B flat major
Sinfonien um 1775/76
Herausgeber: Sonja Gerlach und Wolfgang Stockmeier; Reihe I, Band 8; G. Henle Verlag München
Symphony No. 68 in B flat major
The opening Vivace begins with a smooth, flowing 3/4 theme, which predictably becomes more vigorous later on, leading eventually to a 'second theme' that it would be criminal to hear without laughing aloud. The development seems uneventful, until by tonal sleight of hand Haydn slides into the recapitulation before we are aware of it. The end of the movement considerably expands the tonally off-centre closing theme.
For the last time in his symphonic career (the few other examples are all much earlier), Haydn places the minuet in second position, the slow movement third. The former adopts a rustic air, with four-square phrasing and simple texture, while the trio wears its sophistication on its sleeve, with joking upbeat phrases that suggest the trio of the 'Oxford' Symphony.
The Adagio cantabile is arguably the most extraordinary movement in this volume, particularly in its bewildering mixtures of Affekt. The opening theme and transition are played almost entirely by muted violins alone; the melody, in the first violins, seems arbitrary, repetitive and directionless. Meanwhile, the second violins proceed in unbroken, almost mechanical semiquavers, seemingly dissociated from the ruminative melody above (many will follow Charles Rosen in being reminded of the 'Clock' Symphony) except for occasional forte interjections by the full band, on the same semiquaver motif, which however never come just when they 'should'. The effect is at once amusing and disorientating. As the movement proceeds, the rigid distinction between melody and accompaniment becomes more complex, as the expression becomes more serious (though at first never for too long), until, in the widely modulating development, all humour is left behind. Nevertheless, all the discontinuities return in the recapitulation. As a whole, the movement is not easy to 'read'. Are the comic elements 'stagey', or high wit, or a kind of Brechtian Verfremdung (alienation) Do the disparate elements become synthesised into a satisfying whole, or do they remain unintegrated?
No such difficulties of interpretation cloud the rondo finale, as close to pure entertainment as Haydn ever came. The main theme is a raucous, triadic affair; nor do the episodes, for all their attractive variety, essay the bold modulatory or contrapuntal passages Haydn usually offers in this context although one reprise includes a crudely canonic variant of the main theme. In the comic coda, everything is repeated to excess (this is no criticism): a high dominant pedal, dying away; 'echo solo' entries on the main motif, wittily resolving that dominant, for all the instruments in turn; a tremolo wind-up, and altogether 'too many' shouting chords at the close.
Analysis of the movements
Due to the unclear time of origin of most of Haydn’s symphonies - and unlike his 13 Italian operas, where we really know the exact dates of premieres and performances - detailed and correct name lists of the orchestral musicians cannot be given. As a rough outline, his symphony works can be divided into three temporal blocks. In the first block, in the service of Count Morzin (1757-1761), in the second block, the one at the court of the Esterházys (1761-1790 but with the last symphony for the Esterház audience in 1781) and the third block, the one after Esterház (1782-1795), i.e. in Paris and London. Just for this middle block at the court of the Esterházys 1761-1781 (the last composed symphony for the Esterház audience) respectively 1790, at the end of his service at the court of Esterház we can choose Haydn’s most important musicians and “long-serving companions” and thereby extract an "all-time - all-stars orchestra".
|Flute||Franz Sigl 1761-1773|
|Flute||Zacharias Hirsch 1777-1790|
|Oboe||Michael Kapfer 1761-1769|
|Oboe||Georg Kapfer 1761-1770|
|Oboe||Anton Mayer 1782-1790|
|Oboe||Joseph Czerwenka 1784-1790|
|Bassoon||Johann Hinterberger 1761-1777|
|Bassoon||Franz Czerwenka 1784-1790|
|Bassoon||Joseph Steiner 1781-1790|
|Horn (played violin)||Franz Pauer 1770-1790|
|Horn (played violin)||Joseph Oliva 1770-1790|
|Timpani or Bassoon||Caspar Peczival 1773-1790|
|Violin||Luigi Tomasini 1761-1790|
|Violin (leader 2. Vl)||Johann Tost 1783-1788|
|Violin||Joseph Purgsteiner 1766-1790|
|Violin||Joseph Dietzl 1766-1790|
|Violin||Vito Ungricht 1777-1790|
|Violin (most Viola)||Christian Specht 1777-1790|
|Cello||Anton Kraft 1779-1790|
|Violone||Carl Schieringer 1768-1790|
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1970 bis 1974, herausgegeben 1996 Decca (Universal)
Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1987 bis 2001, herausgegeben 1996
Academy of Ancient Music
10 Doppel- und Triple-CDs aufgenommen und herausgegeben 1990 bis 2000 Decca (Universal)