Day 18: Bam!

HaydnCD18I was enthralled by Symphony No. 61 in D within its first 20 seconds.

The symphony opens with a burst of instruments — bam! — and then there’s a stuttering, a chattering, a dancing of strings building up to another full-instrument burst — bam! Then, oboe and bassoon enter the dance. Things really get rocking at the :30 mark when it sounds like bursts of fireworks. It’s bam! bam! bam! bam! syncopated around the dancing strings and the serenading, oboe, bassoon, and flute. These are some of the most stirring seconds I’ve yet heard from Haydn. This is hair-raising, truly invigorating craftsmanship.

Well, here it is. Listen for yourself. This is exactly the same performance to which I’m listening this morning:

Same conductor  (Adam Fischer), same orchestra (Austro-Hungarian Orchestra).

Antony Hodgson, author of The Music of Joseph Haydn: The Symphonies, describes it this way in Continue reading

Day 12: Living In the Moment

Haydn012When I walked into the dimly lit Panera Bread restaurant this morning at 6:30, I cringed when I heard their choice of Muzak. It was a selection of that emo stuff, with guys sounding like someone’s squeezing their nuts…and girls singing with flat intonations, all mush-mouthed and sleepy like they just rolled out of bed.

I wonder if contemporaries of Franz Joseph Haydn, upon hearing his latest symphony — say, Symphony No. 43 in E Flat – thought the same way, like: “I say, Franz. This is frightfully trite. Do you honestly think anyone will want to hear this in a hundred years?”

If they did, they were wrong. Over two hundred and forty years later, here I am listening to that same symphony, nicknamed “Merkur” (Mercury).

By way of contrast, as much as I like Jason Mraz‘s “Living in the Present Moment,” I seriously doubt anyone will be listening to it in several hundred years.

Today’s Haydn symphony (another from the Sturm und Drang years of 1770-1774) grabbed me from the opening notes. I’m not sure why, or what it is about certain passages of music that earn my immediate respect. But this is one of them.

Here, maybe you can figure it out. This is exactly what I’m listening to this morning:

Someone uploaded to YouTube Symphony No. 43 in E Flat performed by the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, Adam Fischer conductor. So (at least for as long as it remains on YouTube) you can hear for yourself what I’m hearing. Maybe you can figure out Continue reading