Joseph Haydn 1732-1809
Violin Concerto in C major, Hob VIIa:1
Unlike Mozart and Beethoven who were virtuosos and thus had an incentive to compose concertos to display their own talents, Haydn had a more pedestrian technique and obviously felt little need to explore the form of the concerto. Until he arrived at the court of Prince Esterházy in 1761, that is.
Prince Anton, and then his successor Prince Nicolaus, maintained an orchestra of considerable talent. The Leader of the orchestra, the Principal Cellist and First Horn were virtuosos in their own right. Haydn must have endeared himself to these peerless musicians, isolated as they were for weeks on end in the Esterházy Palace in sleepy Eisenstadt, when he wrote concertos expressly designed to display their talents before their princely employer. We have evidence of two, possibly three, violin concertos by Haydn. The one in C major was written for the Leader of the orchestra, Luigi Tomasini, probably in 1761.
The C major Concerto, with its alternating use of tutti (orchestral) and solo passages, is strongly reminiscent of the baroque concerto tradition. The first movement is spritely, making considerable use of the dotted rhythms typical of a French overture. The solo part is reminiscent of Vivaldi’s violin concertos with emphasis on a display of figurations and leaps from the soloist designed to impress. The slow movement requires the soloist to make his violin sing while in the Finale he must negotiate technically hellish passages and display an excellent spiccato bowing technique.
Clearly, from the evidence of this concerto, Tomasini was a superb violinist and fortunate to be ensconced in the same palace as the young Haydn who, in just a few more years, would be recognised in distant places as a musical talent to watch.
© David Gardner
Programme note follow.
German violinist Florian Donderer, Concertmaster of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, makes his SCO debut as soloist and director in this delightful programme of classics. The Haydn Concerto demands great virtuosity from the soloist. It is performed here with two works inspired by the traditional dance music of each composer’s homeland: Dvořák’s wonderfully melodic Serenade for Strings – one of his most popular works – is, in turn, spirited, romantic and wistful. A perfect, uplifting summer evening’s entertainment.
Tickets are available from News First Newsagent, Main Street, Killin 01567 820362
Mátyás Seiber (1905-1960)
Serenade for six wind instruments (1925)
It is difficult to think of another nation that forged such a distinctive musical identity in the early twentieth century as the Hungarian empire. Unlike Russian nationalism or the revival of the English folksong tradition, the strength of the Hungarian musical character was founded on an inward-looking sense of national pride. Stravinsky’s Russian period was designed to address – and impress – a foreign audience, while the Hungarian concern with identity was determined by the internal politics of its empire, and had much less to do with the merchandising of exoticism. The magyar nóta (‘Hungarian tune’) had long been regarded as a stylistic emblem of nationalism in music cultivated by the Hungrian nobility, known aborad as the ‘Gypsy style’. Even as early as 1795, Haydn wrote a ‘Rondo in Hungarian style’, incorporating dotted rhythms, syncopations, augmented seconds and distinctive folk-like repetition. But throughout the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries, a more robust and authentic Hungarian style was projected to the wider world, founded on the transcriptions and arrangements of indigenous folksong. With Bartók and Kodály leading the way, a whole host of young Hungarian composers followed in their footsteps.
Among this new generation was Mátyás Seiber, a pupil of Kodály and a student of the Budapest Academy, who had a particular interest in languages and in making vocal transcriptions of the nation’s folksongs. Seiber would become famous for his eclectic projects, which included the film scores for Animal Farm and A Town Like Alice, as well as collaborations with guitarist John Williams, percussionist Jimmy Blades, and jazz pioneer John Dankworth. He was also a respected teacher of some renown, as composer Francis Routh writes: ‘He was a complete teacher equally at home in the disciplines of Bach or Schoenberg. He particularly loved Bach. His teaching methods encouraged students to realise the reasons for every note that they wrote and every harmony that they produced. He was a genuine inspiration.’
But not all of Seiber’s forays into composition were met with such enthusiasm. When he entered his Serenade for six wind instruments into a composition in Budapest in 1927, for which both Bartók and Kodály were serving on jury, he was denied first prize. Disgusted, Bartók resigned from the jury in protest. It is not difficult to understand Bartók’s position: the Serenade is an elegant work that shows a composer mature beyond his years. Scored for two clarinets, two horns and two bassoons, its three movements present Seiber’s own renderings of different Hungarian folksongs – authentic in their origin, but transformed anew as the subject of this suite of dances. Here, the hallmarks of the ‘Gypsy style’ – such as the florid, improvisatory solo for clarinet in the first movement and the traditional dotted rhythms and syncopations of the opening dance – are given a neoclassical twist, with canonic imitation, rhythmic interplay and sharp textures. A melancholic central movement gives way to an energetic finale – a traditional march that becomes increasingly intricate and syncopated as the movement progresses, eventually bursting out into a triumphant conclusion.
© Jo Kirkbride
Borodin, the illegitimate son of a 62-year-old Georgian prince, was born in 1833, brought up in St Petersburg, and forced to study medicine. He was not really suited to this profession as the sight of blood caused him to faint and, following a short time as a military doctor, became a laboratory assistant, later distinguishing himself as a research chemist.
He began work on Prince Igor in 1869, but he was so busy outside music that it was postponed, though, between 1871 and 1874, he incorporated some of his operatic sketches from the opera in his Second Symphony. When he resumed work on the opera in 1874, the Polovtsian Dances were among the first numbers to be written. However, he never completed the piece and it was left to Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, two of the other members of the 'Mighty Handful' of young Russian composers, to orchestrate the whole opera for its premiere performances in St Petersburg in 1890.
The version you hear tonight has been arranged for orchestral wind by Peter Franks.
© Peter Franks
The SCO’s virtuosic Wind and Brass play music for a summer evening, with Eastern European and Klezmer influences bringing an exotic flavour to the programme. Music from Prokofiev’s wonderfully melodious ballet score Cinderella opens the concert, followed by Mozart’s passionate Serenade in C minor, Borodin’s popular Polovtsian Dances from his opera Prince Igor and the glorious Wind Sextet by Hungarian composer Mátyás Seiber. An enchanting evening of music.
Tickets available from Woodend Barn, Banchory 01330 825431 www.woodendbarn.co.uk