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Joseph Haydn

Combattimento Consort Amsterdam
Jan Willem de Vriend

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Four of the less known baryton works by Joseph Haydn performed by the Combattimento Consort Amsterdam under the direction of Jan Willem de Vriend (also chief conductor of the Dutch Symphony Orchestra).

Hob.X:1, 5 and 12 come from a series of six divertimenti for baryton and a larger ensemble consisting of strings and two horns. The source of Hob.X:10 is unclear, but in In the Entwurf-Katalog the work appears in a version for baryton, viola, cello and double bass.

On May 1 in the year 1761, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) entered into the service of the princes of Esterházy. It was an association that would last nearly 30 years and prove fruitful for Prince Nikolaus I and the composer. Haydn held an enviable position with the Esterházys. To a degree, he had a confidential relationship with Prince Nikolaus, owing in particular to the prince’s unusual hobby: Nikolaus was a passionate player of the baryton. This relative of the viola da gamba was even then uncommon.

Between 1766 and 1775, Haydn wrote more than 125 trios for baryton, viola and cello. He took care that the baryton parts were not all too complicated so that Nikolaus could handle them. Trios were endlessly performed – Haydn generally playing the viola part – sometimes without audience, for Nikolaus’ sole enjoyment, and sometimes in private house concerts.
Haydn also composed a number of pieces for baryton with a larger ensemble. In these, too, Nikolaus played the baryton, but Haydn conducting the ensemble. The roles were reversed, Haydn leading and Nikolaus following.

The pieces that Haydn researcher Anthony Hoboken listed under category X in his catalogue of the composer’s complete works form a part of this music for baryton in ensemble setting. Nos. 1, 5 and 12 come from a series of six divertimenti for baryton and a larger ensemble consisting of strings and two horns. These pieces have almost symphonic traits in their structure and execution, not least because of the highly virtuoso horn parts, proof again that Haydn had excellent musicians at his disposal in the court orchestra. The divertimenti quickly became very popular outside the court, too. In 1781, the Viennese publisher Artaria issued them as Six Divertissements op. 31, with the flute replacing the baryton. Shortly later they were issued as Six symphonies in London. Hob.X:12 is known only from the Artaria edition – in its original form, no autograph or manuscript is known to exist. It is not entirely certain, but nonetheless highly likely that this work was originally composed with the baryton as soloist. In any case, the baryton part can readily be reconstructed from the Artaria edition’s flute part.

The source of Hob.X:10 is unclear. In the Entwurf-Katalog, in which Haydn long kept an account of his compositions, the work appears in a version for winds and another version for baryton, viola, cello and double bass. Here too, the technically demanding horn parts stand out. Also noteworthy is that aside from the baryton, all of the instruments are to be played with mutes.

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