Day 36: Scary Movies…and Circuses

HaydnCD36Today’s music is Organ Concertos.

That means I’ll probably hear an organ that’ll remind me of the score of a silent film, something akin to Phantom of the Opera or some other scary movie.

It’s inevitable, really.

Any time I hear and old-timey organ in Classical music, I think of the opening flourish of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BMV 565), which is one of the most distinctive – and famous – passages of music ever written:

See what I mean? You know that sound even if you don’t know it’s name. (Now you do. Write it down in case you ever find yourself on Jeopardy!)

But that’s not the music I’ll hear today. For one thing, it’s not Bach on tap; it’s Haydn.

For another, according to the list of Haydn’s concertos published on Wikipedia, today’s musical selection selection was published in 1756. (Haydn was 24.) Bach lived from 1685 – 1750. So, although, Haydn could have been influenced by Bach (and, most likely, was), I think he was too busy blazing his own trail to copy the works of Johann Sebastian note for note.

Meaning? Meaning the style of music had changed from the early days of Bach to the heyday of Haydn. Therefore, the organ solos in Haydn’s works won’t 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

Day 3: Off to the Races

Haydn3This morning’s listening fare opened with a bang — like thoroughbreds out of the gate.

And it should. The first composition on CD 3 is Symphony No. 9 in C, the first movement of which is allegro molto — very quick.

Which is a terrific way to begin a day.

Symphony 9 in C is a short symphony – its three movements constitute only about 12 minutes in length – that seems to end much too quickly. No sooner are the horses out of the gate and sprinting down the track when the race is over, and I find myself in Symphony No. 10 in D.

In between, however, is Movement II (“Andante”), which — as the term suggests — is slower, literally “at a walking pace.” It gives my metaphorical horses a chance to catch their breath.

Movement III (“Finale: Menuetto & Trio”) is slow, graceful, in the tempo of a minuet (often in 3/4 or 6/8 time). So now the horses are Continue reading