Day 73: Cold

HaydnCD73The current temperature in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 7:30am on December 12, 2013, is 11 degrees. (Or -12 C for all of my European readers.)

That’s cold.

Typically, this kind of cold would stay away until late January or early February. This year, however, it arrived early.

It’s bad enough for a resident of Michigan in the 21st century. I wonder what Haydn did to keep warm in the late 1700s, early 1800s when he was composing the score for these folks song? Did he sit beside a roaring fire? Did he have candles blazing everywhere to give the illusion of daylight? Did he wear a coat and gloves all of the time? Did he exercise to get the blood flowing?

Did he have a daily routine?

Dickens_Gurney_headI often wonder how these creative geniuses did it under conditions we, today, would consider primitive. Charles Dickens, for example.

England in the mid 1800s couldn’t have been a picnic. Especially in the winter. It must have been so cold. And bleak. (The phrase “Dickensian” wasn’t coined for nothing.)

So how did he do it? Writers today have laptops and the Internet and central heat (or air conditioning) and electric light and the ability to travel to exotic locales to compose their novels.

Dickens had none of those things. He probably had an ink well, a quill pen, and cold fingers. (I picture Bob Cratchit huddled over a dying ember, rubbing his hands together for warmth.)

Yet, Dickens’ literary output was staggering, and remains among the most influential works in the world.

Same for Joseph Haydn. How did he do it? What were his working conditions like?

I can only imagine. Or, maybe I can’t.

But I am grateful he worked his musical magic. For there are some fine songs on today’s CD.

For example, Track 9 (“Bonnie wee thing”), performed by tenor Jamie MacDougall. It’s a very, very pretty song with a gentle melody that is both wistful and joyful. I don’t think I’ve liked MacDougall more than I do on this track.

Track 10 (“Up in the morning early”), performed by soprano Lorna Anderson, is another fine track. Her voice is delightful here. Fits the music and lyrics well.

Track 12 (“The yellow¬† hair’d laddie’), a duet with Anderson and MacDougall, is terrific. Their voices blend well, with both offering up a high-register note or two just to remind us that they can hit ‘em. Short song, though. Only 2:29. It’s over before you know it’s begun.

Track 13 (“Robin is my only jo”) is an interesting song with a few soaring notes, and some odd lyrics.

Track 14 (“O’er the muir amang the heather”) is another duet. The lyrics involve lassies and heather and all the melancholy I’ve come to expect from these folk songs. Fantastic singing, especially, from Anderson. Her range is in that sweet spot for me.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 9.23.50 AMTrack 18 (“Bessy Bell and Mary Gray”) is a piano melody that reminds me of something Chico Marx played in one of the Marx Brothers movies. I can’t think of the movie. But there are snippets of a song Chico played in that Scottish folk song. When I find out, I’ll post a YouTube clip of it.

I think today’s CD qualifies as one of my favorites of Haydn’s folk songs.

CD 73 features the same singers and musicians as on the previous folk-song selections:

Lorna Anderson and tenor Jamie MacDougall, both of whom actually are Scottish. They have fine voices.

Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, which consists of:

Harald Kosik piano
Verena Stourzh violin
Hannes Gradwohl cello

Also, as with the previous CDs of Scottish and Welsh Songs for George Thomson, this CD of songs for William Whyte was recorded where it was likely first performed, or even composed: Haydn Hall, Esterhazy Palace, Eisenstadt.

The recording is perfect. The musicianship is magical. The entire performance is superb. Typical Brilliant Classics excellence. (Seriously, you really ought to buy box sets from Brilliant Classics. They are first-rate in every way. Here. I’ll make it easy for you. Just click on this link and it’ll take you to the listing on Amazon. Buy the Haydn Edition that I’ve been listening to for 71 days now. You’ll thank me for it later.)

Here’s what I listened to this morning:

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