The Esterházy princes’ love of hunting prompted their ‘house composer’ Joseph Haydn to make extensive use of the horn. At the time, this was still the hand horn (Waldhorn), limited to ‘natural’ harmonics, since it did not yet have valves. Between 1761 and 1790 there were a total eighteen horn players in princely service, but no trumpeters! So, in his Symphony no.48 of 1769, for example, Haydn used the horns as ‘replacement trumpets’, instructing them to play an octave higher than usual. The horns strike a flamboyant note in Haydn’s symphonies, which is probably why an anonymous copyist of no.59 dubbed it the ‘Fire’ Symphony. The Symphony no.31 ‘Horn Signal’ (1765) gives its name to this thirteenth volume in the Haydn2032 Edition. The four horns ring out majestically and the musicians of Il Giardino Armonico perform this music in their characteristically impetuous style, under the fiery direction of Giovanni Antonini.
CD OF THE MONTH by the German Magazin RONDO 1/2023, review by Guido Fischer
Sinfonien Nr. 31, 48, 59
(Haydn 2023, Voi. 13 – “Hornsignal”)
••••• Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini
Alpha/Note 1 (80 Min., 4/2021)
In the opening Allegro of his Symphony No. 31, the four horns really get going from the first bars onwards, soaring like a clear-as-a-bell beam to lofty heights as if it were the most natural thing in the world. In the finale, in the variation movement on a dreamlike evening theme, the horns now strike a completely different, softly sung note – before the concluding Presto brings the fanfare of the beginning once more in a surprising circular conclusion, this time as a finale. But that was how it was with Haydn the symphonist. With him, there was no instrument that he could not breathe new and varied life into with imagination, wit and esprit. Which is why he even dared to entrust the very last variation as a soloist to a true humming bird – the double bass! double bass!
However, this symphony owes its nickname, “With the Horn Signal”, to the characterful of this brass instrument – which is also used in both of the other in the other two symphonies, No. 48 “Maria Theresia” and No. 59 “Fire Symphony”. Sometimes rocket-like and impetuous, sometimes with a wink, when the horns burst unexpectedly into the beautiful lyrical mood. With the symphonic Haydn, there’s always something to be experienced. Especially thanks to the great Italian original sound team Il Giardino Armonico, which, under the direction of chief Giovanni Antonini, gives the steadily growing complete recording of all Haydn symphonies not only from racy to Iitherian, this is yet another gob-smacking, astonishing and blissful
and blissful sequence. With this 13th Haydn album, this number becomes a very special lucky number.
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
Haydn’s horns shine bright in this set of symphonies
Misha Donat is suitably stirred by this latest chapter in Giovanni Antonini’s ambitious recording cycle
Haydn 2032, VoL. 13 – Horn Slgnal: Symphony No. 31 (‘Horn Signal’); Symphony No. 48 (‘Maria Theresia’); Symphony No. 59 (‘Fire’) Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini
Alpha Classics ALPHA692 80:18mins
Giovanni Antonini’s on going cycle of the complete Haydn symphonics is organised into themes, and this latest instalment lakes its tille from the ‘Horn Signal’ nickname of Symphony No. 31, with its prominent horn parts. The Symphony begins with a fanfare for all fourplayers which returns at the close of the finale, making this an early instance of cyclic form. The slow movement is a serenade-like piece, with the horns joined by a solo violin; and the finale’s variations include one which again has some virtuoso horn writing. Haydn’s spectacular high-flying horn writing is, in fact, a feature of all three symphonies here. The instruments were essentially a substitute for trumpets, which Haydn didn’t have in his orchestra at Esterháza, and they lend the sound a special brilliance. ln the case of the ‘Maria Theresia’ Symphony No. 48, some sources do have trumpet and timpani parts, but their authenticity is questionable and Antonini wisely doesn’t use them. The ‘Fire’ Symphony No. 59 is more conventionally scored, but musically perhaps more rewarding. Even here, the calm atmosphere of the slow movement is suddenly shattered when a pair of horns erupts into fortissimo fanfare. As always, Antonini coaxes first-class performances from the members of the Giardino Armonico. One or two repeats could perhaps have been foregone: the finale of No. 48 and the first movement of No. 31 both come to such a first conclusion the first time through that it’s curious to go back for the repeat. But this is all stirring stuff, and it’s churlish to complain.