Day 96: Opus 17 – As Meaty as a Burger King Whopper

HaydnCD96Movement III (“Largo”) of Op. 17 No. 6 in D is exquisite – and that despite the fact that its tempo is much slower than I usually like.

I think it’s because the solo violin passages in this movement are splendid. The entire movement is captivating, quite emotional.

I liked Movement I (“Presto”) and Movement II (“Menuet”) of No. 6, but it wasn’t until Movement III that I really sat up and took notice. A lone violin, played slowly and mournfully will do that to me. A solo piano does it, too. A lot of Chopin moves me like that.

Movement IV (“Finale: Allegro”) was an invigorating way to end a truly beautiful composition. It ends in a most fascinating way, too. At about the 4:05 mark, a single violin note – seemingly rendered by mistake – is the last thing heard after a rousing chorus of Continue reading

Day 95: “Are You On Facebook?”

HaydnCD95This morning, again back at Panera Bread, I’m surrounded by white-haired people, most of whom are talking and gesturing wildly.

A trio (two women, one guy) at the table to my left appear to be in their late 70s, give or take.

One member of the trio, a sprightly, animated, lady just asked the other, “Are you on Facebook?”

The recipient of the question burst into laughter and proclaimed that she was, indeed, on the popular social-media site. “I’ll send you a friend request,” the first lady announced with glee.

The aforementioned animated lady then pointed to the guy and asked him the same question. This elicited even more laughter from the second lady, who pointed to the hapless chap and said, “Him? Are you kidding?” which, I’m sure, did wonders for the guy’s self esteem.

That’s about when Op. 17 No. 2 in F kicked in.

And I lost interest in eavesdropping.

Whereas Haydn’s first two Opuses (Opi?) sounded clever and lively (but somewhat rudimentary), Op. 17 sounds completely different to me. It sounds richer and fuller. I hesitate to use the word “mature” because Haydn was only 8-9 years older when he composed Op. 17 (39 compared to 30 or 31).

Hadyn’s Op. 17 string quartets were written in 1771. They were not written in Haydn’s earlier five-movement form. These were written in the more typical four-movement form.

It’s hard to put my finger on what’s different. But the sound is fuller. That’s about the best I can do to explain it. Fuller. That must mean Continue reading

Day 37: Send in the Clowns

HaydnCD37Today’s CD of Haydn compositions is Organ Concertos II.

You know what that means.

More circus music.

And more “mechanical clocks” music.

An example of the latter: track number 10 is 12 minutes of what sounds to my untrained ears like circus Calliope music. I can almost smell the roasting almonds and cotton candy…and the manure from the performing animals.

And, wait. What’s that I hear? Children laughing? Do I see parents strolling with umbrellas and large hats?

ASundayAfternoonIt’s like a George Seurat painting come to life, something like the scene from his pointillist masterpiece A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

I’m sure Flotenuhr (“mechanical clocks”) music has its place.

It probably excited the hell out of audiences back in the late 1700s.

Today, I think 12 minutes of Flotenuhr music is about 10 minutes too much of it.

But what do I know? I’m not a composer. I’m a listener. In 21st century America, no less. If I had the talent to compose, I surely would. But then I’d have to do something crazy like lop off my ear, or Continue reading

Day 34: Piano Concertos, Denny’s, and Serendipity

HaydnCD34I love this music!

Today’s CD is a new beginning. Gone are Haydn’s symphonies. This morning starts Piano Concertos.

So what better place to be on a dark, chilly Sunday morning in November – in search of a new beginning – than a Denny’s restaurant?

Well, I suppose the case could be made that a beach in Tahiti with a tall, cool piña colada – served by an equally tall, cool island girl – beats where I’m sitting right now. But Denny’s runs a close second, right? (Admittedly, Kevin, our server, is tall. And he’s probably cool in his own way. But I am dubious that Kevin serving me a piña colada on a beach in Tahiti – or, anywhere, frankly – would have the same effect.)

The first composition on today’s CD is  Piano Concerto in D No. 11. (NOTE: The Hoboken-Verzeichnis system of cataloging Haydn’s compositions is used extensively for these concertos. The Hoboken-Verzeichnis system was named after Anthony van Hoboken, a collector and musicologist who lived to be 96 years of age, passing away in 1983.)

As usual when I start to explore a new type of music and its performers, I discover all sorts of things linking from other things. (The Internet is a blessing and a curse — a tremendous boon to people with insatiable curiosities…and a constant drain on said people’s bank accounts.)

For example: searching for information about the pianist (Yolanda Violante) on today’s CD, and the pianist (Paul Badura-Skoda) in the YouTube clip below, somehow lead me to the mind-blowing “Arthur Rubinstein The Complete Album Collection” boxed set, which consists of 144 discs for $101 (the price as of today’s date). I have no idea how I ended up on Amazon, or drooling on my keyboard in awe of the grandeur of this Rubinstein boxed set. But once I saw that collection, I immediately added it to my shopping cart.

One of my most beloved treasures is Rubinstein’s Chopin Collection. So, how could I possibly resist Arthur Rubinstein‘s complete recordings – touted “…as the world’s biggest CD edition for a solo artist, according to Guinness World Records”?

That’s what they call a rhetorical question. I couldn’t resist it. And didn’t.

But that’s what I love about doing this.

It is this serendipitous, circuitous discovery of tangental subjects that 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

Day 11: More Competence

Haydn011Stately. Well ordered. Mature. Competent.

I wish I could muster more enthusiasm for Haydn’s Symphony No. 40 in F.

Alas, I am unable.

This is a very fine symphony. But it’s like a lullaby to me. In fact, if not for the Light Roast I’m chugging I’d have nodded off listening to it this morning.

According to its entry on Wiki, Symphony No. 40 was written before 1763, but its exact date is unknown, which means Haydn could have been about 31, or younger.

By the way, why do I note Haydn’s age at the time of composition?

Haydn2aBecause that’s one way I make concrete something that heretofore (heretofore?) was unknown at worst and nebulous at best. I want to know who Haydn was when he composed these masterpieces (yes, even “competent” symphonies from Haydn are masterpieces in my book). So I place him in historical perspective. Part of that includes giving him an age.

Another part is to note what was going on in America (and the world) at the time this symphony was composed.

In 1763, America had just fought the French and Indian War. Britain issued the Proclamation of 1763, which begins with this: Continue reading