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Haydn’s Seven Last Words, arr. Ben Palmer


Conductor Ben Palmer (R) and Denis McCaldin

The Director of the Society, Denis McCaldin, writes:

Last night we attended an all-Haydn concert for Good Friday. This was a special event for any number of reasons, not least as it gave us an opportunity to celebrate the anniversary (24th March 2015) of our establishing a commemorative plaque to Haydn in London.

OSP poster 25March2016 e-flyerAbove all, this was the first performance of a new arrangement of Haydn’s devotional masterpiece The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, prepared by the evening’s conductor. Ben Palmer maintains a small but fine portfolio of ensembles under his direction, including the recently established London Haydn Project. For this occasion however, he brought another of his groups, the Orchestra of St. Paul’s to their namesake church to perform his new arrangement. The Haydn Society of Great Britain has been delighted to support Ben throughout the arrangement and rehearsal process.

Ben notes

This new version is a transcription for string orchestra of Haydn’s original orchestral version, restoring the details omitted from the rather rudimentary string quartet publication of 1787, which left out much important thematic material and contrapuntal complexity.

The Seven Last Words has a grave subject matter but is a remarkably classical work, a structurally rigorous set of Sonatas. For latitude of expression, we were given an exciting first half of the concert. The Symphony No. 26, ‘Lamentatione’ (Hob I/26) was also intended for performance during the Easter week, featuring the seasonally apt chorale melody of the second movement. This work an early exemplar of the Sturm und Drang (‘Storm and Stress’) style certainly benefitted from a well-rehearsed ensemble and daring variation in dynamics. The shoots of Spring forced their way out in the vibrato-light élan of the final Menuet.

The Cello Concerto in C (Hob VIIb/1) was performed by Korean cellist Hyunah Park. An assured and well-prepared rendition, the concerto brimmed with life and the humour that the layman more readily associates with Haydn. Ben’s orchestra proved a lissom, flexible partner in the performance particularly in the control, blend and range of the combined woodwind and horns.

This was a wide-ranging concert that showed the cosmopolitan – and Mass-attending – Haydn at his most comprehensive. It was super to chat with a number of the audience during the interval about the Society and the engage with the continuing interest in this composer for whom London and the English sensibility was a second home, not a year after we had put up the first plaque to his memory just the other side of the Charing Cross Road.

New Arrangement of the Seven Last Words for Good Friday

OSP poster 25March2016 e-flyerHere’s a special event for your diary. The Orchestra of St Paul’s are to play Haydn’s Seven Last Words in a new arrangement for string orchestra by their conductor Ben Palmer at a concert in central London on Good Friday. Mr Palmer writes

This new version is a transcription for string orchestra of Haydn’s original orchestral version, restoring the details omitted from the rather rudimentary string quartet publication of 1787, which left out much important thematic material and contrapuntal complexity.

Also in this concert there is a performance of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C with Korean virtuoso cellist Hyunah Park, as well as his Symphony no. 26. The Haydn Society of Great Britain is proud to be supporting this concert. More details may be found here.

New Year, New Associations

Happy New Year! As 2016 gets underway, we thought we’d let you know about some performances of Haydn’s music that are being given in the first part of 2016.

We’re particularly pleased to be supporting a concert of Haydn’s music on Good Friday in central London. The Orchestra of St. Paul’s in association with the Haydn Society of Great Britain give the world premiere of Ben Palmer’s string orchestra arrangement of Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross, as well as Symphony No. 26 and the Cello Concerto in C, at St Paul’s church Covent Garden on 25 March at 7.30. You can find more infomation here.

In addition, the Orchestra of St. Paul’s under Ben Palmer will be giving an account of Haydn’s Symphony No. 59 at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 28 January. Ben is an enthusiastic advocate of Haydn and has formed a special spin-off concern to perform Haydn’s music – his London Haydn Project will be performing Haydn and Mozart the week before this central London concert at the Parish Church of Sarum St Martin, Salisbury on Sunday 24 January.

As ever, do let us know if you are involved in performances or events concerning Haydn and his music. We’d love to know more and share the news!

Happy Christmas from the Haydn Society of Great Britain

The director of the Haydn Society, Denis McCaldin, writes:

haydnsoc_wigmoreSo we come to the end of the year. What a special year it has been for the Society! It was almost two years ago that we decided to commit ourselves to putting up the first plaque to Haydn in London. March this year saw this accomplished when Sir Neville Marriner, beside the Austrian ambassador, unveiled the plaque at 18 Great Pulteney Street. Almost a hundred people came to see the event for themselves.

The process of putting up the plaque caused me to sift through many an old file. I was pleased to turn up this poster (right) advertising an early concert series which the Society put on at Wigmore Hall (in 1980). Of course the lifetime of the Society is but a slight cross section of the period over which Haydn’s music has been admired and celebrated – for the best part of 250 years. We hope that the plaque will remind people to seek out and try his music for at least 250 years to come.

We hope you have a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year and we look forward to hearing about your interest in, discovery of and, as always, enthusiasm for the music of Joseph Haydn in 2016.”

Peter Cropper, 1945-2015

Peter Cropper, image via The Strad

Director Denis McCaldin writes following news of the death of Peter Cropper.

“Peter Cropper, founder/leader of the Lindsay Quartet and a member of the Haydn Society’s Committee of Honour, has died aged 69. The Lindsays (as they chose to be called) established their reputation through their performances Haydn’s chamber music, and later with the quartets of Michael Tippett.

After leaving the Royal Academy of Music in 1967, where they had been coached by Sidney Griller, the quartet rapidly aquired an international recognition. But rather than touring world-wide, Peter Cropper’s love of the north of England led him to secure residencies for the group at Keele, Sheffield and Manchester universities.

Artistically, Peter Cropper was a daring risk-taker, both in repertoire and in interpretation. ‘I don’t say it was always immaculate,’ he once said of the quartet’s performing style. ‘Who wants perfection? Perfection is sterile. We’re human beings.” For many, this was a refreshing change of attitude for audiences brought up on the sleek, polished recordings of the Amadeus and the Beaux Arts Trio.

As the pianist Martin Roscoe, who partnered him in many sonata and trio concerts has said. ‘Peter was completely fearless. He took huge risks all the time, to get to the bottom of the music in terms of its character. He was inspirational.’”