FRIDAY, November 6, 2020 – 8:58 AM
(When i started listening carefully to all the London Symphonies, I noticed that some have nicknames, and some don’t. I assumed those with nicknames are a bit special, and those without less so. This turned out to be spectacularly wrong. I also figured the last symphonies would be best. I did not know anything about Haydn. I did not realize how quickly these 12 symphonies were written. Finally, after making posts for each one, I decided to reverse course, starting with No. 93, then I began adding nicknames, for those that have none. My idea was to tag them for myself, so for this one I’m using “Toscanini’s favorite, since it was.)
Symphony No. 99 in Eb major, age 61
It’s the 1st of the second set of London symphonies (numbers 99–104) and was written in 1793 in Vienna in anticipation for his second trip. The work was premiered on 10 February 1794 at the Hanover Square Rooms in London, with Haydn directing the orchestra seated at a fortepiano.
- two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons
- two horns, two trumpets
George Szell, live
- 0:01 Adagio – Vivace assai, Eb major
- 9:20 Adagio, G major
- 15:25 Menuetto e Trio – Allegretto, Eb major
- 21:44 Finale – Vivace, Eb major
Once again this starts out with a slow intro, typical for Haydn, and this is quite a long intro. It’s almost two minutes long, which is almost as long as some pop songs. It really explodes with energy once the fast part starts, and in fact I immediately started tapping my foot when I heard the old Toscanini version, below. It was so exciting that I immediately tried to find a modern version with the same virtuoso style. Jochum does not quite do the same thing, but it’s the closest I’ve found so far. So, maybe Toscanini just went very fast, and the composer did not ask for that. But with a marking of “vivace assai”, which literally means “very fast”, I have to think his interpretation was very justified. It’s still my favorite performance, but the sound is so disappointing.
By this time Beethoven was 23 years old. To me this has a lot of the feel of Beethoven, which may be one reason why it was a favorite of Toscanini, who was famous for his Beethoven performances. I assume that Beethoven heard these late symphonies and was impressed.
The change to G major is actually quite unusual. You would expect Ab major, so it’s a bit of a jolt, quite out of the box. It’s one of those really nice double morphs.
Menuetto e Trio – Allegretto, Eb major: This is very energetic, sort of pompous and sort of a place holder between the thoughtful 2nd movement and the fast 4th.
2:44:51 Finale – Vivace, Eb major: This is the 2nd Vivace movement in this symphony, much like the 1st movement. There is tremendous energy, so it’s just terribly easy to listen to and enjoy. Everything is exceptional here, but perhaps most impressive are the winds, which just show off. There is a mock slower and more serious ending, which is fake, before the real ending, which is pure fun.
The sound is old, so I always try to link to more modern recordings, but this performance absolutely explodes with energy. It’s not actually as fast as the time would make it appear. The six minute 1st movement leaves out the repeat of the exposition, very common at the time, but that was often done in studios to save time on “long play” records. This seems to be Toscanini’s favorite since you will not find many famous recordings by him of Haydn. He hits the accents harder than any else, and no one else seems to attack the 1st movement, especially, with such force. And it was also a huge favor of Beethoven, who write it out by hand to study it.