Day 123: Twenty-One Tracks of Meh

HaydnCD123I really wish I could say that what I listened to today profoundly moved me.


I just listened to 21 tracks of music that passed through me without leaving any impression at all.

That’s not good.

Oh, Track 20 (Movement II – “Allegro di molto” – of Haydn Baryton Trio No. 87 in A Minor) raised an eyebrow. But only slightly. In Spock fashion.

The rest of these trios sounded the same to me.


Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to Continue reading

Day 122: Ballykissangel Incidental Music?

HaydnCD122One song from today’s baryton trios really jumped out at me: Movement III (“Finale: Scherzo Presto”) from Haydn Baryton Trio No. 76 in C.

I would bet dollars to donuts (what does that mean, anyway?) I’ve heard that before, possibly on one of my favorite BBC TV shows, Ballykissangel.

It’s not the theme song. That much I know.

But it sounds remarkably like snippets of incidental music I’ve heard in that wonderful series.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.54.46 AMAt least, I think I’ve heard those sounds in Ballykissangel. Or was it Doc Martin? No. Must have been Ballykissangel.

Yet, if that’s true, then why can’t I find mention of it when I Google the name of the baryton trio and the name of the TV show?

I’ll keep digging.

Hey, something else of interest. I just discovered the pdf booklet that comes with the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition:

The baryton’s technical limitations meant that the vast majority are in the keys of A (the easiest of all for the baryton), D and G, with a correspondingly narrow range of modulation within movements. The dark, husky instrumental palette lends itself particularly well to stately slow movements, something of a speciality in these trios.

See? Even I – a chap without a degree in musicology – knew that the baryton trios were mostly in the key of A, and were mostly slow in tempo.

Yeah. You with your Ph.D. in Musicology and your room-temperature brie and ever-so-slightly chilled Pinot Grigio. Yeah. Who’s laughing Continue reading

Day 121: Mr. Presto

HaydnCD120I did today what I’ve done for the past couple of days: I just let the music play as I worked on other things.

When a track stood out, I’d note it.

Otherwise, I just let the music wash over me.

It was all fairly pleasant. Nothing terrible wrong with it. It was…nice.

However, three tracks stood out:

Track 3, which is Haydn Baryton Trio No. 60 in A Movement III (“Menuet”).

Track 15, which is Haydn Baryton Trio No. 64 in D Movement III (“Finale: Presto”).

Track 17, which is Haydn Baryton Trio No. 65 in G Movement II (“Menuet”).

I’ve found that I’m usually a Movement III kinda guy. Just call me Mr. Presto. Continue reading

Day 120: Cold, Cold, Cold, Cold…

HaydnCD120The perfect follow-up to yesterday’s snow: a temperature this morning of 0 degress with a “feels like” temperature of -14F.

Yeah, baby!

Now that’s Pure Michigan.

For anyone not living in or near Michigan, that’s an inside joke.

Pure Michigan is the name of an ad campaign designed to get people to consider vacationing in Michigan – or not move out of the state quicker than rats from a sinking ship. Can’t tell which.

January28TempAnyway, they’re syrupy, fictitious ads that paint a picture quite unlike what the reality of living here actually is.

As I did yesterday, I let the CD play this morning while I did other things (mostly sip Light Roast coffee, watch people, and think about my life going down the shitter).

The CD began slowly, with compositions that sounded like droning, ambient music.

Ahh, the baryton. It’s no wonder you’ve been relegated to period-piece music fests.

It wasn’t until Track Seven, which is Movement I (“Allegro”) of Baryton Trio No. 62 in G that my sonic taste buds started munching on something sweet.

Then Track Eight, which is Continue reading

Day 119: Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow…

HaydnCD119I listened to this CD three times today, as background while I graded papers and watched through the window at Panera as more record snow and freezing temperatures made our lives hell.

All three times I noted the same passages as being standouts.

And I didn’t know I was doing that.

I was just listening along when something would jump out at me. So I reached for my pen and paper to write down which track it was and – surprise! – it was the same track each time.

That tells me (a) I’m stuck in a rut and only like what I really, really like, and/or (b) once I hear something, it remains indelibly etched in my brain, and/or (c) these objectively are standout performances.

The tracks are: Continue reading

Day 118: Andy Griffith, Larry, Coffee, and Home

HaydnCD118Another change of venue this morning: my home.

As an episode of The Andy Griffith Show plays in the background (because there’s always background noise when I’m at Panera), Larry (our cat) reposes on the floor near me, and a cup of fresh-brewed Morning Blend coffee sits strategically positioned less than an arm’s length away on the table beside me, I listen to today’s selection of Haydn’s Baryton Trios, to wit:

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 46 in A

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 47 in G

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 48 in D (my #2 favorite today)

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 49 in G (my #1 favorite today)

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 50 in D

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 51 in A

Haydn Baryton Trio No. 52 in D

LarryFloorIt’s still dark outside. And chilly inside. (Maybe that’s why Larry is curled into a tight ball.)

But the coffee is good.

The smell from the Bob Evans sausages grilling on the stove (I’m making breakfast for my still-sleep better half) is enticing.

The music is surprisingly compelling.

And I am motivated today (for various reasons) to write my ass off.

Life is good.

Maybe I’m onto something.

These baryton trios aren’t dramatically different from the ones to which I’ve been listening all along. Yet, somehow, today, they Continue reading

Day 117: Snow! Veronica Mars! More Baryton Trios! Oh, Boy!

HaydnCD117I took a risk getting here this morning.

An additional foot to a foot and a half of snow greeted us when we opened our eyes.

The parking lots had not yet been plowed.

It’s still snowing.

In case you’re not aware, we’re in the middle of one of the harshest winters we’ve had in decades. (Where’s that Global Warming when you need it?)

I’m a brave soul, though. So when the alarm went off at 6:01 this morning, I…

Hit snooze and stayed in bed for another nine minutes. Then, I…

Hit snooze…

Then thought better of it…

Got out of bed, dressed, brushed off the car, and drove into the treacherous early-morning darkness.

THSaturdaySo here I sit, by myself, at Tim Horton’s, sipping their unique coffee and eating some kind of breakfast sandwich.

It’s a different environment from the one I usually haunt.

So maybe my creative juices will flow and I’ll write (and listen!) with renewed vigor.

Then again, maybe not.

These baryton trios are not exactly Mozart’s 40th. They’re pretty damn Continue reading

Day 116: Tiptoeing Through the Barytons

HaydnCD116If you’ve been following my previous posts, you know that these baryton trios are a bit of a slog for me.

It’s not that they’re poorly played (on the contrary, these musicians are brilliant). It’s not that they’re badly written (Haydn was, after all, Haydn).

It’s that they’re all the same, more or less. Over one hundred compositions for the baryton (an old instrument somewhat like a cello), many of which are in the key of A because Prince Esterhazy wasn’t an accomplished player and so Haydn had to “dumb down” his compositions for the Prince.

I did notice something interesting in one of the trios today. I also notice a pizzicato passage because it always strikes me as humorous. Like cartoon characters tip toeing, sneaking up on someone. This plucking style appeared in Movement II (“Menuet”) of Baryton Trio No. 34 in D and caught my attention immediately. This Movement II is rather pleasant. I could listen to this one repeatedly.

In addition, the third and final movement (“Finale: Presto”) is peppier than usual as well.

Dare I say this baryton trio is a FAVORITE?

The next one (Baryton Trio No. 35 in A) is also Continue reading

Day 115: Different Keys!

HaydnCD115As I wrote in yesterday’s blog post, Haydn’s Baryton Trios aren’t exactly the most compelling of musical compositions.

And the reason why is because Prince Esterhazy commanded Haydn create music that he could play.

So Haydn did.

What he created indicates Haydn didn’t think very highly of the Prince’s prowess.

Check out this entry on Wikipedia:

John Hsu estimates that the Prince [Esterhazy] was probably not a virtuoso on his instrument, judging from the difficulty of Haydn’s writing. The composer used only the top five of the seven bowed strings, and seldom required the player to pluck and bow simultaneously. The keys chosen are also the simplest to play in: D major and the neighboring keys of G major and A major.

While these easy-to-play baryton trios may have pleased the Prince no end (and kept Haydn gainfully employed), it makes for listening at this late date a bit of a chore because all of these trios sound the same. Very little variation in tempo. Very little variation in key.

That’s not to say these aren’t pleasant. They are. They’re just not essential.

Of the seven trios I heard today, I like Continue reading

Day 114: Ahh, the Reason for A

HaydnCD114I’m going to have to do some research on the baryton.

I’d like to know why 95% of Haydn’s baryton trios to which I’ve listened so far were written in the key of A.

Is that just an easy key in which to play? Was the baryton made for the key of A?

I’ve seen a couple of keys of D.

But mostly A.

That strikes me as odd.

So there must be a reason, right?

There is.

And I missed it the last time I perused this entry on Wikipedia:

John Hsu estimates that the Prince [Esterhazy] was probably not a virtuoso on his instrument, judging from the difficulty of Haydn’s writing. The composer used only the top five of the seven bowed strings, and seldom required the player to pluck and bow simultaneously. The keys chosen are also the simplest to play in: D major and the neighboring keys of G major and A major.

And there you have it.

The keys in which Haydn composed were the “easy” ones for Prince Esterhazy to play on his own instrument.

While this may have pleased the Prince no end (and kept Haynd gainfully employed), it Continue reading