September 02, 2004

Papa Blogging

No, this is not a Gratuitous Domestic Post (TM) about my kids. Rather, I am currently listening to "Papa" Haydn's Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello No. 34 in B flat major, Hob. XV:20. I have a performance on the Harmonia mundi label by Patrick Cohen, Erich Hobarth and Christophe Coin.

I am continually amazed by Haydn's relatively low popular standing these days. (I've been stewing about this business ever since I read Lileks' dismissal of Haydn in this morning's Bleat .) On the radio, for instance, not much of his work gets played other than the London symphonies and occassionally one of his quartets. I believe this is generally true of concerts as well. And it's truly a shame. Haydn didn't have Mozart's genius or Beethoven's driving energy, but he was immensely admired by both younger men. And neither of them would have achieved what they did without Haydn leading the way. Furthermore, on pure musical merit, I'd take Haydn in an instant over most of the 19th Century posing blowhards who dominate the fashion these days.

The reason I'm amazed by Haydn's relative invisibility is that I can't think of any other composer off the top of my head who combined such fine craftsmanship with such accessibility. Haydn is an excellent composer for helping someone new to classical music to understand the forms. Anyone with a reasonable amount of musical ability can pick up the broader outlines of his ideas at once. At the same time, his work cannot be dismissed as mere kiddie-music. (Well, okay, maybe some of it can be.) Rather, it is a source of pure listening pleasure for even the most sophisticated ear (if that ear can be crow-barred away from its biases, that is).

The CD I have on now is a prime example. The great thing about the trios is that they can be as elegant and sophisticated as anything else Haydn wrote, but at the same time they have a cosy intimacy and lack of formality about them that gives Haydn free rein to indulge himself in fancy. These pieces are peppered with jokes, asides and occassional stormy outbreaks while at the same time never losing their outward structural integrity. This isn't Haydn trying to pack a subscription concert in London. Rather, it's Papa and some of his intimates amusing themselves, playing for the pure pleasure of the music itself.

And what good music it is.

Posted by Robert at September 2, 2004 05:03 PM | TrackBack

I'm not an expert on the nuances of classical music. But I know what I like to listen to. Haydn is usually near the top of the list. It's funny you used the words "cozy" and "lack of formality" - I think "casual" when I think of Haydn's music.

Posted by: jen at September 2, 2004 07:42 PM
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