Jonathan Biss Timo Andres Premiere
Sunday July 10, 2016 4:30pm

Jonathan Biss, Artist-in-Residence, piano

with Joshua Weilerstein, conductor & Orchestra of St. Luke's

Overview

Artist-in-Residence Jonathan Biss joins Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the superb young conductor Joshua Weilerstein for a program of musical responses and reactions. Asked to respond to Beethoven’s Concerto No. 2 for the first commission of Biss’ multi-year Beethoven/5* project, composer Timo Andres says of The Blind Banister, presented here in its New York premiere, “I started writing my own cadenza to Beethoven’s concert, and ended up devouring it from the inside out.” Juxtaposed with Martinu’s Sinfonietta La Jolla, a reaction to the work of Franz Joseph Haydn, suffused with charm in neo-classical style and Haydn’s Symphony No. 98, written in response to the death of Mozart, Andres’ concerto joins a centuries-long conversation of classical reference, reaction, and response.

“With this grand commissioning project,” writes Andres, “Jonathan is demonstrating that it’s possible to think about Beethoven a lot, and simultaneously be a musical instigator of the present day. I think we’re similar in that way—it’s the reason there are few musicians I trust as implicitly as Jonathan. I’m thrilled to be writing my third and largest piano concerto for him, which will be our second collaboration.”

Though some may recall Joshua Weilerstein’s first turn at Caramoor’s podium in 2011 – just 23 and in his first week as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic when he hastily stepped in for Maestro Alan Gilbert, delayed in transit on a flooded parkway – the young conductor makes his first official debut at this performance. Brother of Caramoor’s 2013 Artist-in-Residence, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, Joshua Weilerstein is quickly making a name for himself as one of the symphonic world’s most sought-after young conductors.

“[The Blind Banister is] a captivating work, one that goes from haunting and hopeful to an eventual explosion of energy.” – Pioneer Press

*Beethoven/5 is a series of new works commissioned for Jonathan Biss by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Caramoor and Orchestra of St. Luke’s are co-commissioners of The Blind Banister.

Beethoven  Piano Concerto No.2, Op. 19
Andres  The Blind Banister, Concerto No. 3 (New York premiere)
– Intermission –
Martinu  Sinfonietta La Jolla for Piano and Chamber Orchestra
Haydn  Symphony No. 98 in B-flat Major

Garden ListeningGarden Listening: Introduce your family to Caramoor and enjoy the sounds of the concert from the Picnic Lawns. Tickets $10

Complimentary Garden Listening Tickets for Family Level Members and Above.

We’ll give you a lift! Free Metro-North Katonah Shuttle beginning at 2:30pm supported by  First Niagara Foundation

Jonathan Biss: Jonathan Biss

Jonathan Biss, Artist-in-Residence, piano

Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who shares his deep musical and intellectual curiosity with classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to performing a full schedule of concerts, the 35-year-old American has spent nine summers at the Marlboro Music Festival and has written extensively about his relationships with the composers with whom he shares a stage. A member of the faculty of his alma mater the Curtis Institute of Music since 2010, Biss led the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by a classical music conservatory, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, which has reached more than 100,000 people in more than 160 countries.

This season Biss launches his latest Beethoven project, Beethoven/5, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is commissioning five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s five piano concertos. The five-year plan begins in 2015 in Minnesota, where Biss will play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and the new concerto by Timo Andres that it inspired; the program is repeated later in the season at the Ulster Orchestra, with further performances planned for the following season. In the next four years, Biss will premiere new concertos by Sally Beamish, Salvatore Sciarrino, Caroline Shaw, and Brett Dean, each paired with a Beethoven concerto.

In 2015-16 Biss performs an exciting combination of orchestral works, solo pieces, and chamber music. He appears with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin; the Sydney and Melbourne symphonies; the Philadelphia Orchestra; the BBC Scottish, Atlanta, Lahti, and New Jersey symphony orchestras; the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. He extends his teaching activities beyond Curtis with master classes at universities across the country and an artist-in-residency with the IRIS Orchestra. In addition to solo recitals across the United States and Europe, he tours with the Doric Quartet in the U.S.; performs at Wigmore Hall and the Concertgebouw with Lisa Batiashvili, Antoine Tamestit, and Jean-Guihen Queyras; collaborates on a Schubert project with Inon Barnatan, and plays recitals with his mother, violinist Miriam Fried. At the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society’s 30th Anniversary Gala, Biss plays alongside Richard Goode and the Brentano Quartet.

Biss has embarked on a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, and he reaches the halfway point in early 2016, when he releases the fifth volume. Upon the release of the fourth volume, BBC Music Magazine said, “Jonathan Biss will surely take his place among the greats if he continues on this exalted plane.” His bestselling eBook, Beethoven’s Shadow, published by RosettaBooks in 2011, was the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician, and he will continue to add lectures to his extraordinarily popular online course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, until he covers all of them.

Biss’s Schumann: Under the Influence project was a 30-concert exploration of the composer’s role in musical history. Biss and several hand-picked collaborators performed Schumann’s work in juxtaposition with the music of Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert, Berg, Janacek, and Timo Andres.  As part of the project, Biss recorded Schumann and Dvorák Piano Quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote an Amazon Kindle Single on Schumann, A Pianist Under the Influence. This season, Schumann’s Kreisleriana features on Biss’s recital program, along with Mozart and Schoenberg.

Throughout his career, Biss has been an advocate for new music. Among the works he has commissioned are Lunaire Variations by David Ludwig, Interlude II by Leon Kirchner, Wonderer by Lewis Spratlan, and Three Pieces for Piano and a concerto by Bernard Rands, which he premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has also premiered a piano quintet by William Bolcom.

Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher. At age 20, Biss made his New York recital debut at the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts and his New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur.

Biss has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Leonard Bernstein Award presented at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award. His recent albums for EMI won Diapason d’Or de l’année and Edison awards. He was an artist-in-residence on American Public Media’s Performance Today and was the first American chosen to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program.

For more information, please visit www.jonathanbiss.com.

 

Jonathan Biss: Joshua Weilerstein

Joshua Weilerstein, conductor

Joshua Weilerstein is Artistic Director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and begins his tenure with the orchestra in the 2015/16 season. With a repertoire ranging from Gesualdo to Rouse, he is committed to bringing new audiences into the concert hall and creating a natural dialogue between musicians and their public.

In the 2015/16 season Weilerstein makes debuts with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, Calgary Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, SWR Stuttgart, and Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and will make his Barbican debut when he returns to the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He will also return to the Baltimore, Vancouver, and Danish National Symphony Orchestras; the Royal Liverpool, Oslo, and Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestras; Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, and the Orchestre National de Lyon. With the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Weilerstein goes on tour in Germany, performing in Bremen, Hamburg, Hannover, and Düsseldorf.

Born into a musical family, Weilerstein’s career was launched after winning both the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen. He then completed a three-year appointment as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic, which concluded in the 13/14 season. Since then, he has steadily gained a growing profile in both North America and abroad, including recent guest conducting engagements with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth, and Vancouver; Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, The Florida Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestre symphonique de Québec, and the Aspen Music Festival, among others. In Europe, he has established strong relationships with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Philharmonic, Oslo Phiharmonic, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Swedish Chamber Orchestra. He has also conducted the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestre Berlin, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

Joshua Weilerstein feels that it is essential to have an open communication between the stage and audience. He believes passionately in the relevance of traditional repertoire and is equally passionate about the innovation of contemporary composers. Weilerstein is committed to presenting, whenever possible, at least one piece by a contemporary composer as a complement to more traditional repertoire. Weilerstein believes fundamentally in the importance and value of music education. Wherever the opportunity arises, he will engage directly with his audience speaking from the stage or in pre/post-concert discussions. He was heavily involved in Young People’s Concerts during his time as the Assistant Conductor with the New York Philharmonic, and also served as Concertmaster of Discovery Ensemble, a Boston-based chamber orchestra dedicated to presenting classical music to inner-city schools in Boston. With the Orchestre Chamber de Lausanne, Weilerstein will conduct educational and discovery concerts for children and families. He also established a close link with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar (a product of the famed El Sistema music program in Venezuela) as the ensemble’s first non-Venezuelan guest violinist while still in his teens, and then as conductor in 2010 and 2012. Joshua Weilerstein is always excited to hear from musicians and audiences alike. He is accessible on social media for conversation about the future of classical music, programming, and the experience of concert-going.

About the Music

Ludwig van Beethoven / 1770-1827 / Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 19

Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn, probably on December 16, 1770 (his baptismal certificate is dated the 17th), and died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. He evidently began his B-flat piano concerto before 1793 (though perhaps even earlier, before leaving Bonn) and completed it in 1794-95. Beethoven probably premiered the piece in Vienna on March 29, 1795, though this is not definitely established. He completely revised the work before playing it again in Prague in 1798; only the later version is known today.

Although numbered second in the canon, the B-flat concerto is actually the earliest of Beethoven’s completed piano concertos. Beethoven had gone from Bonn to Vienna in 1792, a twenty-two year old pianist and composer eager to make his mark in a big way. He knew the music of Mozart, who had died the year before, and he learned Haydn’s work as well—at least up to the first six of the “London” symphonies, which Haydn had composed on the successful London journey from which he had just returned. The work of these two composers made its mark on Beethoven, and he showed it in the B-flat piano concerto, written while Haydn was off on his second London journey. The orchestra—which lacks clarinets—probably reflects the practice of Haydn, who came to employ the clarinet regularly only late in his life. And it may also recall Mozart’s last piano concerto, K. 595, which is also in B-flat and (unusually for Mozart) omits trumpets and timpani. The work was evidently completed only just in the nick of time. Beethoven was scheduled to play it on a concert that was part of an annual series of benefits for the widows of members of the Society of Musicians, and he had apparently not had the time to write it all out. His friend Franz Wegeler recalled, “Not until the afternoon of the second day before the concert did he write the rondo.”

When the opportunity arose for a later performance in Prague, he undertook a substantial revision of the score, especially of the first movement. It was this revised version that was ultimately published. But before it appeared in print, Beethoven had composed his C-major concerto, which was a great success at its first performance and was snapped up by a publisher at once. The result was that the second concerto was published as the first (Opus 15), and the earlier work as the second (Opus 19). This fact disgruntled Beethoven, who never lost an opportunity to set the record straight, since he felt that he had made progress between the two works.

Of course, Beethoven never disowned the concerto—he simply felt he had moved beyond it; like every composer, he wanted his most recent work to be heard and appreciated. To many people, Beethoven’s newest works were always terribly difficult; we, on the other hand, are likely to hear them with ears dulled by familiarity and to underrate their originality, especially in the case of the earlier ones. One young Czech musician, Tomaschek, who heard the B-flat concerto in the first performance of its final version, in Prague, commented, “… his frequent daring deviations from one motive to another, whereby the organic connection, the gradual development of idea was broken up, did not escape me… The singular and original seemed to be his chief aim in composition …”

We, on the other hand, are likely to notice the Mozartean trick of combining a forceful and a lyrical idea together in the opening phrase, or the Haydnesque emphasis on rhythmic upbeat ideas, and fail to notice that already Beethoven has an obsession for unexpected changes of harmony. The first of these is signaled in the simplest way—the full orchestra hammers out three repeated C’s fortissimo, followed by an echo, pianissimo, of D-flat. The melody seems about to continue in D-flat, a key very remote from where we just were, until Beethoven quickly engineers a phrase that brings it around to the “right” place. It is true that he may have learned this trick from Haydn, who used it quite frequently, but it became a central element of Beethoven’s musical armamentarium.

The slow movement may not yet show us a Beethoven capable of the most extraordinary profundities, but he is certainly already a master of the art of variation and decoration, which would ultimately lead beyond the facile and the merely pretty to new worlds of expression. When the orchestra plays the conventional 6/4 chord, the usual invitation to a soloist to take off on an elaborate cadenza, Beethoven has, in effect, composed an anti-cadenza by writing just a few notes, leaping up at first and then dropping back in a dying fall, to which he added the note, “with great expression.”

The unusual rhythm of the main theme marks the rondo finale. This movement apparently underwent a good deal of revision for the 1798 performance, and it appears as if the original version had had a far more ordinary form of the rhythm in the main theme. The piano plays this “normal” form of the 6/8 rhythm at one point in the middle of the movement (is that intentional, or did Beethoven forget to revise those bars?)— and there is little doubt that the final version has more spice to it. The rondo plays all sorts of little harmonic and rhythmic tricks on its listeners, with the aim of leaving its listeners smiling. It is a trick that Beethoven has already learned in this first completed concerto.

 

Timo Andres / b. 1985 / The Blind Banister, Concerto No. 3 (New York premiere)

Though born in Palo Alto, California, Timo Andres grew up in rural Connecticut and took part in the pre-college program at The Juilliard School before attending Yale University for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. He made a splash when John Adams conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in his Nightjar, composed in 2008, when he was twenty-three, though by that time he had already composed a large number of works for the piano (his own instrument) or for various chamber music compositions, and he received several awards given to promising young composers—the BMI Student Composer Award in 2004, and the Charles Ives Prize in 2008. His compositional activity since the Los Angeles performance has included an increasing number of larger scores as well as the busy continuing creation of chamber and piano works.

Of The Blind Banister, the composer writes:

There’s an interesting process of distancing that happens after I’ve written a piece; when it’s brand new it feels like an extension of my body, but when a few years have passed, it begins to merge with other music I know well—I almost can’t remember having written it myself. I’m fascinated by composers who feel compelled to revise their work years, or decades, after the fact. Ives did this constantly, returning to add layers of complexity in sedimentary fashion; the two versions of Brahms’s Op. 8 trio encapsulate the difference between promising novice and master.

Beethoven gave his early second piano concerto (“not one of my best,” in his own estimation) a kind of renovation in the form of a new cadenza, 20 years down the line (around the time he was working on the Emperor concerto). It’s wonderfully jarring in that he makes no concessions to his earlier style; for a couple of minutes, we’re plucked from a world of conventional gestures into a future-world of obsessive fugues and spiraling modulations. Like any good cadenza, it’s made from those same simple gestures—an arpeggiated triad, a sequence of downward scales—but uses them as the basis for a miniature fantasia.

My third piano concerto, The Blind Banister, is a whole piece built over this fault line in Beethoven’s second, trying to peer into the gap. I tried as much as possible to start with those same extremely simple elements Beethoven uses; however, my piece is not a pastiche or an exercise in palimpsest. It doesn’t even directly quote Beethoven. There are some surface similarities to his concerto (a three-movement structure, a B-flat tonal center) but these are mostly red herrings. The best way I can describe my approach to writing the piece is: I started writing my own cadenza to Beethoven’s concerto, and ended up devouring it from the inside out.

Solo piano introduces the main theme of the piece—one of those slowly descending scales. It’s actually two scales, one the melody and the other (lagging behind) the accompaniment, creating little rubbing major-second suspensions against each other with every move. This idea is later splayed out and reversed in a rising sequence of loping, two-note phrases. This “Sliding Scale” is presented over and over, forming the basis for movement of continuous variations, constantly revising themselves. Orchestral layers pile up around the scale, building dissonant towers out of those major seconds. One last, long downward scale gathers enough momentum to launch the second movement scherzo, “Ringing Weights.”

Here, the downward scale is transformed into a propulsive motor in solo strings, driving bright cascades of chromatic chords in the solo part.This movement is also made from varying modules, each increasingly elaborate—though this time, each successive module descends a step, the scale theme subverting the structure of the piece, trying to push it inexorably downwards.

The piano works hard to reverse this process in a trio section, trading a stumbling, step-wise melody with gentle orchestral echoes of the ringing chords from the scherzo. As the piano music lurches to its feet, it grows progressively more boisterous, and the steps move faster, whirling themselves into a return of the scherzo material, this time with full orchestra and pounding timpani.

Orchestra suddenly falls away, leaving the pianist to wrestle with the two basic elements of the piece—rising and falling. Arpeggios leap up and over each other, unbound to any meter, vaulting through the harmonic atmosphere before plunging down to the lowest E. As the arpeggios begin to trace more regular patterns, the orchestra drifts back in with another long scale, descending step by step, introducing a richly-harmonized Coda, really a super-compressed recapitulation of the first movement, the piano finally rushing off into an ambiguous future.

The Blind Banister was written for and dedicated to pianist Jonathan Biss.

– Timo Andres

The Blind Banister was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Beethoven/5 is a series of new works commissioned for Jonathan Biss by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Caramoor and Orchestra of St. Luke’s are co-commissioners of The Blind Banister.

 

Bohuslav Martinů / 1890-1959 / Sinfonietta La Jolla for Piano and Chamber Orchestra

Bohuslav Martinů was born in Polička, east Bohemia, on December 18, 1890, and died in Liestal, Switzerland, on August 28, 1959. He composed Sinfonietta La Jolla early in 1950 on a commission from the Musical Art Society of La Jolla, California; the premiere took place in Los Angeles in 1951.

Though he spent most of his life outside his native land, Bohuslav Martinů became recognized as one of the greatest Czech composers of the 20th century. For the first thirteen years of his life he lived in a tower nearly two hundred steps above the streets of the tiny Bohemia town of Polička. It was here, where his father was employed as a towerkeeper, with duties ranging from the care of the church bells to keeping a lookout for fires, that Bohuslav was born. And whether or not the tower years were the cause, he developed a quiet, shy, almost reclusive personality devoted to constant reading and to music. He did not do well in school, and even at the Prague Conservatory, where gifts as a young violinist were evident at once, his studies suffered from the fact that he gave so much of his time up to reading and composition. He was expelled for trying to earn extra money by touring with a country orchestra—students at the conservatory were strictly forbidden to play in public (how times change!).

Composing on his own, by the end of World War I, which he spent working as a music teacher in Polička, he had completed over 120 scores of all types. During five years in the second violin section of the Czech Philharmonic, he continued to compose. The Prague National Theater produced his ballet Istar in 1924, the first of his large-scale works to reach performance. Encounters with the new French music—Debussy, Ravel, Dukas, and Roussel, as well as the Gallicized Russian Stravinsky—in the orchestra convinced him that his own musical path lay in that direction. A performance of Roussel’s Poème de la forêt convinced Martinů that he had to go to Paris. A state grant for three months made the trip possible. He stayed seventeen years and could well have remained for life—but for the outbreak of war. Martinů had written a powerful Double Concerto for two string orchestras, piano, and timpani, as a musical opposition to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, and this naturally made him persona non grata to the Germans. They blacklisted him; for nine months he and his wife wandered in southern France (along with many other refugees). After finding refuge in Lisbon, they finally managed to reach New York in late March 1941. Here he composed six symphonies and many other works, finally returning to Paris in the early 1950s.

The Sinfonietta La Jolla is one of the lighter scores of Martinů’s voluminous output, but one of the most frequently performed. In three compact movements, featuring the piano as an important obbligato instrument, it requires little explication. The modest orchestral forces and the fast-slow-fast pattern, along with the steady rhythmic pulse that is most evident in the fast movements but is also present, in a more subdued way, in the middle movement’s nocturne, makes it a twentieth century equivalent of the Baroque concerto grosso.

 

Joseph Haydn / 1732-1809 / Symphony No. 98 in B-flat major, Hob. 1/98

Franz Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau, Lower Austria, during the night of March 31/April 1, 1732, and died in Vienna on May 31, 1809. He apparently wrote this symphony in London in 1792 and performed it at one of the concerts produced by Johann Peter Salomon during that year. The story of Haydn’s dramatic meeting with the impresario Salomon (who walked into Haydn’s home one morning in December 1790 and announced, “I am Salomon from London and I have come to fetch you”) is too well known to require elaboration, but it is worth noting that Haydn’s two extended visits to London, the first one beginning in January 1791 and the second ending in August 1795, finally made the Viennese realize that they had a truly great composer in their midst, a composer who aroused unprecedented enthusiasm from the large musical public that London boasted at the time. (Of all European cities, London had the most varied and active musical life, and the most perceptive audiences.) Haydn’s major accomplishment for his London visits was the composition of his last twelve symphonies, capping off the extraordinary development that had seen the creation of over a hundred works in the genre in less than four decades.

We have very little information about the actual composition or first performance of Symphony No. 98 (the numbering system we use now was unknown in Haydn’s day, and reviewers or concert announcements rarely mentioned keys or other specific features that might tell us which precise work was on the program. But it seems to have been written soon after the famous “Surprise” symphony during Haydn’s first visit. Certainly the symphony has some delightful surprises of its own, including one that comes in the very last moments of the last movement.

One of the most significant features of Haydn’s symphonic style is his delight in making much out of little. A single theme, or a small handful of ideas, can serve him for a large and varied movement. In this case the slow introduction is darkly ominous, outlining two figures in the first four measures, all in the minor: a slow rising theme and a zigzag descending figure. But when this slow introduction suddenly turns into the main Allegro section of the movement, we find these same two ideas now turned into a delightful lively unfolding in which they come back in combination with new ideas again and again.

This seems to be the first large work Haydn composed after learning from Vienna the shocking news of the early death of his friend Mozart, and it is more than likely that he thought of the slow movement, one of his most serious such works, as a kind of requiem for his friend. The first theme begins with a hymn-like melody that Haydn later used in The Seasons for the prayer “Sei nun gnädig” [“Be thou gracious”], and some listeners claim to hear a quotation from Mozart’s own Requiem here, though it is unlikely that Haydn could have come to know that work by the time he composed this symphony. Far more likely is an apparent quotation (delicately ornamented) from Mozart’s last symphony, which had been composed four years earlier.

The minuet is a lively dance, somewhat heavy of foot, if light of spirit. And the finale is Haydn’s longest and one of his most brilliant. The themes are of a type that allow Haydn to repeat bits of them in such a way that we think we know what he is going to do—until he tosses a big surprise. The middle part of the movement is the “normal” development section of a sonata form, but this one is totally unexpected in that the concertmaster begins to play a solo while the rest of the strings move through an astonishing range of unexpected keys, with the full orchestra now and then asserting its presence with gruff outbursts. Normally a development section builds to a dramatic moment that brings the return to the recapitulation, in the home key and with the full orchestra sounding out the first theme. But Haydn sneaks back home with the solo violin, catching off-guard those listeners waiting for the full orchestra to signal the return.

There is one final delicious surprise—ironically, it is a very small one but at the same time a big one because it is so totally unexpected. This symphony had its premiere before the day when conductors would stand in front of the orchestra to beat time. Depending on circumstances, the performance would be directed by the concertmaster (who would normally indicate the beat at the beginning of a movement, and then simply play) or by the composer sitting at the harpsichord or early piano, where he had no real role to play—he was simply a survivor of the old Baroque tradition of the basso continuo. But Haydn—who, of course, would have been sitting at the piano for the first performance—suddenly wrote a small part for himself, accompanying the concertmaster in his last solo of the piece. Here, for the first and only time, the two leaders of the performance are actually heard together as soloists. Haydn knew better than ever to repeat that joke again—but this one time, it is utterly delicious.

– © Steven Ledbetter