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Imperial Haydn: Concert Report Essay

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Updated: Jun 16th, 2021

Introduction

On November 17, I attended a concert at Lincoln Center. The performing media was the American Classical Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Crawford. The orchestra is known for its dedication to the repertoire of the 17th, 18th, and 19th-century composers (“About”). The program included three performances: Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 53 in D major and Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major and Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda’s Symphony No. 5 in B minor.

The Description of the Selections Performed

Haydn’s Symphony No. 53 in D major, also known as “L’Impériale,” was created in the late 1770s, when he moved to London. It was the composer’s first symphony after the Sturm und Drung series. The origin of the symphony’s nickname is not known, but there is an opinion that it was performed during the imperial court’s state visit to the Esterhazy castle in Kittsee, Hungary (Lincoln Center: Playbill n.p.). Unlike the composer’s previous works, Symphony No. 53 has a pleasant disposition and sounds very optimistic.

Another piece by Haydn, Sinfonia Concertante in B-flat major, was composed and first performed in 1792, in London. The genre of this performance concerns the work of more than one soloist with orchestra (Lincoln Center: Playbill n.p.). The group of soloists is made up of bassoon, oboe, cello, and violin. In the American Classical Orchestra, the solos were performed by Andrew Schwartz, Marc Schachman, Myron Lutzke, and Aisslinn Nosky, respectively.

Kalliwoda’s Symphony No. 5 in B minor was first presented to the public around 1840. The piece involves two oboes, two flutes, two bassoons, two clarinets, two trumpets, two horns, timpani, bass trombone, and strings (Lincoln Center: Playbill n.p.). The symphony opens with lento brass fanfares leading to an unhurried introduction with fluid tonality. The first, second, and third movements are allegro con brio, allegro vivace scherzo, and allegretto grazioso, respectively. Kalliwoda’s Symphony No. 5 is a brilliant example of the composer’s orchestration abilities.

The Composition I Liked Best

Although all of the presented performances were fantastic, I must admit that I was particularly amused by Kalliwoda’s Symphony No. 5. The historical style of this piece is romantic, and it could be felt throughout the entire length of the performance. Probably the most impressive feature for me was the symphony’s instrumentation. Undoubtedly, it was closely connected with tempo and melody, but it was the combination of instruments that attracted my attention most of all. The variety of woodwind family instruments made the music sound so elated and solemn, so bright and distinct, and so pure and strong. It is impossible to single out one part of the symphony that stirred my emotions most of all. Everything about the piece was marvelous, and nothing could distract my attention during that performance.

The allegro con brio main body started with a stormy structure without any preparation. The fanfares sounded so sonorous as if there was some royal person approaching, everyone standing in awe and awaiting. Of course, no one in the audience was standing, but the feeling was quite close to that. The music then moved at a little slower pace, allowing for the inner thoughts and apprehensions to fade away and leave space only for admiration and inspiration. The varying tempo gave the performance a particular air, making it unpredictable and impressive at all times.

In the second movement, which was allegro vivace scherzo, I particularly loved violins. They were very tender and melodic, reminding of a flock of very quick little birds flying around on a spring day. Then, other instruments joined, and the second movement became a true feast for ears, with prominent horn calls and echoing melodies. The Allegretto grazioso third movement was not slow, as it used to be in the majority of the 17th-19th-century symphonies.

Kalliwoda arranged his third movement as a major key, with a long-lasting violin melody. The transition to rondo, as well as it was in the case with the first movement, did not have any introduction. The final measures of the whole orchestra sounded exuberantly triumphant.

Additional Comments About the Music, Performers, and the Environment

No matter what brilliant work a composer creates, it may remain unnoticed if it is not played well. Without any doubt, the American Classical Orchestra brought about the best in Kalliwoda’s symphony by its fantastic and talented work.

Although every musician had their role and separate keys, they all acted as a single organism. The orchestra seemed to be breathing in and out together, no allowing any minute detail to distract the audience from the message passed through music. The environment was also very festive, both performers and the audience being well-dressed and in an elated mood. The atmosphere added to the fantastic music by making the evening very positive and unforgettable.

A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Composer

Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda was born in 1801, in Prague, Bohemia (now ― Czech Republic). As a boy, he excelled in violin and was enrolled in the Prague Conservatory (Stevenson). At the age of 15, he started working for the orchestra in the Stravovske Theater. During that period, the orchestra’s conductor was Carl Maria von Weber, and critics noticed that Kalliwoda’s music indicated some of Weber’s impact (Stevenson). In 1822, the composer accepted the position of a kapellmeister in Donaueschingen (Lincoln Center: Playbill n.p.). There, Kalliwoda composed for the choir and orchestra and conducted them both.

After a major fire of 1856, the theater was destroyed, and in two years, Kalliwoda retired to Karlsruhe. During his life, Kalliwoda composed over 450 works, paying thorough attention to each instrument in the orchestra (Lincoln Center: Playbill n.p.). Robert Schumann liked Symphony No. 5 so much that he devoted his Intermezzi, Op. 4 to Kalliwoda. The composer’s style was mature romanticism with expressive orchestration and complex harmonies, which made his works full of magnificence and splendor.

Conclusion

Attending the performance by the American Classical Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Crawford had a great effect on me. The atmosphere of that evening, the music, the instruments, and the aura made the performance unforgettable. The musicians performed three pieces, two of which were by a famous composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, and one of which was by a less known musician, Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda.

Although all of the three works were magnificent, I was most touched by Kalliwoda’s symphony. The talent of the conductor and musicians made the performance truly impressive, the audience finding themselves in a state of reverie. The variety of techniques and instruments helped to express the composer’s ideas. The whole evening was full of splendor, and I am grateful to the American Classical Orchestra for its amazing performance.

Works Cited

“About.” American Classical Orchestra, n.d. Web.

Lincoln Center: Playbill. Lincoln Center, 2018.

Stevenson, Joseph. “AllMusic, n.d. Web.

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