B flat major
Londoner Sinfonien, 2. Folge
Herausgeber: Robert von Zahn; Reihe I, Band 16; G. Henle Verlag München
Hob.I:98 Symphony in B Flat Major
Symphony No. 98 was composed in 1792 during Haydn’s first stay in London and performed for the first time there in the Hanover Square Rooms on 2 March 1792 in the scope of the third Salomon Concert of the season. This composition enjoyed an extraordinary degree of popularity during Haydn’s lifetime. The original score, temporarily in the ownership of Beethoven, then the Prussian State Library in Berlin, is now in a Russian collection. In the first movement Haydn attempts to integrate the slow introduction more firmly into the overall context of the first movement than before: the introduction begins in B-flat minor with a common chordal theme played first in separate, then in slurred notes and turns out to be the principal theme of the main vivace segment. Using both articulative variants of the theme, this segment extends far beyond everything Haydn demonstrates of compositional elegance, contrapuntal skill and combinational capacity in earlier symphonies (including the Paris Symphonies), and does so in the most unassuming of ways, as one can imagine. The second movement begins in a choral fashion with two lines of verse reminiscent of God Save the King. The passages which follow are a very distinctive paraphrase of a segment from the slow movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. This movement was correctly viewed as music of mourning for the death of Mozart: when in London in 1791 he learned of Mozart’s death Haydn wrote in a letter: “For some time I was quite beside myself over his death, and could not believe Providence would summon the life of such an irreplaceable man to the other world so soon.” After a surprisingly robust Alpine minuet, at the end of the fourth movement there is an unexpectedly small solo passage for the harpsichord, that is, for the composer of the work himself. (Today it is no longer common to perform Haydn’s London Symphonies as had occurred at the Salomon Concerts, namely, with the harpsichord obligato and with the composer himself at the instrument, not always “playing along” but issuing his directives from there). Yet this “self-staging” of the composer at the end of the work is a subtle musical “gag,”: the final movement, in type one of Haydn’s “hunting” finales, runs 327 bars in the most fast-paced six-eight time until its “formal” end, the second repeat sign, not allowing any sixteenth note passages due to the tempo. At this point the orchestra makes a rhetorical pause and in a clearly more leisurely tempo in “piu moderato” continues with the main theme, whose eight notes now sound highly calculated and artificial. An explicitly intended great crescendo of the entire orchestra leads to another general pause – or “colon,” after which the conductor, now sitting at the harpsichord, comes in with his instrument, accompanying the rest of the work with simple sixteenth notes figures, and brings the symphony to an end. Does this have something to do with the self-persiflage of the composer-conductor? Does the orchestra show its conductor reverence in such a way that it takes the passages in which he wants to demonstrate his skill at the harpsichord at a more leisurely tempo so “Papa Haydn” himself is able keep up with the tempo? The orchestra’ somewhat marionette-like convulsive “final bows” would suggest this. There are in any case no reports as to whether the audience gave a hearty laugh at the end of the work at Hanover Square.
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".
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1970 bis 1974, herausgegeben 1996 Decca (Universal)
Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1987 bis 2001, herausgegeben 1996