Haydn’s death day, 31 May

Haydn’s tomb, Eisenstadt (Image: Wikipedia)

Today, May the 31st, is the day of the year on which Haydn died in 1809. It is also by chance the 200th anniversary year of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II moving Haydn’s body to its final resting place on the Eisenstadt estate.

Haydn in Lockdown

Haydn’s house in Gumpendorf (courtesy Visiting Vienna)

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.

Haydn Society Journal No.38

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.

We’re also pleased to be able to report on a first look at the new Cambridge Haydn Encyclopedia, published in last year (right).

For more information about the Journal or about any aspect of Haydn Society of Great Britain membership, please visit the Membership page.

Happy New Year!

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.

Haydn for the piano

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.