Monday, January 25, 2021

Haydn - Keyboard Concerto No. 11 In D Major

Over his long life Joseph Haydn composed over 1,000 works in all genres. One of the smallest outputs in any genre was the solo concerto, of which there are less than fifty.  His concertos for keyboard contain some of his most popular music, but many are somewhat of a mystery. For one thing, there is disagreement as to how many he wrote, from eleven to as many as twenty five are attributed to him. But there is no question about the Keyboard Concerto In D Major. It has been one of Haydn's most popular pieces since its premiere in Paris in 1784, the success of which caused it to be published shortly after.

Most of the Haydn concertos can be played on harpsichord, organ or piano. Haydn wrote the work at a time where the piano had not yet beat out the harpsichord as the keyboard of choice for concertos, and Haydn himself would rename concertos he originally wrote for harpsichord as being playable by either instrument. This was a way to encourage performances of the works, which in turn led to better music sales, something publishers as well as composers were interested in.

The concerto is scored for pairs of oboes and horns (the first concerto he composed with wind instruments included) as well as the usual compliment of strings.  Modern performances are usually with the piano as the solo instrument. It is in three movements:

I. Vivace - The first movement is in sonata form and as usual practice for the era the orchestra introduces the themes of the movement before the soloist enters. When the soloist enters, the themes are not only played again but are elaborated on. Thus the second part of the exposition is longer than the first part. The development section concentrates on the first theme. The recapitulation repeats the first theme and gives a brief reference to other material from the exposition. Room for a cadenza by the soloist is provided, after which the movement is brought to a close by the orchestra.

II. Un poco adagio -  The strings of the orchestra begins the second movement, the soloist soon enters with a melancholy theme. The strings offer up a subtle accompaniment to the keyboard's aria. There is a cadenza for the soloist, and the strings with woodwinds gently end the movement.

III. Rondo all'Ungarese - Allegro assai -  The movement for which this concerto is most famous, as well as being some of Haydn's most recognizable music. Although the tempo indication calls it Hungarian, Haydn uses a Croation dance tune (there's still; plenty of disagreement about what was the actual area of origin of the tune) as the theme of the rondo. As music of any type of exotic feel (exotic being defined as any music with origins east of Vienna) was a fad at the time, it didn't much matter the source of the theme, but how it was used. It wasn't the first time Haydn used a folk tune in a composition, but it is one of his most successful. After a few repeats of the rondo alternating with episodes of other material, the orchestra and soloist take turns in repeating a fragment of the rondo theme and the movement comes to a close. 

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