Day 33: The End, Kraftwerk, and a Beginning

HaydnCD33Today’s CD marks the end of Haydn’s symphonies.

In other words, by the time I’m done today, I will have listened to all 104 Haydn symphonies , plus the four Sinfonias. (So, is that 108? Or 104? You be the judge.)

I liked Symphony No. 103 in E Flat “Mit Dem Paukenwirbel” (“Drumroll”) from the first few notes. (I love the German language. They can take a simple, two-syllable word and turn it into something with more syllables than a doctoral dissertation.)

No. 103 opens with a long timpani roll, from which it gets its nickname. That lasts for about 10 seconds. Then, around the :12 mark, the bass instruments begin, slowly and somberly. The combination is extremely compelling. I found myself leaning forward to hear this, wondering what’s going to happen next.

Movement II  (“Andante piu tosto allegretto”) happens next. It is brilliant. Rich, complex, stately, multi-tonal, yet alarmingly ear-worm worthy. The entire symphony gets two thumbs up from me. (I’m sure Haydn would be relieved to know how highly I think of his efforts.) From its entry on Wiki:

The symphony was the last but one of twelve that were composed for performance in England during Haydn’s two journeys there (1791–1792, 1794–1795). Haydn’s music was well known in England well before the composer traveled there, and members of the British musical public had long expressed the wish that Haydn would visit. The composer’s reception in England was in fact very enthusiastic, and the English visits were one of the most fruitful and happy periods of the composer’s life. Haydn composed the “Drumroll” Symphony while living in London during the winter of 1794–1795.

The “Drumroll” Symphony was premiered on March 2, 1795 as part of a concert series called the “Opera Concerts”, at the King’s Theatre. The orchestra was unusually large for the time, consisting of about 60 players. The task of directing the work was divided between the concertmaster Viotti and Haydn, who sat at a fortepiano.

Haydn later performed the work in Vienna, and for this purpose made a small cut in the final movement, which is usually respected by conductors today.

Since its premiere the “Drumroll” Symphony has been a favorite among Haydn’s symphonies, and it is frequently performed and recorded today. In 1831, Richard Wagner arranged it for piano.

Again, wouldn’t it have been remarkable to see Haydn play his own symphony? Did his audience appreciate that moment? I know I would have. I wouldn’t have taken my eyes Continue reading

Day 32: November 1, The Irony, and The Reaper

HaydnCD31One of the songs playing over the Muzak system this morning at Mr. Burger was the Who’s “My Generation,” perhaps the most famous line of which is this:

“I hope I die before I get old.”

When I heard that lyric, I took stock of my fellow diners; a sea of white heads, belonging to people who were easily in their 70s, all kvetching over cups of steaming coffee.

I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Did they see the irony? I thought. I doubt it. Otherwise…

Otherwise, what? What can one do about growing old?

Nothing. It is inevitable. I’m not the person I was when the Who’s song was released on November 5, 1965 — nearly 48 years ago to the day.

I was five years old. And very likely peeing my pants from fear because I had to walk to the elementary school about a mile away from where we lived.


Always a momentus time in the life of a young lad. But for me it was a huge deal, indeed. I was petrified.

Fast forward nearly half a century. Here I sit. It’s November 1, 2013. I’m no longer petrified. And definitely not peeing my pants. But there is a mug of steaming coffee in front of me. And I suppose Continue reading

Day 31: Something Wicked

HaydnCD31There’s nothing wicked about this morning’s Haydn selection. It’s somewhat bland. But it’s hardly evil.

No. My title refers to a book, one of my very favorite books. Every year, around this time, I read Ray Bradbury’s superlative Something Wicked This Way Comes.

If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to do so. It’s truly scary. And written with such precision and verve that each word crackles with life. Some of Bradbury’s sentences are so well written that I often re-read them, in awe, savoring every syllable, before moving on to the next one.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.13.23 AMOh? You don’t believe me? Try this, the opening paragraphs, on for size:

THE SELLER of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.

So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong.

Bradbury, Ray (2013-04-23). Something Wicked This Way Comes (Greentown) (Kindle Locations 101-105). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Not good enough? Hmm. Tough crowd. Okay. How about Continue reading

Day 30: Overheard Conversations

HaydnCD30This morning at Panera, as I refilled my mug of Light Roast coffee, I overhead a group of old guys chatting in a little nook area near the front of the restaurant. One man, who looked to be in his mid to late 60s, had his laptop open and he was talking to guys who looked to be 10+ years older than that.

“Are you referring to Internet Explorer?” the man with the laptop asked. “Because I have Google Chrome and Firefox, too.”

I glanced over and looked at the gaggle of retirees and thought, “Really? Twenty years ago, guys of this age would be jawing about being retired – not about web browsers.”

Life is funny, innit?

Symphony No. 96 in D , “The Miracle Symphony,” was composed in 1791 and is part of the London Symphonies. It is called “The Miracle Symphony” because, according to its entry on Wikipedia,

It is so called due to the story that, during its premiere, a chandelier fell from the ceiling of the concert hall in which it was performed. The audience managed to dodge the chandelier successfully as they had all crowded to the front for the post-performance applause, and the symphony got its nickname. More careful and recent research suggests that this event did indeed take place but during the premiere of his Symphony No. 102.

Haydn was 59, when this symphony was composed and first performed.

Symphony No. 97 in C was composed and first performed in Continue reading

Day 29: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

HaydnCD29This is the time of year that I dread: late October. It’s when my wife takes down all of the flowers that have graced our balcony since late May, early June.

There’s a quote from Sherlock Holmes, from the story titled “The Naval Treaty,” in which he waxes poetic about flowers.

“What a lovely thing a rose is!”
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

Even Sherlock Holmes, as cold and detached as he appears to be in print and film, was swayed, albeit momentarily, by the beauty of flowers.

How could I be any less moved by them?

Balcony1What makes this time of year interesting is that change is no longer a theory. It’s a fact, a palpable one at that. Trees turn color, temperatures drop, the wind kicks up. It’s a great time of year to be inside. Yet, not even there can one escape the chill that seeps inside. Winter is coming.

So, listening to Haydn’s music seems the perfect way to pass this season. Haydn will take me nearly up to Spring, 2014. The films of Woody Allen will carry me over the finish line into my second favorite season (after Fall).

For now, I get to enjoy Haydn, starting with Symphony No. 93.

Symphony No. 93 in D is the first of 12 symphonies dubbed Continue reading