Day 52: Like a German Monty Python

HaydnCD52Today’s CD, Haydn’s opera Die Feuersbrunst (“The Burned-Down House”), is a very odd duck indeed.

For one thing, some of this sounds like a Monty Python skit with a couple of guys talking in high-pitched voices pretending to be women. Or kids. Or marionettes, as is the subject-matter of this “comic opera in two acts.”

From the website

The plot, involving the adventures of a buffoon named Hanswurst who speaks in a light Viennese dialect, is truly absurd enough to defy summary, but it’s fast-moving and full of amorous intrigue between masters and servants. Both the arias and the spoken interludes are brief, and Haydn rose to the occasion with a mixture of jolly tunes and exaggerated pathos that must have been great fun for all involved. The singers (there are four vocal parts) enter into the situation-comedy spirit of the action…

Buffoons and situation-comedy jocularity. Yes. It’s all here.

Along with lots and lots of talking. In German. It’s like an immersive German-language course.

What I can’t figure out is why this comedic opera is called Die Feuersbrunst. When I typed “Feuersbrunst” into Google, up popped these images:

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 9.12.34 AMSo that’s what a Feuersbrunst looks like. Here are a couple more definitions from Continue reading

Day 16: Ascot Gavotte?

HaydnCD16Today’s Haydn CD seems brighter, livelier, more fun.

Or, maybe, it’s my change of venue. I decided to listen and post in Barnes & Noble on this cloudy-and-chilly October morning.

Whatever it is, Symphony No. 55 in E Flat “Der Schulmeister” sounds rather Mozart like.

Not to belittle Haydn’s talents. But this particular symphony has a bouncier, more playful feel to it, more like something Mozart might have written. (By the way, in 1774 Mozart was 18. By that point in his life, Amadeus had probably written a gazillion symphonies. So, my guess is Haydn and Mozart — who knew each other — might have been playing a bit of friendly competition, much like Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson did in the mid 1960s.)

BNViewComposed in 1774 (Haydn was 42), Symphony No. 55 is another of Haydn’s symphonies with a nickname, this time “The Schoolmaster.” Again, the origin of that nickname appears unknown. According to its entry on Wiki:

H. C. Robbins Landon notes that while Haydn’s autograph manuscript of the symphony contains no reference to this title, the work has been known by this name since the early nineteenth century. Landon suggests that the dotted rhythm of the second movement calls to mind the wagging finger of a schoolmaster, and points out that in the catalog of his works that Haydn helped prepare in the final years of his life, there is a fragment of a lost Divertimento in D containing a similar dotted rhythm entitled “Der verliebte Schulmeister” (the schoolmaster in love). Landon goes on to propose a program for the symphony’s second movement in which the sections marked semplice represent the “strict, pedantic” teacher and the dolce sections depict the same teacher overwhelmed by love.

I thought the “dotted rhythm” of Movement II (“Adagio, ma semplicemente”) sounded like the rhythm of the lyrics in the Lerner and Loewe song Continue reading