Symphony Nova Scotia
Haydn: Symphony No. 104, “London”
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Followed by an interactive online artist Q&A.
Original performance: November 8, 2018, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, Halifax
In November 2018, just months after finishing his highly successful 16-year tenure as Symphony Nova Scotia’s Music Director, Bernhard Gueller returned to Halifax for a powerful, masterful performance of some of his favourite symphonic music. The hit concert concluded with a rousing performance of Haydn’s final symphony, and one of his best – the bright, brilliant “London”.
A beautiful performance … Mr. Gueller was right about his high opinion of Haydn.
– Audience review
Surprise and delight … just sat back and enjoyed.
– Audience review
About the Music
Composed: 1795 / Premiered: 1795, London / Duration: 27 minutes
Haydn spent about three years as the resident Music Director at the palaces of the extremely wealthy princes Esterházy on the border between Austria and Hungary. In 1790, with the accession of a new prince who took little interest in music, the orchestra was disbanded, Haydn was pensioned off, and he seemed ready to retire in Vienna. However, a number of English aristocrats saw to it that Johann Peter Salomon, a connected concert promoter, offered Haydn generous terms to travel to England and lead concerts of his own compositions.
As a result, Haydn visited England twice, in 1791 and again in 1793, for a total of about three years. He was received with great enthusiasm, and among many honours was given a Doctorate of Music by the University of Oxford. (He thought the doctoral robes were hilarious.)
At the end of the 18th century, London was already a great, cosmopolitan city with a well-established middle class. Salomon was an entrepreneur who provided concerts for the entertainment of these well-to-do people, as well as the aristocracy, and he saw to it that Haydn’s part in these concerts was well-advertised and duly reported in the press.
The enterprise was enormously successful, and Haydn became an international celebrity and a rich man. A typical newspaper review reads, “The incomparable Haydn produced an Overture [i.e. a symphony] of which it is impossible to speak in common terms. It is one of the grandest efforts of art that we have ever witnessed. It abounds with ideas, as new in music as they are grand and impressive; it rouses and affects every emotion of the soul.”
Haydn produced 12 symphonies for London. It is a bit puzzling why No. 104 should have acquired the name “London” Symphony. Symphony No. 104 was the last Haydn composed before his return to Austria in 1795. It was performed at a benefit concert on May 4, 1795, perhaps the greatest concert of his life. Some of the finest singers in the world participated, and the proceeds went to Haydn.
Haydn continued to compose actively for many years. He was asked for more symphonies, but this was his final statement in this medium.
About the Artists
Bernhard Gueller, conductor
Music Director of Symphony Nova Scotia from 2002 to 2018 and Principal Guest Conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernhard Gueller continues to be acclaimed for his interpretations, phrasing, and excitement he brings to the podium.
Collaborations at a high level have been many, including some of Canada’s foremost musicians such as James Ehnes, Jan Lisiecki, Janina Fialkowska, Anton Kuerti, Jon Kimura Parker, and Marc-André Hamelin, along with other international stars such as Joshua Bell and Metropolitan Opera singers such as Pretty Yende and Johan Botha.
He is acclaimed by musicians, critics, and audience for his musical purity and continually garners praise for the fresh approach he applies under his “amazingly suggestive baton.”
Beginning his career as a cellist, Bernhard won the United German Radios Conducting Competition in 1979 and for nearly 20 years ran tandem careers, deputing for the legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache who regarded Bernhard as his best “pupil.” He also attracted the attention of the renowned arts administrator Ernest Fleischman who “was deeply impressed by his extraordinary musicianship, his marvelous ability to communicate with the musicians, and… his charismatic impact on the audience.”
Bernhard has been Music Director in Nuremberg and Principal Guest Conductor of the Victoria Symphony in British Columbia and Johannesburg Philharmonic. His career has taken him to many top concert halls from America and Australia to Canada, Russia, Japan, China (Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong), Korea, South Africa, and Brazil, as well as countries in Europe such as Spain, Italy, France, Norway, Bulgaria, Italy, Sweden, and his native Germany, where he conducted the Stuttgart Radio Symphony and the Munich Philharmonic.
He has also conducted in festivals internationally, including the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in the International Festival of the Canary Islands, the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany, the Scotia Festival in Halifax, and the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival and National Arts Festival in South Africa.