The works for small wind band that you will hear today were referred to as harmoniemusik in the last half of the 18th Century, when Haydn and Mozart were active. Groupings of pairs of wind instruments were commonly employed to perform outdoors in serenades, or indoors as tafelmusik (literally “table music”), that is, dinner music for a special occasion. Pairs of wind instruments commonly included oboes, horns and bassoons, as on this concert; pairs of clarinets could either be added to form an octet, or substituted for the oboes. Flutes, English horns or basset horns could also be added or substituted.

Oboes, horns and bassoons were an integral part of the Classical-period orchestra; for example, Haydn employed them in all of his 100-plus symphonies, except for one, where he substituted two English horns for the oboes. In the Classical symphony, the wind band would play a number of functions: they would often play chordal harmonies (thus the term harmoniemusik) while the strings performed melodic acrobatics; individual wind players or groupings might suddenly play solos; or the wind band would be called upon to play harmoniemusik-inspired passages, as in Haydn’s “Military” Symphony No. 100, Mozart’s opera Abduction from the Seraglio or his piano concertos, or the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Perhaps the best-known piece of harmoniemusik is the “Chorale St. Antonii” that Brahms attributed to Haydn, and that serves as the basis of his orchestral work Variations on a Theme of Haydn.

The three harmoniemusik works on today’s program were written by Haydn and Mozart early in their careers, as music that served specific functions: to serenade or as diversions for their employers, perhaps to help them forget the cares of their daily affairs and to relax around the dinner table. As such, they were designed to please, to be simple and direct (or “innocent,” in the words of musicologist Alfred Einstein).

Haydn’s Divertimento (or Feld-Parthie, literally, “field party”) in C Major seems to have been written in 1760 or 1761, just prior to the time that his Bohemian patron, Count Morzin, had to disband his little band due to financial problems, and just before Haydn went into the service of Prince Esterhazy of Hungary, where he would remain part of the court for most of the remainder of his creative life. Haydn had begun writing symphonies shortly before he composed this and six other similar serenades; in this harmoniemusik we can see in miniature some of the hallmarks of the budding genius that would shape our concept of the symphony. Unlike the symphony, though, this brief divertimento is in “arch” form, with fast outer movements, and two minuets (dances) bracketing a central adagio.

Mozart composed six divertimenti for the combination of pairs of oboes, horns and bassoons, all between 1775 and 1777; he produced many other divertimenti and serenades for various instrumentation, all early works. Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein characterizes these as

written for summer nights under the light of torches and lamps, to be heard close by and from afar; and it is from afar that they sound most beautiful. Mozart remembered such sounds of wind-instruments in Don Giovanni and in Così fan tutte, in the former as table music, in the latter as garden music.

–Alfred Einstein, Mozart: His Character, His Work, translated by Arthur Mendel and Nathan Broder, (New York, 1945), p. 201.

These two Mozart divertimenti are interesting in certain respects. The F Major Divertimento (No. 13, K. 253) begins with a leisurely theme and variations, rather than the customary allegro, while the E-flat (No. 12, K. 252) opens with a stately andante, with the third movement a polonaise, a Polish dance.

Perhaps this harmoniemusik, while pretending to be profound, is nonetheless pleasing and beautifully crafted, and we hope it provides you not only with an insight into the oeuvre of two of our favorite composers, as well as a perfect diversion for Mother’s Day.

© 2008 George Riordan

Although Franz Josef Haydn was not the first composer to write for an ensemble consisting of two violins, viola, and violoncello, he is generally acknowledged to be the “Father of the String Quartet” just as he is the “Father of the Symphony.” In the course of his long and productive career, Haydn produced no less than sixty-eight works for the combination, and in the process he established it as the preeminent type of chamber music and as the ultimate test of a composer’s craft.

Haydn’s first music for a quartet of strings were his first published works, Opus 1 and Opus 2 in 1762. These early works are more like divertimenti, light and pleasing works for entertainments in noble or wealthy houses. (About his Opus 3 quartets there will be more below.) But with the publication of his Opus 9 set in 1769, he codified the format which became the standard for not only the string quartet but also the symphony: four movements with a fast opening movement in sonata-form and lively final movement, surrounding a slow movement (often theme-and-variations) in a contrasting key and a minuet-and-trio. He also composed for the ensemble in such a way that the four instruments became equal partners in the unfolding of the music, through the interplay of motives and themes passed from one part to another—rather than having a single dominant melodic part (the first violin) merely accompanied by the other three, as one finds in lighter genres. It was this polyphonic web of equal voices that elevated the quartet from a purveyor of pleasant background music to the vessel for a composer’s most serious thoughts, requiring from its audience in turn the most serious listening.

Nevertheless, Haydn being who he was, even his most serious compositional efforts are invariably filled with good humor and sharp wit. (Perhaps it is these very characteristics that have caused later artists and thinkers, like those of the Romantic and our own post-Romantic modernist times, who can only associate profound art with anguish and neurosis but never with humor and wit, to overlook Haydn’s profound importance in the development of Western music.)

The two string quartets that make up Haydn’s Opus 77 are the last completed instrumental compositions from the master’s hand. After he returned from the second of his trips to London in 1795, having completed the last of his symphonies, Haydn devoted the remaining years of his life primarily to vocal and choral music. These are the years that witnessed the composition of the six great Masses for the princely chapel at Esterhaza and the two oratorios, The Creation (completed in 1798) and The Seasons (completed 1801). At the same time that he was working on The Creation, Haydn was composing his six quartets Opus 76 completed 1797 and published 1799). Concurrently with work on The Seasons he was asked by the music-loving nobleman Prince Lobkowicz to compose a set of three string quartets. By 1799 Haydn had completed two, but feeling the pressure of advancing age he went ahead with publication in 1802 of the incomplete set (he was, after all, 70 years old by that time; eventually the unfinished third quartet was also published, separately, with the opus number 103).

This same prince, Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowicz, was also one of Beethoven’s greatest supporters. Beethoven dedicated his first set of string quartets to him—in fact, Beethoven was composing his Opus 18 quartets at the very same time that Haydn (his former teacher) was creating his last two sets of quartets. The compositions for quartet of both teacher and pupil were almost certainly premiered by the same ensemble, Prince Lobkowicz’s quartet led by Ignaz Schuppanzigh, in the same palace and before the same listeners. It was in this same palace that four years later, in 1806, Beethoven would turn the musical world upside-down with his third symphony, the “Eroica.”

Haydn’s Quartet in F, opus 77 no. 2, opens with fast movement in sonata-form. The exposition seems typically elegant, but in the central development section Haydn explores the far reaches of harmonic modulation, going into the dark corners that are usually associated with Beethoven. The return of the calm warmth of F major in the Recapitulation is so different from the wanderings in the Development as to be shocking in itself. The Menuet-and-Trio, which is usually the third movement, here comes second. It is very fast, far to fast to be danced, and in its irregular and unexpected accents as well as its speed it anticipates the Scherzo movements of Beethoven.

The third, slow movement is in the form of theme-and-variations. The theme is stated very austerely at first, no more than a melody for the violin accompanied only by a bass-line in the cello. Thereafter, each member of the quartet is given a chance to carry the main melody: in one variation the viola soars above both violins, and in another the cello is given the melody in the alto range while the viola becomes the bass voice and the second violin becomes the tenor. One very remarkable feature of the slow movement is that it is in D major, a third away from the main key of F of the other three movements—such a movement would ordinarily have been in C or B-flat. As a result of this bold departure from normal practice, there is another shocking moment when the final chord of the third movement, with its F-sharp, is succeeded by the F-major chord which begins the final movement.

When Haydn was only in his early thirties, around 1772-74, he was already recognized as the foremost composer of his generation. This meant that unscrupulous publishers often sold music under his name that he had never composed—probably never even seen or heard. One such fraudulent publication was a collection of six string quartets that appeared in 1774 as Haydn’s Opus 3. An examination of the plates from which the publication was printed reveals that the name of the actual composer had been scraped off and Haydn’s name engraved in its place. It has since been ascertained that the actual composer was a German-born monk, Roman Hoffstetter. Hoffstetter was a known admirer of Haydn’s music and had obviously studied it seriously. The “Serenade” is the slow movement of the best-known of this set of quartets, which was incorrectly cataloged as Opus 3 no. 5 in the list of Haydn’s works. This list was supposedly reviewed and approved by Haydn in the last years of his life; it is not sure that he actually examined the list in detail, and even if he did, considering the huge amount of music he produced in a career over 50 years in length, we can hardly fault him if he let this one slip by. But the engaging qualities of Hoffstetter’s music is not diminished in the slightest by having his name rightly restored to it.

©2008 Daniel Pyle