mingle in appreciative society and engage in commerce with his Viennese counterparts.
Haydn was the most famous and most sought after composer in Europe in his time; thus when London impresario Johann Peter Salomon, in Germany searching for music talent to import to England, heard that Haydn might be available, he pounced, only to find a surprisingly responsive Haydn. The composer had entertained an English tour for more than a decade, but his duties as kapellmeister at Esterházy had prevented him from such an undertaking. Now, he could undertake a tour without fear of antagonizing his new patron. And Salomon assured him that the English public revered his music above all others, and, more important, that he would be richly rewarded.
Salomon's contract with Haydn covered one year, 1791, but the demand for Haydn's presence in London and the desire for more of his compositions brought about a one-year extension and eventually to another residence during the 1794-95 music seasons. Haydn made enough money during these two tours to finally give him the peace of mind in his final years that only financial security can bring.
The Symphony No 3 in G major is, then, a fledgling work in the genre from Joseph Haydn, the composer who turned a form of light entertainment into the noblest of musical expressions.
Program Notes © William H Driver and Clinton Symphony Orchestra Association