Haydn, Mozart, and the Gypsy Style

Listen to audio excerpts: 

Friday, March 16, First Parish, Wayland
Saturday, March 17, Emmanuel Church, Boston


Trio in E Minor for flute, violin, and cello, op. 71, no. 2    Franz Danzi (1763-1826)
  Allegro vivo • Andantino      
  Minuetto (Allegretto) • All’ Ungarese (Allegretto moderato)

From Six Hungarian Dances    Antal György Csermák (1774?-1822)
        Andante • Andante • Con Verbunk   

Piano Trio in G Major, H. XV:25    Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
        Poco Adagio
        Finale: Rondo, in the Gypsies’ stile (Presto)


String Quartet in F Major, K. 590    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
        Allegro moderato • Allegretto   
        Menuetto (Allegretto) • Allegro
Hungarian Dance no. 1 (from Ungarische Tänze, Vienna, c. 1800)        anonymous
Hungarian Dance no. 6 (from 6 originale Ungarische Tänze, c. 1800)        Carl Kreith
Hungarian Dances no. 2 and 6 (from Ungarische Tänze, Vienna, c. 1800)    anonymous
Hungarian Dance no. 1 (from 12 Ungarische Tänze)    Franz Paul Rigler (1736-1796?)
Kézfogó (Hand in Hand)        Márk Rózsavölgyi (1789?-1848)

Suzanne Stumpf, flute; Christina Day Martinson, and Susanna Ogata, violins
Marcia Cassidy, viola; Daniel Ryan, cello; Michael Bahmann, fortepiano


Program Notes

Gypsies and gypsy musicians have played a distinctive role in European cultural life for several centuries. Although living on the fringes of society, gypsies were sought after as musicians for outdoor festivities in towns and villages. In their music-making, gypsy bands were especially common in eastern European countries including Hungary, where their music became virtually synonymous with Hungarian folk music. There they were heard and appreciated by both commoners and the nobility. In 1773, huge open-air celebrations in honor of a visit by Empress Maria Theresa were held at the Eszterháza Palace in which not only peasants and townspeople danced to the gypsy music, but the nobility as well. Joseph Haydn, the court composer under Nicolaus Eszterházy, would have witnessed many gatherings at which gypsy music was played, and he incorporated elements of this music into many of his compositions. Likewise, Mozart would certainly have heard itinerant gypsy bands in Vienna, where Hungarian gypsy music had become increasingly popular, as well as in his many travels. The popularity of Hungarian and gypsy music during this period is reflected in the increasing number of All’ Ungarese movements that were included in chamber music pieces throughout Europe.

A fine example of the All’ Ungarese type is the final movement of Franz Danzi’s Trio in E Minor. Composed while he was Kapellmeister at Karlsruhe, Germany, this trio was one of three for this combination in which he incorporated musical exoticisms. Danzi’s All’ Ungarese employs character-istically Hungarian melodic and rhythmic elements—throbbing repeated harmonies and serpentine melodies, peppered with snappy dotted figures and triplets.

The classically trained violinist and composer Antal György Csermák initially made his name in Budapest as a virtuoso performer famed for his interpretations of works by Haydn, Mozart, and Viotti. In 1802 or 1803 he was introduced to János Bihari, an influential gypsy violinist, and became interested in incorporating Hungarian folk elements into his works. Csermák was a passionate proponent of the Verbunkos style. The Verbunkos was a dance form popularized by soldiers at military recruiting stations who performed energetic and highly athletic dances accompanied by gypsy bands. Csermák’s Verbunkos are a skillful and expressive amalgam of Viennese classicism and Hungarian folk elements.

Haydn’s many years under the supportive patronage of Prince Nicolaus afforded him the opportunity to develop formal and expressive innovations in the string quartet, concerto, symphony, and piano trio. Haydn incorporated elements of the Gypsy style in all of these genres, most famously in his Piano Trio in G Major with its Rondo in the Gypsies’ stile finale. The work begins with a mellifluous multi-section first movement loosely constructed as a theme and variations, employing frequent alterations of major and minor modes. The contrast between the following richly elegiac Poco Adagio and the final Gypsy Rondo could not be more pronounced. This infectiously raucous movement contains the classic gypsy elements of swirling melody, percussive accompaniments, and jaunty offbeat accents, all infused with Haydn’s inimitable inventiveness and humor.

Though Mozart employed exoticisms less frequently in his compositions than Haydn, he used them to great effect. In his F Major string quartet, the Gypsy-inspired elements are found in the final movement, where a descending, cascading run (very much in the virtuoso vocabulary of the Gypsy violin style) is used pervasively and in imitation, accompanied by the hypnotic rhythmic elements of stamping eighth notes and syncopations.

The program closes with a set of dances reflecting the increased popularity Hungarian gypsy and Verbunkos styles enjoyed into the early nineteenth century. Music publishers in Vienna found a ready market in offering a wide variety of musical settings of Hungarian dances. While some arrangements were more sophisticated, bridging the gap between European art music and the dances’ folk origins (such as the arrangements by Kreith for two treble instruments and Rigler for solo piano), the majority of these settings are more simple, allowing performers room for improvisatory freedom in the spirit of the melodies’ stylistic origins.

© Daniel Ryan and Suzanne Stumpf