Day 114: Ahh, the Reason for A

HaydnCD114I’m going to have to do some research on the baryton.

I’d like to know why 95% of Haydn’s baryton trios to which I’ve listened so far were written in the key of A.

Is that just an easy key in which to play? Was the baryton made for the key of A?

I’ve seen a couple of keys of D.

But mostly A.

That strikes me as odd.

So there must be a reason, right?

There is.

And I missed it the last time I perused this entry on Wikipedia:

John Hsu estimates that the Prince [Esterhazy] was probably not a virtuoso on his instrument, judging from the difficulty of Haydn’s writing. The composer used only the top five of the seven bowed strings, and seldom required the player to pluck and bow simultaneously. The keys chosen are also the simplest to play in: D major and the neighboring keys of G major and A major.

And there you have it.

The keys in which Haydn composed were the “easy” ones for Prince Esterhazy to play on his own instrument.

While this may have pleased the Prince no end (and kept Haynd gainfully employed), it Continue reading

Day 113: More Trios in the Key of A

HaydnCD113As I noted in yesterday’s post, I used to think baryton was the name of a place, perhaps a city like Berlin or London. Or Narnia, for that matter.

Now I know baryton is the name of a type of instrument that resembles a viola.

But with more strings.

And with a raspier, deeper sound. Not smooth like a violin. The sound of a baryton, to me, is like the harpsichord version of a piano. A bit wilder, rougher around the edges.

For more information about the baryton, as well as what prompted Haydn to compose these Baryton Trios, please visit what I wrote yesterday. I won’t bore you with repeating myself today.

However, I will remind you (or tell you for the first time if you’re just popping in) that Prince Esterhazy commanded Haydn to Continue reading