Day 128: One Track to Rule Them All

HaydnCD128I listened to Haydn CD 128 three times today, not paying attention to which trios were playing.

I just let the music play as I went about my business.

Without fail, my mind took note of one particular track each time, and I wrote its number down on a piece of paper, chuckling aloud the third time I wrote the number “8″ on the notepad beside me.

Track Eight is Movement II (“Menuet: Allegretto”) of Trio No. 121 in A.

Why did my mind flag that particular track each time?

I don’t know. It just did.

And that’s really the point about music – or any type of art, for that matter. There’s no objective reason why art resonates with someone. Its beauty is in the eye or ear of the beholder.

The rest of today’s trios were okay. Two other tracks Continue reading

Day 127: How to Know Haydn

HaydnCD127The upside of these self-imposed explorations of the complete works of famous composers is that I get to experience something very few ever do.

The downside, especially after a number of months (in this case over four…and counting!), is:

1. I run the risk of getting bored with a composer’s works (baryton trios, for example),

2. I discover that everything a composer did is not golden (in other words, he’s human),

3. I discover the flaws and foibles of a composer heretofore elevated to god-like status (see #2),

4. I find it difficult to write about each day’s audio fare without being repetitious or boring

Take today’s baryton trios, for example.

They’re actually quite good.

Tracks 7 and 8 (both from Baryton Trio No. 113 in D) are quite superb, indeed. Both tracks jumped out at me as I wrote this morning’s blog.

Most of today’s trios are what I’d consider excellent. In fact, I’d regard No. 113 as a “FAVORITE!” among Haydn’s baryton trios.

But what does that mean? What is favorite? What is not-favorite?

Ultimately, the hell difference does it make what I think of Haydn’s compositions?

Let me share something with you.

Zen is a practice that concerns itself with direct experience of what is, moment after moment after moment. If one wants to know what a Continue reading

Day 56: L’Infedelta Delusa (Act II)

HaydnCD56Today’s musical selection is Act 2 of L’Infedelta Delusa, a Haydn opera set in the Tuscan countryside. It may have premiered on 26 July 1773. If so, Haydn was 41.

As I found with Act I, the vocal performances are superb, and the recording is likewise excellent, despite it being recorded some 40 years ago. Brilliant Classics does nothing half-assed. They have a world-wide reputation for offering high-quality recordings at extremely reasonable prices.

And, no, they’re not paying me to say that. (I sure wish they would.)

Act II opens with Sinfonia, a wonderful musical composition that sets the stage for the story that follows.

Track 3 (“Recitative: Sbrigati! – Vengo”) and Track 4 (“Aria: Ho un tumore”) feature some truly expressive, over-acted-even-for-the-stage performances. I’m not sure what the story is at this point (it’s in Italian, remember?). But the soprano performances (especially in Track 4 from Magda Kalma as Vespina) are Continue reading

Day 55: L’Infedelta Delusa (Act I)

HaydnCD55A truly wonderful Overture kicks off another Haydn opera, this one called L’Infedelta Delusa, which is set in the Tuscan countryside. The opera may have premiered on 26 July 1773. If so, Haydn was 41.

According to its entry on Wiki this,

…is an operatic burletta per musica by Joseph Haydn. The Italian libretto was by Marco Coltellini, perhaps reworked by Carl Friberth who also took part in the first performance.

Of course, that begs the question: “What is an operatic burletta per musica”?

Fear not, Gentle Reader. I shall endeavor to ascertain the answer to that question.

And I did.

From its entry on Wiki, here’s the definition of burletta (it was just what I expected):

A burletta (Italian, meaning little joke), also sometimes burla or burlettina, is a musical term generally denoting a brief comic Italian (or, later, English) opera. The term was used in the 18th century to denote the comic intermezzos between the acts of an opera seria, but was sometimes given to more extended works; Pergolesi’s La serva padrona was designated a ‘burletta’ at its London premiere in 1750.

In England the term began to be used, in contrast to burlesque, for works that satirized opera but without using musical parody. Burlettas in English began to appear in the 1760s, the earliest identified being Midas by Kane O’Hara, first performed privately in 1760 near Belfast, and produced at Covent Garden in 1764. The form became debased when the term ‘burletta’ began to be used for English comic or ballad operas, as a way of evading the monopoly on opera in London belonging to Covent Garden and Drury Lane. After repeal of the 1737 Licensing Act in 1843, use of the term declined.

The word ‘burletta’ has also been used for scherzo-like instrumental music by composers including Max Reger and Bartók. In America, the word has sometimes been used as an alternative for burlesque.

So, the term that was once used to denote a legitimate genre of opera became Continue reading

Day 54: I Know What to Say

HaydnCD54I didn’t know what to say yesterday for Part I of Haydn’s opera La Fedelta Premiata.

But I know what to say today.

Ugh.

Way too much talking in Italian. Not enough singing and orchestration.

For me, the only redeeming aspect of La Fedelta Premiata is that this CD was recorded before a live audience. So there’s clapping and laughing, presumably at appropriate times.

I didn’t include the opera as a link to YouTube yesterday. I didn’t want you listening ahead. But I don’t care if you do or not today. Here it is, the very same performance to which I’ve been listening for two days:

As you’ll see, the singers are fantastic. The orchestration is first rate. And I’m sure the audience is comprised of a bunch of really nice folks.

But this is one of my least favorite Haydn operas. I don’t know why. It just is.

Day 53: I Have No Idea What to Say

HaydnCD53La Fedelta Premiata is an opera in three acts composed by Franz Joseph Haydn “first performed at Eszterháza on 25 February 1781 to celebrate the reopening of the court theatre after a fire. It was revised for a new version first performed in 1782,” according to its entry on Wikipedia. It was composed in 1780. Haydn was 48.

I liked it from the first few bars of the Overture.

That’s probably because I love orchestral music, played allegro con spirito – and Haydn’s Overture to La Fedelta Premiata is very spirited, indeed.

So is the Introduction, when the voices first appear (as a chorus).

The cast:

Amaranta: Ellen van Haaren soprano
Nerina: Maja Roodveldt soprano
Diana: Ester Beens soprano
Celia: Xenia Meijer alto
Fileno: Patrick Henckens tenor
Lindoro: Frank Fritschy tenor
Perruchetto: Tom Sol baritone
Melibeo: Julian Hartman bass

The performers:

Esterhazy Chorus & Orchestra
Frank van Koten

The plot:

The people of Cumae worship Diana, goddess of hunting and chastity. Their rites however have been defiled by a nymph whose treachery has brought a curse on them. To propitiate the angry goddess, two faithful lovers must be sacrificed each year to a lake monster until a faithful lover can be found to offer his own life. Fidelity, therefore, is at a premium in Cumae, and victims are hard to find.

The plot is “part thriller about lovers being sacrificed to a monster, part burlesque sending up pseudo-classical and early romantic emotions”.

Once again, today’s CD (par for the course in the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition) features a high-quality recording of an inspired performance at Haydnsaal, Esterhazy Castle, Eisenstadt, Austria. It must be Continue reading