Day 150: Good Bye, Haydn…

HaydnCD150Today’s CD is the pianoforte version of Haydn’s symphony Die Sieben Letzten Worte (the Seven Last Words of Christ), which was composed in 1787. Haydn was 55 years old.

The pianoforte version is played by Bart van Oort.

Originally commissioned for a full orchestra, Die Sieben Letzten is composed of nine movements, described this way:

The seven main meditative sections — labelled “sonatas” and all slow — are framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements…The seven meditations on the Last Words are excerpted from all four gospels. The “Earthquake” movement derives from Matthew 27:51ff. Much of the work is consolatory, but the “Earthquake” brings a contrasting element of supernatural intervention — the orchestra is asked to play presto e con tutta la forza — and closes with the only fortississimo (triple forte) in the piece.

Today’s CD marks the end of my exploration of Haydn’s music. Thanks to the incredible Brilliant Classics record label, I was able to listen to Haydn’s entire creative output.

If you want to hear great music at an affordable price, you cannot go wrong with the Brilliant Classics label. If you want your own 150-CD Haydn Edition, visit Amazon. As of today’s date (February 27, 2014), the Hayden Edition is just $130 for 150 CDs. I’m no math wizard. But according to my calculations that’s less than $1 per disc.

Unheard of. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

So, good bye, Haydn.

Good bye, also to the people from seven countries who visited this blog since the beginning.

Here’s what I listened to today:

Frankly, I prefer van Oort’s pianoforte version over the full orchestra. I think it’s because the pianoforte – along with van Oort’s exceptional talent playing it – helps bring out the emotion of Haydn’s composition.

Piano is often a very melancholy instrument for me., anyway. When it plays Die Sieben it’s a perfect fit.


NOTE: If you’re interested in Woody Allen, stick around. Tomorrow, I start watching everything Woody directed, in chronological order.

Day 99: Prussian Quartets

HaydnCD99Today’s CD contains Haydn’s String Quartets titled Opus 50, the “Prussian” quartets, which were composed in 1787. Haydn was 55.

Here’s some background on the Prussian quartets. This paragraph is from a web site called Audiophile Audition that sells high-res recording of these Haydn quartets. (The recordings to which I’m listening are from the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition. I find these recordings to be splendid.)

The review from Audiophile Audition was written by Mike Birman.

Haydn had entered a new phase of public music making in which a Classical simplicity of utterance and melodic freshness made his music immediately appealing. He simultaneously discovered the stylistic unity in his themes that gives his later works their folk-like quality, in contrast to Mozart’s aristocratic loftiness and emotional ambiguity. The six Op. 50 “Prussian” Quartets were finally completed in September 1787. They were dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, the cello playing monarch to whom Mozart would dedicate his final three string quartets. The “Prussian” Quartets are wonderfully expressive works, yet they still exhibit that Classical restraint whose bounds would eventually be shattered by Beethoven. The three quartets on this SACD – the third in E-flat major, the fifth in F major “The Dream” and the sixth in D major “The Frog” – are all cheerful untroubled works of striking originality. Featuring many innovations in quartet writing, including an equality of musical discourse amongst the four instruments, their greatest quality is a calm, graceful beauty that immediately entrances the listener. The two named quartets are especially memorable for their expressive originality and bucolic charm.

These were all somewhat interesting. But hardly memorable. They seemed Continue reading

Day 87: Die Sieben Letzen Worte

HaydnCD87Today’s music is the string quartet version of Haydn’s orchestra work The Seven Last Words of Christ (German: Die sieben letzten Worte).

Of course, what one thinks of the string quartet version may depend a great deal on what one thought of the orchestral version, which I wrote about on November 29, 2013.

I wasn’t blown away by the orchestra version. So this stripped down string quartet version isn’t necessarily an improvement.

That’s not to say it’s horrible, though. It’s not. It’s superb. It’s just not something I’d listen to on repeat all day while I write.

Here’s the story behind it from the article on Wikipedia:

At the request of his publisher, Artaria, the composer in 1787 produced a reduced version for string quartet: Haydn’s Opus 51. This is the form in which the music is most often heard today: a group of seven works (Hoboken-Verzeichnis III/50–56), with the Introduction abutting Sonata I and Sonata VII joined by the Earthquake. The first violin part includes the Latin text directly under the notes, which “speak” the words musically.

This version has come under suspicion of authenticity due to an occasionally careless manner of transcription, with crucial wind passages left out and only the accompanimental figures in the strings retained. As a result, some quartets make their own adaptation, working from the orchestral original.


551px-Brooklyn_Museum_-_What_Our_Lord_Saw_from_the_Cross_(Ce_que_voyait_Notre-Seigneur_sur_la_Croix)_-_James_TissotIncidentally, in case you were wondering what those “seven last words” were, this Wiki article explains:

The seven sayings form part of a Christian meditation that is often used during Lent, Holy Week and Good Friday. The traditional order of the sayings is

Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
Matthew 27:46: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
John 19:28: I thirst.
Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
John 19:30: It is finished.

Traditionally, these seven sayings are called words of 1. Forgiveness, 2. Salvation, 3. Relationship, 4. Abandonment, 5. Distress, 6. Reunion and 7. Triumph.

As I have in previous posts, I can’t forget to introduce the members of the Buchberger Quartet (their site is in German):

Hubert Buchberger violin
Julia Greve violin
Joachim Etzel viola
Helmut Sohler cello

The other players in the quartet do not have their own web sites, apparently. So, no link to them. Sorry.

Here’s what I listened to today:

Day 28: No Boiled Car Tires

HaydnCD28What happens when Panera just doesn’t cut it any more, when the thought of another Light Roast coffee or Asiago bagel curls one’s teeth?

D&W to the rescue.

I’m not sure what D&W stands for. I’m sure it’s probably the names of its founders, like Dick and Wally or something. But it’s a grocery story chain in West Michigan that’s been around forever.

This morning, D&W’s bright, airy (and chilly!) cafeteria plays host to a few guys with laptops (including me) who are using it as an office.

DWOctober28I see that a lot these days, people using Wi-Fi hotspots as remote offices. Nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time. It’s just interesting to see people with suits and ties (like the chap sitting directly in front of me in the next booth over) working on spreadsheets in a restaurant.

Ten years ago, a guy like that would have been at home, or at the office, but not in between in the professional equivalent of Purgatory.

In case you can’t see the sign, D&W sells Starbucks coffee, as most places do these days.

I don’t know why. Starbucks tastes like boiled car tires to me.

Granted, I used to like Starbucks. But, lately, that Continue reading

Day 27: Solitude

HaydnCD27Okay. I’ll admit it. One of the reasons why I like initiating these projects is because I love the solitude of being up, out, and about before anyone else is.

In other words, I’m a morning person.

Which would be great if my wife wasn’t a night person. (Actually, she’s neither. She’d rather sleep at both ends of the day.)

So, my semi-nocturnal projects are perfect in that they get me out in my pre-dawn element, while allowing my wife to continue snoozing to her heart’s content.

Today’s symphonies were marvelous. Not up to Paris Symphonies levels. Those six were exquisite. But mighty fine works of art in their own right.

Symphony No. 88 in G was composed in Continue reading

Day 25: The Bear, the Hen, and the Lord

HaydnCD25We’re into something interesting now.

The first symphony on Haydn CD 25 is Symphony No. 82 in C “L’ours” (The Bear). It is the first of six symphonies often referred to as “The Paris Symphonies.” It was composed in 1786. Haydn was 54.

Symphony No. 83 in G Minor “La Poule” (The Hen) was composed in 1785. Haydn was 53.

Symphony No. 84 in E Flat, also composed in 1786, is sometimes referred to by the subtitle In Nomine Domini (in the name of the Lord).

Because these symphonies are part of something bigger — somewhat like a story arc in a TV series — I won’t comment on each one at length. One, however, Continue reading