“My sovereign was satisfied with all my endeavors. I was assured of applause and, as head of an orchestra, was able to experiment, to find out what enhances and detracts from effect, in other words, to improve, add, delete, and try out. As I was shut off from the world, no one in my surroundings would vex and confuse me, and so I was destined for originality.”
The sheer amount of music Haydn composed in his thirty-odd year employment by the Prince is staggering. Symphonies, operas, chamber music, and concertos rolled off Haydn's pen one right after the other. The Cello Concerto No.2 also shows that Haydn had some top-notch players in his small symphony orchestra. Anton Kraft was a cellist in the Prince's employ and Haydn wrote the 2nd concerto to highlight his talents. After the split up of the Prince's orchestra in 1790, Kraft went on to be regarded as the foremost master of the cello in Vienna, no mean feat in the city of music and musicians.
Haydn began composing the concerto in 1783, close to the time when Haydn himself had been startled to learn that while he may have felt isolated at the Esterhazy Palace, the world had caught up with his music and he was a famous man. It was also about this time that he received the commission for the 'Paris' symphonies.
The concerto is in three movements:
I. Allegro moderato - The first movement lacks the tension and contrast that Haydn's first movements can have. There is a leisure feeling to it, and the orchestra never overshadows the soloist. Haydn' puts the spotlight firmly on the cellist.
II.Adagio - The cello shows off its ability to sing when a master is playing it.
III.Rondo (Allegro) - The rondo is built out of the motif first heard in the cello, and like the first movement there is very little tension. The work ends simply, but charmingly.
The cello concerto is not one of Haydn's most difficult pieces, but the solo part is very challenging in the first and last movements as Haydn demands playing in double stops and octaves. The concerto is meant to be played by a virtuoso such as Anton Kraft, someone who can throw off the covert virtuosity of the piece and make the cello sing.