Regular readers of this blog will know of my near-obsession with the Black Bear Music Club and will, I hope, smile indulgently as I take the opportunity to craft another post about the Club inspired by a concert given here on 27th September by Florilegium as part of the Cambridge Early Music Series. What’s the connection? Well, they were performing arrangements by Salomon of Haydn’s “London” and “Surprise” symphonies and I have often wondered whether it was arrangements such as these which were given by my friends at the Black Bear. What better excuse to revisit the programmes to have a closer look at Haydn performances and to spread the net a little wider to see what arrangements of the symphonies the UL might have in its collections.
First a word about the Salomon arrangements: as the late Christopher Hogwood explains in the introduction to his edition of the arrangement of Symphony no. 97 [MRA.320.200.92] published by Bärenreiter in 2003: “…Salomon left the dissemination of the symphonies in their orchestral form to others; the music publishers André, Artaria, Simrock and Imbault were quick off the mark with editions. From his collection, which consisted of the complete performing parts of all twelve symphonies, along with the autographs of Nos 95 and 96 and scores freshly copied from the autographs of the remaining ten — material which would pass, at his death, to William Ayrton and through him to the Royal Philharmonic Society — Salomon resolved to make two separate reductions of the entire set for home enjoyment or chamber performance.”
Until not that very long ago, enjoying music and getting to know the latest compositions at home meant that you perfomed them yourself, so arrangements for either keyboard, or small chamber forces such as this proliferated. It wasn’t only Salomon who took on the challenge of crafting “domestic” versions of the great Haydn Symphonies. Our very own Professor of Music Charles Hague, one of the key players at the Black Bear, made his own arrangements of the “London” symphonies (no copy in Cambridge, alas, but at the British Library instead). However, we do have on our shelves contemporary editions of other arrangements including those by Clementi [MRA340.80.373], Philip Hayes (who oversaw Haydn’s visit to Oxford in 1791) [MRA.340.75.39], Édouard Bruguière [MRA.340.80.713] and Dussek [Mus.3.72-74] either for solo keyboard or for small ensembles similar to those by Salomon)
And what of Haydn at the Black Bear? On 17th November 1791, the Cambridge Chronicle reported: “We understand that the celebrated musical composers Mr. Haydn and Mr. Salomon came here last week to hear a private performance on the violin and violincello by Messrs Dahmen, who are lately arrived from Germany. They expressed the highest [approbation] of the superior skill and abilities of these performers, and immediately engaged them for their concerts in Hanover Square. We are glad to hear that Messrs. Dahmen will have a public concert in Cambridge before they leave this part of the country.” That hoped-for public concert did indeed take place on 30th November (but not as part of the Black Bear series) and included a performance of one of Haydn’s symphonies. Whilst we have a record of Haydn’s impression of “the little town of Cambridge” as a place, he remained silent on its musical activities.
Looking through the Black Bear programmes, a quick count reveals some 55 performances of Haydn symphonies between 1789 and 1809. At first perhaps one, or at most two, per season, but increasing in number in the early years of the nineteenth century and reaching a peak in 1807 with no fewer than eleven. Save on occasions when either the “Surprise” or the “Military” symphonies were to be given, the programmes remain silent as to detail, and there are no reports in the local press to enlighten us further, but it is probable that the majority of performances would have been of those written for Salomon. For the most part, Haydn was reserved for Benefit Night concerts, such as that for Charles Hague on 12th February 1793, which began with a Haydn “overture” (i.e. a symphony). However, by the time of the composer’s death in 1809, it was quite common for a Haydn symphony to both open and close concerts, as was the case for the benefit concert of 16 March 1807 given for John Scarborough’s widow (Scarborough, a violinist, was one of the regular players of the Club and also involved in its management). I like to think that Haydn would have been quietly delighted by the enthusiasm of this “little Town” for his music.