Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Editing" the HAYDN EDITION

While I have tried to be kind to the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition in the face of the fact that a Gesamtwerk collection would have been a formidable (if not unrealistic) task, I must admit that I am beginning to feel some frustration with some of the decisions the "editors" made over what to include and what to exclude. Some of that frustration has to do with omissions of works I was particularly interested in hearing in a more "studied" setting than the concert hall, the "Frog" quartet (Hoboken III/49, published as Opus 50, Number 6) being my most recent case in point. I found this case particularly perplexing, because the Opus 50 quartets, sometimes called the "Prussian" quartets, make for a rather interesting collection, taken as a whole; and the decision to include only the first three in the set seems more than a little arbitrary. The same can be said of the six quartets published as Opus 76, dedicated to Count Joseph Erdödy) (Hoboken III/75–80). Again, the Haydn Edition chose to include only the first three of this set. Fortunately, that included Number 3, the "Emperor" quartet, which may well be the best known of all of Joseph Haydn's string quartets; but it also excluded Number 4, called the "Sunrise" quartet in England, which is as exciting a piece of musical illustration as can be found in the depiction of dawn in Die Schöpfung (Hoboken XXI/2) or the early sixth symphony (Hoboken I/6). Most frustrating is that the Haydn Edition seems to have been more thorough than necessary in covering all those song settings that Haydn did for George Thomson, William Whyte, and William Napier at the price of neglecting as thorough an account of his string quartets as was given of his symphonies. If we are to celebrate Haydn for the breadth of his imagination, then those quartets are far more representative of his imagination in full force than any of those settings of folk songs from the British Isles! Now I agree that, given its "economy" price, there is still more than adequate value in the Haydn Edition. I also know that, in the face of the value that is available, I have to play with the cards that have been dealt to me; but I can still wonder if all those cards were dealt from the top of the deck!

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