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Donald Macleod explores a hugely successful episode in Haydn's life, his London years. Today, Haydn appears in no hurry to return to London as he settles back into Viennese life.

Donald Macleod explores a hugely successful episode in Haydn's life, his London years. Today, Haydn appears in no hurry to return to London as he settles back into Viennese life.

Haydn's extended stay in London through 1791 to the summer of the following year had been made possible by the death of his employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. Esterházy's son, Prince Anton, lost no time in dismantling the elaborate and costly musical establishment his father had spent the previous two-and-a-half decades assembling, leaving Haydn - almost - fancy-free. 'Almost' because as a condition of receiving his pension, Haydn remained, at least nominally, the Eszterháza Kapellmeister. So when Prince Anton yanked at the leash, requiring his Kapellmeister's presence at the coronation of Francis II as Holy Roman Emperor in Frankfurt in July 1792, Haydn had no option but to pack his bags and go. Thereafter, the plan seems to have been that he would head back to Vienna, perhaps spending a little time at Eszterháza before returning to London for the 1793 season. This certainly seems to have been the assumption of the London impresario, Johann Peter Salomon, who began advertising his third annual series of Haydn-centric concerts at the Hanover Square Rooms from December 1792. When January came and his star failed to appear, Salomon made his apologies, claiming the composer was so seriously indisposed by a troublesome nasal polyp that surgery would be required. Whatever the source of this face-saving fiction, the truth is probably that Haydn was finding plenty to occupy himself with on his home turf; and in any case, from the 21st of January 1793, travel became much riskier in the febrile atmosphere following the execution of Louis XVI. One of the tasks on Haydn's current agenda was the tuition of a promising new student by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven, whom he took with him to Eszterháza. He also had ample time to compose, blissfully free from the relentless pressure of his previous London season, for which he had had to produce a new work for every concert. So when he eventually set off for London again in the middle of January 1794, traversing war-torn Europe in one of the coldest winters in living memory, he at least had the warm glow of knowing that accompanying him in his trunk were the manuscripts of six brand new string quartets - Opuses 71 and 74 - and what would become one of his best-loved symphonies, No 99 in E flat.

12 Menuetti di ballo, Hob IX:11; No 5 in C
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano

String Quartet in C, Op 74 No 1 (Hob III:72)
Takács Quartet

Symphony No 99 in E flat, Hob I:99
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Joseph Haydn

    12 Minuetti da ballo H.9.4: No 5 in C

    Performer: Ronald Brautigam.
    • BIS BISCD1323/24.
    • BIS.
    • 5.
  • Joseph Haydn

    String Quartet in C major Op.74`1

    Ensemble: Takács Quartet.
    • HYPERION CDA67781.
    • HYPERION.
    • 1.
  • Joseph Haydn

    Symphony No. 99 in E flat major H.1.99

    Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
    • Teldec : 2292-46331.
    • Teldec.
    • 5.

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