So I’ve spent a lot of this year getting into Haydn. It’s odd–I’ve been courting a taste for classical music for most of my adult life, but I never really listened to Haydn until now. He slipped through the cracks somehow. I read something recently about how Haydn used to be regarded as highly as his younger contemporary Mozart, and was just as popular, until the last generation or so, when we decided Mozart was the be-all and end-all of music. (I enjoy this channel of animated classical music, which has hundreds of videos, but which I just found has zero pieces by Haydn.)

The two men’s styles are certainly similar, but in Haydn I see a man I find spiritually simpatico. His symphonies each sound simple, but developed deeply–each a paean to grace–like Mozart’s–but also direct in a clean, friendly way, as opposed to Mozart’s often overbearing showmanship. A balance of lofty and grounded.

I just watched a lecture by Robert Greenberg about Haydn, and learned that he was a child of the working class, and a late bloomer: another level at which I connect with him. It may be illustrative of pretension, but when I listen to Haydn, I feel the best of both my abilities and aspirations underscored–ambitions for productive contemplation, if you will. I’ve listened to the Sunrise quartet on some Sunday mornings, for example, and find it a perfect fit.

This note from an article about Colin Davis’s Haydn recordings is relevant, then:

No conductor surpasses Davis in his command of both the local detail and the long-range tonal drama of Haydn’s intricate and astonishingly diverse sonata structures. Tempos are, almost without exception, uncannily well judged. For all their exhilarating impetus and strength of rhythm, Allegros have space to breathe and to sing; minuets truly dance, imperiously, exuberantly or comically, earthy energy and symphonic sophistication held in ideal equilibrium. Andantes have a lithe, feline grace, yet, except, perhaps, for that of No. 95, are never too skittish to betray their dramatic or introspective developments; and Davis realizes all the poetry and burdened breadth of the great Adagios in Nos. 98, 99 and 102.

I’m listening to symphony 96–“The Miracle”–on this Spotify playlist as I write this. I have a goal of enjoying 40 new symphonies this year, and it occurs to me that I could do all of that with just Haydn (maybe the top 40 here). Right now I’m trying to listen to all 12 of the London symphonies, though later today I want to take a break from that already and try the Nelson mass, about which I’ve read some great things.




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