SOLO E PENSOSO
ALONE AND DEEP IN THOUGHT, THROUGH THE LONELIEST FIELDS I TREAD WITH SLOW AND SLUGGISH STEPS (FRANCESCO PETRARCA)
The textual incipit of the aria Solo e pensoso, recorded here, has sent me back again to Haydn’s assertion, the starting point for our previous CD ‘Il Filosofo’, that his isolated situation had prompted him to be original in his music: in this sense we could interpret the ‘loneliest fields’ of Petrarch’s text as Haydn’s paths of compositional experimentation, which, precisely because they were often original and innovative, were not trodden by his contemporaries. But it is above all the melancholic character found in the slow movements of the symphonies recorded here that somehow links them with the spirit of Petrarch’s sonnet. In all of them, the violins are directed to be played with mutes, a technical means of creating a stifled sound that evokes an introspective psychological situation. The silences and suspensions of the Adagio of Symphony no.64, but more especially the broad melodic arches – always piano – and the ‘walking bass’ (‘I tread with slow and sluggish steps’) of its counterpart in Symphony no.4, a small masterpiece from the dawn of Haydn’s symphonic output, seemed to me particularly appropriate to illustrate the composer’s ability to depict in music a situation of alienation and melancholy, an aspect of his œuvre that is perhaps less well known than humour, but which is equally present and often tinged with a subtle vein of irony and disenchantment.