Monday, December 12, 2011

Haydn - Symphony No. 92 ' Oxford '

Symphony 92 by Joseph Haydn is known by the subtitle of 'Oxford' because Haydn conducted the symphony when he was given an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1791.  But Haydn had no time to complete the symphony he meant to play at the ceremony, so he played another which was originally written in 1789 and performed for a Paris concert.  Haydn was 58 years old and this was his first trip outside the Austrian Empire.

Haydn wrote 106 symphonies, his first in 1759 and the last in 1795.  His last 12 were written for two visits to London that Haydn made. His first trip in 1791-1792 saw the English greeting him enthusiastically and Haydn wrote six symphonies and other music that was very popular. By the time he left London in 1792 he was even more famous than when he had arrived.  This prompted him to make another trip to England in 1794-1795, write six more very popular symphonies to even greater acclaim.

In London Haydn had the opportunity to work with and write for a large orchestra. He was used to writing for the small chamber orchestra of his patron the Esterhazy family.  Haydn took full advantage of the opportunity and wrote arguably his most forward-looking symphonies for his London visits.

Symphony 92 was a precursor of the London Symphonies (numbers 93-104). It was also an extension of his expanding of the form that was seen with the six Paris Symphonies (numbers 82-87).  From its slow introduction that leads to the jaunty tunes of the first movement to the giddy last movement, Symphony 92 shows the expertise of a master of the orchestra.