Day 35: In the Dark

HaydnCD35I began this blog entry in the dark of morning. I’m finishing it in the dark of night.

Frankly, I prefer the morning.

By nightfall, I’m tired and I just wanna put on my jammies and watch an episode of Doctor Who.

Thankfully, the music is terrific.

L’Arte dell’Arco, according to the CD sleeve for the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition, is playing period instruments. In the past, that has meant a headache for me.

Which is so ironic. You see, I’m a purist. I want to hear Classical music the way people in the 17th century heard it.

Problem is they heard, among other things, French horns without valves, which means the players had to swap the crooks to attain a greater range of notes (or they had to develop superhuman lips to reach the notes modern players achieve with valves), and they heard harpsichords instead of pianos. The former isn’t hard on the ears. The latter wears thin quickly. A harpsichord is fine for setting a mood, transporting the listener back to the 17th century quicker than the TARDIS. But, after awhile, that Continue reading

Day 9: Meh (But a Truly Competent Meh)

Haydn009It’s a beautiful Fall day. The sun is shining. The temperature at this moment is a crisp 46 degrees (that’s 7.78 Celsius to some of you), on its way to a high of around 70 degrees, with nothing but sun, sun, sun in a sky of blue in the forecast.

Maybe that’s why Haydn’s symphonies are not holding my attention this morning.

I listened to CD 9 twice. And I could have sworn I was listening to the same movement on repeat the entire time.

Symphony No. 34 in D Minor begins with a long adagio movement that, although substantive, isn’t particularly memorable. Movement II (“Allegro”) is somewhat better, although it sounds unlike the previous symphonies I’ve heard. It sounds more like a full orchestra, more like a traditional symphony. The sound is big. Lots of instruments. Movements III and IV follow suit. They’re expertly crafted. No doubt. But they don’t move me.

This symphony was composed in 1765. Haydn was 33.

Symphony No. 35 in B Flat, composed in 1767 (Haydn was 35), sounds like another full-orchestra symphony. By that, I mean I hear fewer solos form oboes, bassoon, horns, etc. Movement IV (“Presto”) is a lot of fun. Very lively. Not particularly memorable. But a flurry of instrumentation that I enjoy.

Symphony No. 36 in E Flat, composed, according to Continue reading

Day 8: Alleluja, Indeed

Haydn008I was grumpy as a sleeping bear this morning – until the first notes of Haydn’s Symphony No. 30 in C (nicknamed “Alleluia”) filled my ears.

Wow.

This is an extraordinary work, so perfectly crafted, so expertly arranged, that it drew me in immediately.

According to its entry on Wiki,

It is nicknamed the Alleluia Symphony because of Haydn’s use of a Gregorian Alleluia chant in the opening movement…

The Alleluia chant of the first movement has been confused with the principal melodic line in the finale of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C major. Mozart did use this Alleluia chant melody for his Alleluia Canon, K. 533, written shortly after he completed his C major symphony. 

The work is scored for flute, two oboes, bassoon, two horns, trumpets, timpani and strings with continuo.

To my (admittedly untrained) ears, Movement I (“Allegro”) is unlike the other Movement I allegros that Haydn composed in previous symphonies. This allegro is just as quick, to be sure, but the instruments LarrySelfPortrait2 copyintertwine each other like Larry, our cat, winds in and out of our legs when he wants breakfast each morning – and, likely, for the same reason: they want something. My attention. In this case, they got it. From the first five notes.

Even the Andante Movement II doesn’t retard my joy as a slower movement often does. This movement is punctuated with flute and oboe solos (and a happy sounding violin chorus) that makes the whole thing sound like the score of Continue reading