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Salomon: a musical superstar?

Thu Oct 13 2011

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On Friday 21 October we’ll be at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, celebrating the music of Haydn, but also of his lesser known contempories: Boccherini and Salomon.  Ahead of the concert, here’s a taster into the life and times of Johann Peter Salomon.

When Joseph Haydn’s patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy died in 1790, Haydn was relieved of his musical duties at court (although he maintained his court salary!) and decided to leave Hungary for Vienna. Hearing of his departure from the court, a German musician named Johann Peter Salomon made it his business to find Haydn, in the hope of luring him to London. Salomon was the son of an oboist at the court of Bonn and established himself as a fine violinist (he made his debut at Covent Garden in 1781). A jack of all trades, he was also a composer, conductor, impresario and one of the most successful concert promoters of his time.  He succeeded in convincing Haydn to visit London and the two men arrived in England’s fair capital on New Year’s Day, 1791. This was to be the first of two trips between 1791-1795, in which time Haydn produced his 12 London (or ‘Salomon’) Symphonies.

 

This relationship was incredibly fruitful and Haydn recalled visiting London with great happiness, but it often overshadows Salomon’s many other musical achievements. He was an important contributor to English musical life and one of the founder members of the Philharmonic Society. In recognition of this, as of this year, The Royal Philharmonic Society shall award ‘The Salomon Prize’ annually to ‘an individual musician who has shown commitment and dedication above and beyond the expected service asked by their orchestra over a single concert season’. To receive the award it doesn’t specify that you haveto bring Haydn’s contemporary equivalent to London, but there’s no harm in trying to do so.

 

Haydn and Salomon’s working relationship extended beyond the realms of promoting and booking, as Salomon was also a regular orchestral leader under Haydn’s baton in London. In 1798, he also arranged Haydn’s London symphonies for flute, string quartet and fortepiano, which made the works accessible to salon performance. Salomon is also credited as being an integral figure in sourcing the libretto for Haydn’s masterpiece, The Creation(performed in September 2011 by the OAE).

 

The last three items in the concert on Friday 21 October are a touching testament to the friendship of these two great musical figures. Haydn wrote his ‘Overture for an English Opera’ to preface Salomon’s own opera, Windsor Castle. This is followed by Salomon’s most famous work, the genteel Romance for Violin and Orchestra and finally we hear Haydn’s Symphony No. 93, the first of Haydn’s 12 London (or ‘Salomon’) Symphonies.

 

Salomon’s remains lie in Westminster Abbey; a reminder of his contribution to London’s cultural life. His gravestone reads Johann Peter Salomon / Musician / born 1745 died 1815 / he brought Haydn to England in 1791 and 1794.

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