Joseph Haydn was a great innovator: his contributions to the development of chamber music and the symphony are well documented. Here, Sir Simon Rattle pays homage to a composer he holds close to his heart with An Imaginary Orchestral Journey, a “greatest hits” of the most outlandish and forward-looking pieces from Haydn’s extensive and diverse output.

Producer: Andrew Cornall
Balance engineer, audio editor, mixing & mastering: Jonathan Stokes for Classic Sound Ltd
Recording engineer: Neil Hutchinson for Classic Sound Ltd
Recorded: Live in DSD 128fs on 11 & 12 July 2017 at the Barbican Hall, London

Most general histories of music emphasise Joseph Haydn’s achievements as a composer of instrumental works, a pioneer of the string quartet genre, and the so-called ‘father of the symphony’. In short, he was one of the most versatile and influential composers of his age.

An Imaginary Orchestral Journey is a sequence that was devised by Sir Simon Rattle for a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Two of the excerpts are from the large-scale oratorios in German with which Haydn crowned his long career during his last years in Vienna. Two more come from a unique sacred orchestral work and an unusual opera. The rest are from symphonies, mostly written for the tiny court orchestra of the Esterházy family at the family’s palace in Eisenstadt and its summer palace of Eszterháza on the remote Hungarian marshes – where, as Haydn famously said, ‘there was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original’.

Some of these works are certainly “original”, from the end of the ‘Farewell Symphony’ – where the players leave the stage one by one during an extended coda (a hint by Haydn to his employer that his musicians were still working when they should have left already for their holiday break) – to his finale from Symphony No 90, where he writes into the music a cunning trap for an audience eager to applaud. Of all of Haydn’s output, though, the most unusual example included here is the Music for Musical Clocks – excerpts from his works for mechanical organ, in which clockwork turns a barrel studded with pins that operate miniature organ pipes. Haydn wrote or arranged a number of pieces for instruments of this type that were constructed by his orchestral librarian, Father Primitivus Niemecz.

Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra revel in this eclectic musical collection by Haydn the musician, composer, innovator, and pioneer.

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