In the case of Haydn’s symphonies, most titles were given to them by the audience, the critics or the biographers, but the titles of the “time of day” symphonies seem to have been the composer’s original idea. In the preserved autograph of Symphony No. 7 in C major we can find the heading Le midi written in Haydn’s own hand. The other two symphonies in this cycle are known only from copies, but the heading in the original is viewed as a sufficient proof of the authenticity of the three titles. There is also indirect evidence: In Duke Esterházy’s library, apart from a copy of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, there was also Werner’s composition A New and Most Peculiar Musical Instrumental Calendar, illustrating all the months of the year. Possibly, then, the idea of a cycle presenting times of day may have come from the Duke himself, who loved this kind of associations, as another of Haydn’s biographers, Albert Christoph Dies, has suggested in his book. His memories, however, imply that the Duke commissioned such a cycle of string quartets, which are otherwise unknown to us. Be it as it may, Haydn (unlike Vivaldi in his Sonnets) has not left us any specific literary programme which could serve as a key to interpret the symphonies. The only two sections of the cycle that could be interpreted as imitation of nature (“Sunrise” – Adagio from the 1st movement of Symphony No. 6 in D major and “Storm” in the finale of Symphony No. 8 in G major) rather suggest that the composer did not take the titles or the literary programme too seriously.
While recording this magnificent music we felt a bit like the musicians of Haydn’s orchestra 250 years ago. We are also a young ensemble wishing to demonstrate its abilities, and the work on the symphonies gave us genuine pleasure. We hope it will be with a similar degree of pleasure that the audience will listen to this album.