Sunday, May 31, 2009


For those who keep track of such matters with precision, today is the day on which, two hundred years ago, Joseph Haydn died in Vienna. I had hoped that there would be some recognition of this event at this afternoon's chamber music recital by San Francisco Symphony musicians, but this does not appear to be the case. Even the presence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is through his K. 498 trio for viola, clarinet, and piano (the "Kegelstatt"), rather than through one of the quartets he dedicated to Haydn. In terms of music for the occasion, it is interesting to observe that, at least according to the Hoboken catalog, Haydn never composed a full setting of the requiem mass, never getting beyond several settings of the "Requiem" text itself and four of the "Libera me" text, one of which was published in 1790. As a result, the music performed at his memorial service, which did not take place until June 15, 1809 at the Schottenkirche, was Mozart's K. 626 requiem (presumably in the version completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr).

For my part I am marking the day by having arrived at the final base camp for my ascent of the Mount Haydn of the Brilliant Classics Haydn Edition. This is the "stage" of his solo keyboard music; and, after having to slog through all of that baryton music (so much of which seems to have been gratuitous work for his patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy), I am particularly glad to have arrived at a stage of my listening where it is so easy to look back on Haydn's life with good thoughts. These thoughts were actually primed by a wonderful anniversary program given by William Wellborn under the auspices of the Noontime Concerts™ recital series at Old St. Mary's Cathedral; and, in preparing my review of this concert, I took some "sneak peeks" at this portion of the Brilliant collection.

Given my frustration with how Haydn's string quartets were represented in this collection, I am relieved to report that both of the sonatas Wellborn performed (the Sturm und Drang C minor sonata, Hoboken XVI/20, and the final sonata in the Hoboken catalog, XVI/52 in E-flat major) were included in the collection. Unfortunately, like the quartets, the sonatas have been recorded in a jumbled order, which is about as frustrating as the ordering of the cantatas in the Bach Edition; but, while the Bach Edition provided a data CD for finding a specific cantata, the Haydn Edition CD-ROM offers no such assistance. The good news is that, upon initial inspection and comparison with the Hoboken catalog, there do not appear to be any significant omissions. Also good news is that all of these recordings were of performances by Bart van Oort on a fortepiano. Van Oort is a member of the Van Swieten Society, whose performances of the piano trios had given me so much pleasure for their efforts towards "Honoring Haydn's Sound," as I had put it in the title of an earlier blog post. I thus find listening to these recordings a perfect way to recognize Haydn's music, in both theory and practice, on this special anniversary of his death.

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