It is strange to think of the year 1809, and Haydn’s last days in Vienna, when the city was being overrun by Napoleon’s army, as having a link with our present Coronavirus invasion.
Yet the parallels are there. Today we are living in a time of self-isolation, as Haydn was then.
In his case, confinement was dominated by two factors, and both resonate with us today as being more complex than simple restraint (or curfew).
Firstly, there was the personal element of an effective house arrest dictated by his own old age. Haydn had less than a month to live at the end of a long life and he had what today’s media refer to, pointedly, as ‘underlying health issues’. The second was imposed by the Emperor himself – who posted two sentries outside the composer’s house in Gumpendorf to protect Haydn from contact with the turbulent world outside.
Like us, he was a prisoner in his own house and almost devoid of social contact. He softened his own loneliness by comforting his live-in servants with the words, ‘Children, don’t be frightened; where Haydn is, nothing can happen to you’. So it is perhaps not too fanciful to see this story as history repeating itself in our own turbulent times. Haydn was truly a man for all seasons.
It’s come later than we would have wanted but we’re very pleased that the 38th Haydn Society of Great Britain Journal has now been published. Inside you will find a broad range of articles to pique your interest, from performance reports to CD reviews and some diverse articles.
Happy New Year! Ours has been a busy one as we have moved home. This does have consequences for the 2019 Haydn Society Journal, whose publication has been pushed back until such time as we can re-order the forty-years-worth of accumulated Haydn Society paraphernalia that has been part of this sizeable operation. In the meantime keep an eye out here and on our social media for news as the year progresses.
There has been a recent glut of recordings of Haydn’s music for the keyboard. We at the Haydn Society of Great Britain have been focused on Roman Rabinovich’s Haydn project. This was launched earlier this year with a recital in London to publicise his first double CD “Haydn Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1”, though there have been other notable recordings by Paul Lewis (on Harmonia Mudi), Rebecca Maurer (Genuin), Jean-Efflam Bavouzet’s 8th volume of his sonata survey (Chandos) and Jerome Hantaï (Mirare), to name a few (here’s Haydn Society director Denis McCaldin clutching a copy of the remarkable F Minor sonata during a chat in his study over the weekend).
Along with this gold rush comes a real nugget, a new disc from Ivan Ilić for Chandos. This recital is different, in that it concerns the transcriptions for piano of selected symphonic works by Haydn, by the composer’s contemporary Carl David Stegmann. Ilić’s story is one of chance discovery – he was invited to rifle through a box of sheet music by a friend and chanced across a copy of Stegmann’s arrangement of Symphony no. 44. Three years later and a recording of this – along with further transcriptions of Symphonies nos 75 & 92 – makes for an absorbing reappraisal of the manner in which this part of the repertory would be consumed in the pre-gramophone middle-class home.
Haydn Society of Great Britain director Denis McCaldin writes:
“Joseph Haydn – Innovation and Inspiration” was the theme of this year’s annual Chamber Music Festival (15-17 March) at the Royal Northern College of Music last weekend in Manchester.
The Chamber Music Festival was pioneered for string quartet players by Christopher Rowland at a time when music colleges gave scant attention to small ensembles. This year’s programme showed how far things have progressed. Devised by RNCM staff member Jeremy Young, the weekend offered student groups from piano duettists to mixed electronic/traditional music in an amazing diversity of chamber ensembles and arrangements. Also featured were the Quatuor Mosaiques and the Heath Quartet in two evening concerts which were as educational as they were impressive. A rewarding weekend for all who attended.
UPDATE: The event was reviewed in the Sunday Times here. Denis McCaldin’s notes were quotes thus:
Denis McCaldin, in his programme-book essay, nicely observed that [Haydn] isn’t so much the “father” of the symphony or the piano sonata as “the ‘father’ of classical music itself”.