Symphony No. 60 in C major ('II distratto')
This work originated as incidental music to a comic play in five acts centring on the eponymously 'absent-minded' hero, Leandre. Notwithstanding hypotheses to the contrary, it is the only Haydn symphony that can be documented as having originated as stage music. This unique status correlates both with its oddities of style and with the fact that it is a six-movement symphony a generic anomaly that in 18th-century Austrian music is found only in overtly programmatic works.5 The first movement served as the overture, the second through fifth as entr'actes, and the last as a kind of 'finale' after the play was over.
Haydn's music occasioned widespread and enthusiastic comment as dramatic illustration. In the present context, only the briefest suggestion of his brilliant treatment is possible.6 For the action, I quote portions of Robert A. Green's synopsis:7
Most of the characters .are associated with the commedia dell'arte and as stock types were immediately intelligible as such to Haydn and the audiences of his day. Clarice and Isabelle are two well-bred young ladies. The Chevalier, Clarice's brother, is that member of the soldier-nobility who carouses, chases women, and who is well-schooled in the arts of the galant. Mme. Grognac is the authoritarian mother searching for a wealthy mate for Isabelle irrespective of her daughter's wishes. The avarice of Mme. Grognac is thoroughly exploited... Lisette and Carlin are the servants whose strengths help them to counterbalance the weaknesses of their masters ...
Léandre, le distrait, is a character-type made famous by his description in Jean de La Bruyère's Les Caractères published in 1688 ...
[He] comes down the stairs, opens his door to go out, then shuts it again; he notices that he is wearing his nightcap; and when he comes to look closer, discovers that he is only half shaved... Another time he pays a call on a lady, and presently convinced that he is the host himself, he settles down in his armchair and makes no attempt to get out of it... He gets married one morning, and has forgotten about it by that evening, and stays away from home on his wedding night.8 The first movement (overture) resembles that to Symphony No. 50, in key, metre, presence of slow introduction, and much else. The one obviously illustrative passage occurs in the second group of the exposition: having landed on a local subdominant, the music tarries there for no fewer than twelve bars, dying away melodically (stuck on a single note), dynamically ('perdendosi'), and
rhythmically: it has literally 'lost its way'. More puzzling is the entry, shortly after the beginning of the development, of the beginning of the 'Farewell' Symphony: is 'Haydn himself here pretending to have lost his way?
In the ensuing Andante, the contrasting themes have been read as portraying the stage-characters themselves: first the placid Isabelle, then the martinet Mme Grognac; then, in the development, a 'French' dance-parody may suggest the dissolute Chevalier whom Isabelle foolishly loves; and so on so easily that it is worth recalling that most of these associations are speculative, even those that derive from the (also speculative) reviews of the 1770s. Listeners are encouraged to make their own.
But it is too tempting to relate the gimmick in the finale to Lèandre's tying a knot in his handkerchief in order not to forget that it is his wedding night. His 'recollection' is represented by the music's suddenly break-ing-off after only a few bars, while the violins tune their lowest string, which they had 'absentmindedly' left on F, up to G.
Minuet and Finale in C
This pair of movements survives in a partial, undated autograph now in Berlin.9 Haydn apparently composed them in 1773-74, in order to 'complete' the two-movement overture to L'infedeltà delusa into a four-movement symphony (as he certainly did to produce No. 50). Indeed, two sources that he sold to Spain actually transmit such a symphony. Later, however, he separated these components out again, selling the overture to Artaria, who published it as one of a set of six in 1782, and temporarily using the finale (not the minuet) in a preliminary version of Symphony No. 63. The latter, however, was almost immediately replaced by the definitive finale (see Volume 10).10 Thus the combination of overture and minuet+finale as a symphony proved to be temporary, and in fact scholars and performers have so far continued to regard these two movements as a fragment.
In style they are both closely related to the equivalent movements of No. 50; both are splendid examples of Haydn's 'C major' mood in the early 1770s. The minuet makes great play with apparently conventional material, ending each half with a perky upbeat motive, while the trio astonishes with its many different harmonisations of a simple two-bar motive and a completely unexpected turn to the minor at the end. The prestissimo finale is a compact, driving movement with constant quaver motion. At the very beginning, a three-'hammerstroke' motive alternates with a simple, six-note upward-scale motive and a more cantabile theme; virtually the entire movement is developed out of these three scraps. Particularly inventive is the development, where Haydn discovers all manner of surprising harmonic twists for the hammerstrokes, now in regular alternation with the other ideas.
|II. Andante 2|
|III. Menuetto E Trio|
|V. Adagio (Di Lamentatione)|
|VI. Finale, Prestissimo|
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1970 bis 1974, herausgegeben 1996
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Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1987 bis 2001, herausgegeben 1996
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Academy of Ancient Music
10 doppel- und triple-CDs
aufgenommen und herausgegeben 1990 bis 2000
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