Franz Joseph Haydn

Fantasia (Capriccio) for piano in C major, H. 17/4

    Description by Michael Jameson

    Sometime in 1765, Haydn composed a piano piece (admittedly one which was based upon a traditional South German folk song) with what must surely be the most unlikely title to be found anywhere in his vast catalog of works, or elsewhere for that matter. But Haydn's Capriccio (Hob. XVII:1) for solo piano after the song "Acht Sauschneider musen seyn" ("Eight castrators there must be") proved to be one of the ambitious and effective of all his earlier keyboard compositions, and one with tremendous future implications. In essence this was a tremendously skilled elaboration of some 368 measures in all, in full variation form, of the original folk song theme. Many of Haydn's contemporaries must surely have been astonished--and perplexed--to find that such an intriguing, complex, and gratifying work had come from a less than usually wholesome source!

    Haydn arranged for this piece to be published in 1791, but as result of his renewed interest in variation form, he had already felt compelled to write something else along similar lines, once again following the free rondo outline so popular for variations. In a letter to his publisher Artaria, which dates from March 1789, we find Haydn's interesting reference to it: "In a moment of most excellent good humour I have written a quite new Capriccio for the pianoforte whose tastefulness, singularity, and special construction cannot fail to win applause from connoisseurs and amateurs alike."

    Publication was actually delayed, and when the piece finally appeared, it was at first known as a "Fantasia" in G major. Marked Presto, the work we know as the Capriccio in G, Hob. XVII:4, is set in 3/8 time, and is a composition of exceptional verve and brilliance, and despite Haydn's populist claims, it was quite obviously intended for real virtuosos, and not mere amateurs to play. The harmonic blueprint for the Capriccio is no less startling nor original. The main sections are in B flat, E flat (major and minor), and the tonic of G. But as Haydn scholar Professor H. C. Robbins Landon points out "on many occasions routine tonal preparations are ironically deflected to more remote destinations. The upward-moving chromatic lines in strident octaves that feature in Haydn's C major piano sonata No. 58 appear in the unbuttoned coda of the Capriccio, where they are joined by three downward glissandi in the right hand, much easier to play on an eighteenth-century piano than on a modern instrument."

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2019
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 19027
    2018
    Naxos
    8573934
    2017
    Evidence
    EVCD 031
    2016
    Onyx / Onyx Classics
    4174
    2016
    Erato
    554293
    2016
    Skylark Music
    SKY 8501
    2014
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMA 1951761
    2011
    Delphian
    34057
    2011
    Profil / Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 11051
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    BIS
    1788
    2009
    Decca
    4781369
    2009
    Hyperion
    67710
    2009
    Harmonia Mundi
    2961761
    2008
    Various Artists
    Harmonia Mundi
    2968302.03
    2008
    BIS
    1731/3
    2008
    Brilliant Classics
    93770
    2008
    Naxos
    8501042
    2007
    Hungaroton
    32441
    2007
    Warner Classics
    2007
    Warner Classics
    69967
    2006
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4776201
    2006
    Globe Records
    5019
    2005
    Philips
    2005
    Capriccio Records
    49404
    2004
    BIS
    1323/4
    2002
    Harmonia Mundi
    901761
    1999
    Skylark Music
    8501
    1999
    Teldec
    17141
    1999
    Naxos
    553826
    1999
    Naxos
    505029
    1999
    Aura Classics
    0119
    1998
    Ivory Records
    IC70806
    1998
    Hungaroton
    11625/6
    1997
    London
    443 785-2LC12(1)
    1997
    London
    443785
    1997
    Arion
    60390
    1995
    Albany Music Distribution
    094
    1995
    APR (Appian)
    7022
    1994
    Naxos
    550215
    1993
    Olympia (Classical/Jazz)
    390
    1992
    Astree
    7713
    1986
    Philips
    416643
    1985
    Philips
    412228
    Monica Jakuc
    Teldec
    Arizona University Recordings
    17546
    Ermitage
    105