Franz Joseph Haydn

Violin Concerto in A major ("Melker Konzert"), H. 7a/3

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    On May 1, 1761, Haydn got the appointment that made his career when Prince Nicholas Esterházy hired him as his vice-Kapellmeister. The Prince had another promising young musician, Alois Luigi Tomasini (1741 - 1808), hired at the age of 16 as a valet du chamber, but also such a fine violinist that Nicholas sent him to Venice to receive the best violin training. Haydn shrewdly wrote as many as four concertos for Tomasini to show their boss that his trust in both of them was well-founded. (Both served the Esterházy family for life with Tomasini the trusted concertmaster of Haydn's orchestra.)

    In 1949 Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon discovered the manuscript of this concerto in the Abbey of Melk. It was written no later than 1771, and in most commentators' estimation is the equal of the D Major Cello Concerto -- in other words, the first great violin concerto of the classical age. In 1961, another copy of this concerto surfaced in the Marcello Library of Venice. It posed an editorial problem: while the Venice copy was obviously meant for the use of a string orchestra, the Melk manuscript had an incomplete horn part and mentions an oboe part (though none was found). Fortunately, the manner in which those instruments were used at the time was rather standardized, and so Anton Heiler and Robbins Landon were able to reconstruct them.

    In this concerto Haydn already shows some of the innovations he was bringing to the symphony form at the same time. Although it can be said that there is one predominant theme in the first movement (Moderato), Haydn varies it to produce a version that serves as a contrasting second theme group. Haydn observes a standard format of exposition without a solo part, then another with the solo, but he also adds new material for the soloist during this section. The violin leads off a creative development section.

    The second movement, Adagio, also begins with a tutti section, fully stating an arioso theme. This has a tender, operatic quality, particularly when the violin takes it. This is a tender, serenade-like movement.

    The finale, Allegro, also observes the convention that the orchestra without soloist states the main theme first, followed by the violin. The music is not so fast to make the violin lose its essential lyrical characteristic, but it has energy and a virile quality that allows some athletic display.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Moderato
    2. Adagio moderato
    3. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Coro COR 16148
    2016 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4796220
    2016 Hungaroton HCD 32771
    2016 Pan Classics PC 10353
    2014 DG Archiv 4793609
    2014 Budapest Music Center BMH 156
    2014 Berlin Classics 0300550BC
    2012 Archiv Produktion / DG Archiv / DG Deutsche Grammophon 4778774 AH
    2012 DG Archiv
    2010 Newton Classics 8802017
    2010 DG Archiv 427 316-2AH
    2010 DG Archiv 4273162
    2009 Alba 272
    2009 Naxos 8506019
    2008 Berlin Classics 0115062
    2008 Naxos 8570483
    2005 Virgin Classics
    2004 Intim Musik 083
    2004 Delta Distribution 16384
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2003 Arts Music 47611
    2003 ATMA Classique 22287
    2003 Berlin Classics 0017652BC
    2003 Virgin 562103
    2003 Virgin Classics
    2003 Laserlight / Delta Distribution 40043
    2002 Capriccio Records 51102
    2001 Virgin 59065
    1999 Virgin 561504-2
    1998 Pan 510102
    1994 Philips 438 797-2PM2
    1993 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 428
    Virgin 91489
    Doron Music 5003
    Cascavelle 1053
    Meridian Records 84375
    Capriccio Records 10309
    Brilliant Classics 94003