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Notes and Editorial Reviews
What is a Baryton, and why did Haydn write so extensively for it? Two reasonable questions, and actually quite easy to answer.
The baryton is a member of the gamba family and a relation to the modern-day cello dating from the early 17th century. It was quite a handful to play, having one manual with 6 or 7 bowed gut strings, and another with anything up to 20 further 'sympathetically resonating' metal strings lying under the finger board.
Haydn's prolific output for this instrument was the result of his patron -- Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy I. The Prince was himself a skilful musician and the Baryton was his instrument of choice. With an insatiable appetite for new compositions for the instrument, the Prince
commissioned 160 works from Haydn. Today 90% of these still survive, the 126 trios dating from 1762--1775 being the most important.
The remarkable fact is that many of these trios resemble the greater piano trios -- proof that Haydn lavished as much care on these 'private' works as he did on his published works. The Octets featuring the Baryton include some virtuoso writing for wind, and the horns often reach stratospheric heights -- a tribute to the virtuosity of the Esterhazy players Haydn had at his disposal.
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