Pentatone offers a new recording of three of Franz Joseph Haydn’s symphonies, numbers 53, 64 and 96.
Symphony No. 53, known as “The Imperial,” was composed during the period in which the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) style was popular in German music and literature. The style is characterized by minor keys, agitated tempos and unusual melodic structures. Symphony No. 53, by contrast, is a bright and brilliant symphony which scholars propose was written in response to a request by Haydn’s patron to move away from the Sturm und Drang style. The symphony received the nickname “Imperial” because it was premiered during an imperial visit to the Esterházy estate.
Symphony No. 64 received its nickname, “Tempora Mutantur,” from Haydn himself. The name is derived from a John Owen epigram: “Times are chang’d, and in them chang’d are we. How? As they become worse, so do we.” The nickname and atypical musical themes in the piece suggest that it may have originally been written as incidental music for a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and later adapted into a symphony.
The final selection on the album, Symphony No. 96, is known as “The Miracle.” The “Miracle” symphony was the first that Haydn wrote during his first trip to London; it received its name as the result of an incident that took place during its premiere. After the performance had concluded, a chandelier in the hall collapsed, but the audience was “miraculously” spared from harm because they had rushed the stage to applaud the symphony.
All three symphonies on this album are performed by the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Carlos Kalmar. Kalmar will be on the campus of Interlochen this summer to conduct the World Youth Symphony Orchestra.