Haydn (1732 - 1809)

Symphony No.102 B-flat major Hob.I-102 (24')

After working for nearly thirty years at the court of a Hungarian wealthy aristocratic family, Haydn was released from his duties in 1790, enabling him to enjoy freedom. This was quite significant for a non-aristocratic member of society near the end of the eighteenth century, a period marked by the French and American Revolution. Haydn no longer needed, for instance, to obtain permission to travel or even write a piece of music for anyone besides his patron.

Haydn’s compositions, however, had been widely circulated well before he retired from the post of Kapellmeister. Over the years Haydn’s reputation had spread, and to some extent his employer had tolerated or overlooked Haydn selling his compositions. Upon the termination of employment (with a handsome retirement pension), however, Haydn was finally able to freely sell his works to anyone who wished to have them, including publishers of economically developed cities in Europe. The demand for Haydn’s compositions was indeed high.

Invited by Johann Peter Salomon, a German violinist and impresario living in London, Haydn visited the British capital for the first time in 1791. For this journey Haydn wrote six symphonies (Symphonies Nos. 93–98). They were very well-received, prompting Salomon to bring Haydn back for another concert season. In 1794, the composer was once again in London. This second trip was also fruitful for Haydn, composing six new symphonies. Symphony No. 102 is one of these later ""London"" compositions.

Among the six symphonies Haydn composed for his second visit to London, four are known by their nicknames—No. 100, Military; No. 101, The Clock; No. 103, Drumroll; and No. 104, London. The names may have helped these symphonies become popular today. Symphony No. 104, in particular, is in fact one of the most frequently performed pieces of Haydn’s oeuvre. Symphony No. 102, on the other hand, is relatively unknown but is undoubtedly a masterfully written composition of Haydn’s.

[Akira Ishii]