Esterhazy clearly approved of novelty and Haydn was quite
happy to provide it. This can still be appreciated on this
CD, Volume 9 of Thomas Fey’s complete Haydn symphonies
cycle for Hänssler.
and boldly experimental, Symphony 70 has a firecracker
of an opening and a jamboree of a main theme festively
swaggering with trumpets prominent and occasionally the
relief of strings proceeding tiptoe fashion.
comparison for this symphony is drawn from the last cycle
of Haydn symphonies; the one from the Austro-Hungarian
Haydn Orchestra/Adam Fischer (Brilliant 99925), in this
case recorded in 1997:-
looks faster in the first movement but is slower as he
omits the second half repeat, so the bracketed timings
provide the exact comparison. Fischer uses a modern orchestra
whereas Fey’s is a hybrid: he uses period horns and trumpets
and timpani spanned with calfskin. The gain is Fey’s in
terms of sheer blaze of these instruments, while his modern
strings also have a more smiling, charming tone in their
tiptoe passages than Fischer’s. In sum Fey brings more
major turns to D minor for the slow movement which Haydn
terms ‘A type of canon in double counterpoint’ but effect
proves more significant than technique. The strings are
muted and probing and Fey achieves a beautifully intimate,
soft sheen, all gossamery glints and stillness. Slightly
slower than Fischer, his exploration is a touch more serious
in the passages for strings which begin the sections. It
becomes lighter when the wind are added later because his
woodwind play throughout with an airy, open tone. The demisemiquaver
elaboration of the melody (from tr. 2 3:27) is more smoothly
realized than Fischer’s concentration on clarity. Fey’s
second section in D major (5:18) is lighter and more welcoming
than Fischer, who obtains a more winsome effect by using
a solo quartet for the strings-only passages.
Minuet is brash, more of an Allegro molto than the
marked Allegretto, but invigorating, scintillant
sunlight with inbuilt echoing passages, his Trio more airy
and with a folksy melodic ease. Fischer’s Minuet is closer
to Andante, a stately, more traditional affair with
a relaxed but less beamingly melodious Trio. The finale
begins in D minor with the note D heard five times in quick
crotchets with a more leisurely response by the strings
before those Ds are hammered out loud by the tutti.
Then Haydn serves up ‘Three subjects in double counterpoint’ (tr.
4 0:34) with four Ds to start, a mettlesome triple fugue
made really exciting by Fey, particularly the sustained
notes of the trumpets and horns, finishing triumphantly
in D major, in which key the opening five Ds now return.
They seem as though they’ll fade decorously away, like
the slow movement but in fact end in loud fanfare. Above
all Fey reveals the sheer entertainment of the piece complete
with quizzical opening and a fugue flashing fire. To complete
the picture he also provides a teasing close: an unmarked
slowing down of the five Ds a little from 2:59. Fischer’s
fugue is more humane as are his dynamic contrasts. His
reaching D major is less of an event, his ending less toying.
whole of Symphony 73 is rather zany and Fey gets this across.
I compared the 1992 recording by Fey’s mentor, Nikolaus
Harnoncourt conducting the fully period instrument Vienna
Concentus Musicus (Elatus 2564-60033-2):-
Harnoncourt is regal and elegant by turns in the first
movement Adagio introduction, Fey is more expectant,
more shaped. Harnoncourt’s main body Allegro has
greater edge but the equally mettlesome Fey is more tuneful
and assured in the elaborate, fussy but flourishing theme.
His tuttis have greater bounce and the horns’ bite
is more marked, their sustained notes add excitement to
the development; they produce a superb cadential trill
in the repeat (tr. 5 7:51).
the slow movement Haydn uses his song Gegenliebe (Mutual
Love), by turns charming, ardent, clouded. Harnoncourt
begins in a veiled, coy manner, underplaying the dynamic
contrasts but incorporating subtle variations of tempo.
Fey’s approach is more direct and clearly moulded. He gives
increased emphasis to the pauses and at 2 provides a violin
solo interpolation, adding intimacy and pathos before a
sunnier, then keenly concentrated, almost visionary mood
is dispelled by contentment.
Minuet Fey takes Allegretto, as marked, and makes
a dance-like Peasants’ Merrymaking. The comedy here comes
from the heightened impetus of the displaced first beat
as the violins have the second and third beats of the first
two bars after a chord from all the other instruments.
Fey’s Trio, at the same tempo, pitches a swinging oboe
solo over a merrily cavorting bassoon. Harnoncourt brings
out the eccentric phrasing but takes the Minuet as if Andante and
then speeds up for the Trio. Unlike Fey he makes the Minuet
repeats in the da capo so my bracketed timings above
make the exact comparison. The hunt finale which gives
the symphony its name Fey makes more of an uninhibited
romp than Harnoncourt, with a more breathtaking pace, suiting
its Presto marking, and sheer joie de vivre. Fey
also points up the first phrase of the passages of hunting-calls
by flaunting them a little more slowly before picking up
the tempo, an unmarked but effective procedure.
slow introduction to Symphony 75 begins with an arresting ff chord
on the strings before a soft, warm conciliatory response
also by the strings. This happens again, with the response
extended the second time. I thought Fey was tempering the
chords a little but this is just to make the impact of
the tutti ff chord next the more shattering. And
this is preparation for the tutti responses to the
strings’ energetic opening gambit in the Presto main
body of the movement (tr. 9 1:29). The period trumpets
here are of an incendiary nature, to invigorating effect.
The development (3:17) skilfully plays in turn with the
opening phrase of the first theme and the three rising
notes that conclude it before a stately strings’ version
of the phrase is decked out in regal scoring. Fey shows
how Haydn gets the maximum impact from the minimum of material.
Here are the comparative timings of Fischer’s 1998 recording:-
the first movement Fischer omits the second half repeat
so bracketed timings above provide the exact comparison.
His introduction is more dance-like but less measured in
the strings’ response, taking 1:08 against Fey’s 1:25.
Fischer’s opening tutti is less explosive, his Presto less
slow movement is marked Poco Adagio in the Universal
urtext but is also headed Andante con variazioni in
many sources and on Fey’s CD. He gives it a persuasive
warm flow with stylish, discreet added ornamentation in
the repeats and equally well-judged slight tempo fluctuations
which make the whole experience a continually evolving
one. Variation 1 (tr. 10 1:36) elaborates the melody on
first violin and in the repeat of the second section a
violin solo is sensitively interpolated. Variation 2 (3:22)
is livelier, begun by the wind to which the violins’ response
is at first jolly, then neat. Variation 3 (4:40) places
the theme in a gentle strings’ backcloth with a cello solo
in running semiquavers in the foreground. In Variation
4 (6:08) semiquavers in the second violins make a breezily
murmuring accompaniment to the theme sustained by the other
instruments in a particularly serene, beaming manner. Fischer’s
approach to this movement is also flowing yet more ingenuous,
with repeats unchanged, a more emotive Variation 3 and
calmer, more summative Variation 4.
the Minuet Fey shows more impetus and joy than Fischer’s
more portly manner. Fey’s Trio’s duet for flute and violin
is a little cheekier than Fischer’s perkiness. If you wondered
why there’s a pause in the Minuet’s second section before
the main theme returns, in the da capo Fey makes
it a slot for a jaunty improvised timpani solo. This is
fun which is in keeping with the spirit of the whole movement.
finale is all about expecting the unexpected. A relaxed
rondo sets out a confident continuous weave in the violins
but the tutti first episode (tr. 12 0:41) is a kind
of distorted mirror image with alarming trumpet flashes.
The return of the rondo is fleshed out in a more positive tutti but
then goes into frenetic mode before stopping in mid-air.
The coda is set up as a sotto voce farewell but
suddenly there’s a closing blaze of sound. Fey’s contrasts
are starker and more dramatic than Fischer’s and he also
makes more contrast in tone by using a solo quartet of
strings at 1:42 and solo violin at 2:30. This is a symphony
that well illustrates Mozart’s comment, “There’s no one
who can do it all except Joseph Haydn.”
takes risks, provides variety and an element of showmanship,
but all intelligently applied, to create the most vibrant
Haydn performances I’ve heard for a long time.