My favorite things Austria — Franz Josef Haydn

by on August 4, 2017 at 11:01 am in History, Music, Uncategorized | Permalink

Too many people think of him as ordinary and earthy, compared to Mozart or Beethoven.  Yet he composed amazing amounts of pathbreaking, first-rate music, and it wears remarkably well upon repeated listenings.

My approach to Haydn is pretty simple:

1. Some of the early piano music is boring, but a simple availability metric will point you to the best material.  The deepest are the six last sonatas, and most well-known performances are quite good.  Ax, McCabe, Kalish, Richter, and Brendel are among the first choices, Jando (Naxos) and Buchbinder are good enough to listen to but not preferred.  By the way, piano > pianoforte, there was no great stagnation.

2. Listen to as many of the string quartets as you can, with preference given to Opus 76.  On average, the later opus numbers are better, yet Op.9 and Op.20 still are worthwhile.

3. Listen to the London Symphonies.  Again and again.  All of them, Dorati being one option for conductor.

That’s hardly the only wonderful Haydn, but those are the pieces that work best through recordings.  See the choral and vocal music live.  Most of the concerti bore me, as do the piano trios.  Many of the earlier symphonies are good, including the Paris set and the “Sturm und Drang” period, but unless you have lots and lots of time I say focus on the London ones for now.

As the years or decades pass, you will realize you have been underrating Haydn.

1 Oleg August 4, 2017 at 11:35 am

Dorati is no slouch at the London Symphonies (or any of the Haydn symphonies, and he recorded them all) … but c’mon.

Jochum’s complete set of the London Symphonies sweeps (virtually) all before it. Davis, Beecham and Bernstein all have Dorati beat, as well. Greatest of all, Szell, although he only did the first six and 104.

On one thing we agree. Haydn underrated? And how!

2 Skeptic August 4, 2017 at 11:39 am

Seems very Euro-centric and conventional . . .

3 dearieme August 4, 2017 at 11:47 am

Wrote lots of beautiful stuff, Papa Haydn.

Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven – they’re the boys. Accept no substitutes.

You could do worse than start here.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2WLA5rPV00

4 JRossell August 4, 2017 at 8:07 pm

May I say Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Haendel…..

5 dearieme August 5, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Handel is popular in Britain, where he spent many years. I’ve never had a feel for his popularity elsewhere.

6 Ray Lopez August 4, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I like the Strauss clan: “Blue Danube” and “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (2001 theme).

Reminds me of a sci-fi short story from the 1950s. A robot was programmed to help humans, and its master was weeping when listening to classical music, since it was so beautiful. So the robot, to alleviate the obvious suffering, gave an injection of painkiller to the human, but unfortunately gave a fatal dose.

Bonus trivia: the poetry of Virgil was so beautiful that one woman aristocrat in the Roman Empire once fainted from the emotion.

7 Manfred August 4, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Ray – those two Strausses are not related at all.

8 Oleg August 4, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Manfred – the “Strauss clan” is four Strausses, making five in total. And only the first four are Austrian, of course.

9 Manfred August 4, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Oleg – Also Sprach Zarathustra was composed by Richard Strauss, who is unrelated to the Strauss waltz family in Vienna.
Richard Strauss was German, the waltz guys were Viennese (Austro-Hungarian).
The Waltz guys were: Johann Strauss father, and his sons: Johann Strauss son, Josef Strauss, and Eduard Strauss, all of them composers.

10 Oleg August 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Surely it was clear from my comment that I knew that.

11 rayward August 4, 2017 at 12:57 pm

My favorite things Austria: Austria, in particular the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was the birthplace of what came to be called “liberalism” in the classic, 19th century sense, as the traditional aristocracy and land-based gentry class were overtaken by wealthy men of the cities who achieved wealth through trade and industrialization and who achieved power and political influence through elected representatives in the parliaments of Vienna and Budapest backed by the traders and industrialists, the bankers, the businessmen, and many newspaper publishers. Therein the foundation for Austrian economics.

12 A clockwork orange August 4, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Haydn secretly played the Baryton. In Esterhaza, Haydn performed near the marionette theater entrusted to the puppet master Joe Bienfait. Around then, King Phillip the III of Spain sent him a snuffbox set with diadems. The publishing firm Artaria and Company came to negotiate with Haydn. Haydn’s visit to Bath proved to be his best decision. The Queen offered to him to stay the summer, glancing at the King and saying “then we can make music te-te-ta.

“sir even if they melted us together, there would not be enough stuff to make a Haydn” – Mozart

36 years in the Prince’s service. Austria collapsed at Aspern as he died. Napoleon sent a soldier to his door, anyway.

Non omnis moriar – Homer?

13 rayward August 4, 2017 at 3:53 pm

I prefer the secret handshake over the coded messages. Then again, I’m not part of the cult. Have a nice day.

14 Per Kurowski August 4, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Some would settle with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens:-)

15 Apso August 4, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Military symphony second movement is my fave, but that result is not typical. Drums, baby.

How is all of this affected by China?

16 GoneWithTheWind August 4, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Too many notes…

17 andy August 5, 2017 at 1:41 am

That’s Mendelssohn…

18 GoneWithTheWind August 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

It was from the movie Amadeus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoY0Qa0zU0A

19 andy August 5, 2017 at 5:24 pm

I know – but always when I play Mendelssohns sympohonic works, I remember this quote… it surely fits Mendelssohn much better than Mozart 😉

20 GoneWithTheWind August 4, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Now here is music from the rich American culture that these old European composers could never have imagined.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJfBgLr1of8

21 Fizz-Assist August 4, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Haydn’s Oxford Symphony (#92) is my favorite.

22 Manfred August 4, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Haydn’s symphony 48 is beautiful.
BTW, the quartet opus 76 is the melody that was adopted as Germany’s anthem (Das Deutschlandlied), with the text from Hoffman von Fallersleben.
Today, only the last stanza is sung.
Haydn’s choral work, The Seasons for example, is simply beautiful.

23 Oleg August 4, 2017 at 2:54 pm

The Seasons (Die Jahreszeiten) is even underrated relative to the Creation (Die Schopfung).

24 Michael August 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Is “piano > pianoforte” a generalizable rule? I don’t know Haydn’s piano music at all, but when comparing Brautigam’s complete Beethoven sonatas to recordings by Rubinstein or Zhao, I have a strong preference for pianoforte. In the faster passages, the modern pianos get “muddled” with too much sustain. In addition, the buzziness of the lower registers on the older style pianos adds to the mood of the composition which is missing on the more modern pianos.

Having said that, for Bach’s French suites, Perahia’s piano is about as perfect as I can imagine. I don’t have any harpsichord recordings of Bach.

I’m still new to Classical, and trying to wrap my head around everything that is out there.

25 More than Haydn August 4, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Start with Debussy’s Arabesque, Sibelius’ Finlandia, Vaughn-Willaims’ Toward the Unknown Region, Holst’s The Planets, Ives’ Three Places in New England, Ravel’s Daphne et Chloe, Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kiev, Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and Waltz, Messian’s Quartet for the End of Time, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Berstein’s The Black Cauldron (Disney).

26 dearieme August 5, 2017 at 7:50 am

Try opera overtures e.g. Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, and almost any by Rossini.

Try the Mozart Horn Concertos and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

The Elgar Cello Concerto is lovely.

27 dearieme August 5, 2017 at 7:51 am

And Greig: lots of approachable tunes.

28 dearieme August 5, 2017 at 7:52 am

And the Prokofiev ballet music for Romeo and Juliet.

29 Bob N August 4, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Certainly underrated. A friend thought he couldn’t be any good because he wrote so much. I was familiar with the Opus 76 quartets. The Tokyo String Quartet performed the Op 9 and Op 20 quartets at the Norfolk CT festival. They were a revelation. Op 33 is also very good. All the symphonies from number 82 on are great. In addition to The Seasons, The Creation oratorio and the masses are wonderful choral works. Toscanini: In 1945, Arturo Toscanini told the music critic B.H. Haggin that he preferred Haydn to Mozart. “I will tell you frankly: sometimes I find Mozart boring,” he said to his astonished interviewer. “Not G-minor [the G Minor Symphony, K. 550]: that is great tragedy; and not concerti; but other music. Is always beautiful—but is always the same.” From https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/haydn/

30 Oleg August 4, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Frankly, I think Op. 76 may be overrated. Each of the Opp. 55, 64 and 74 sets might have ’em beat, in my humble opintion.

31 DNC August 4, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Trump gave a speech in which he celebrated symphonies. Symphonies are white supremacy. Symphonies are racist.

32 Mark Vaughan August 4, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Can’t believe you didn’t mention Die Schoepfung (The Creation). Unbelievable! Must be heard in the original German. If you want a taste, go to this link and start listening at 14:05: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPjndmykRZ0

33 Steve Sailer August 4, 2017 at 4:59 pm

Haydn kept getting better over a long career, in part because classical music was getting better after the big shift away from more polyphonic baroque music in the mid 18th century. Of course, Haydn was one of the main forces, along with Mozart, in the improvement of music.

Haydn’s London Symphonies, his last 12, No. 93 to No. 104, are a triumph of capitalism and the bourgeois evolution. Haydn had spent most of his long career in Central Europe composing for aristocratic patrons and their small orchestras. But then an impresario invited him to come to London and play for big audiences — the bourgeois were adopting the symphony as their favorite form of music — and conduct a big orchestra that would allow him to try out new effects. Haydn exploited this financial opportunity masterfully artistically.

34 MDC August 4, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Piano > pianoforte
or
Piano > fortepiano ?

I always thought piano = pianoforte
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano

35 neal August 4, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Yeah, Tyler’s got it mixed up. Had to have meant fortepiano.

36 Ian leslie August 4, 2017 at 5:24 pm

I suspect part of the reason Haydn is underrated is that he had such a stable temperament, and seemed to compose effortlessly. He wasn’t a “genius” as the term was just then beginning to be understood – someone difficult, turbulent, a little mad. He was just a happy guy. Sub-optimal personal branding.

37 Apso August 4, 2017 at 11:12 pm

I think he was equal to Mozart, except in opera. Mozart killed it in opera. Both definitely a geniuses. Since Both are dead now no one really has a dog in that fight.

38 Tununak August 7, 2017 at 12:38 pm

The Colorado Quartet played a bunch of Haydn quartets years ago. One of the members summed it up best: “There are no boring Haydn quartets, just boring Haydn quartet players.”

39 modest house August 4, 2017 at 5:39 pm

The breathtakingly beautiful and sensitive Russian Pianist Ekaterina Derzhavin has recorded ALL of Hayden’s piano sonatas, and they are magnificent. I also recommend her sublime Goldberg Variations.

40 widmerpool August 4, 2017 at 6:29 pm

Haydn isn’t underrated by actual classical music fans, though, is he? He’s only underrated by the kind of people who own ‘100 relaxing classics!’ albums. Certainly I’d find it hard to believe the late quartets and London symphonies could qualify as underrated.

41 Apso August 4, 2017 at 11:14 pm

YES!! Mozart owned him in opera though. Mozart owned most everyone in opera.

42 Nigel August 4, 2017 at 7:37 pm

You’re bored by the cello concertos ?
The Rostropovich performances are joyous.

43 Jack August 5, 2017 at 11:07 pm

The Mischa Maisky performances of the cello concerti are outstanding, and (as a cellist) great fun to watch (closeups of the cello playing throughout). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tAvhIyw-BY and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mooB5Q-0FIE.

44 efim polenov August 4, 2017 at 9:12 pm

here is another, not necessarily better, but alternate, approach: relisten to or play again on your chosen instrument(s) the Haydn you already know and love, then: start with the piano music that Richter, a remarkably insightful musician, recorded – Andante con Variazione in F, Concerto in D, sonatas 11, 32, 33, 37, 39, 44, 47, 54, 55, 58, 59 (covering the keys of A flat (XVI-46, my favorite so far), A, B flat, b, c, C, D, E flat, E, F, and G) – and with the last 12 symphonies (listen to at least two – one of them, I am not going to say which, is poorly written and even a good orchestra can’t make it sound very inspired – but there is only one symphony like that in the last twelve). Figure out which of the piano sonatas touches you most and then listen to a piano trio in the same key. The conversation that you then find yourself privileged to listen to across all those years, and hopefully understand, is worth it. The choral music – the masses and oratorios – are very good, of course, and lose a lot when not heard live unless one is a genius of aural imagination (I am not, sadly; so I am passing along what better musicians have told me). Of all Shakespeare’s plays Mozart would have put them all to melody better than Haydn except A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the one with more authentic speaking roles than any other): some geniuses are geniuses of expression others are geniuses of overheard conversations, spoken heart to heart, and therefore also of eternal value.

45 BigEd August 5, 2017 at 9:24 am

If Haydn (or anyone) is underrated there is probably a good reason.

46 Oleg August 5, 2017 at 1:08 pm

That good reason is that stupid people predominate.

47 hareketli küpeşte August 5, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Yeah, Tyler’s got it mixed up. Had to have meant fortepiano.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: