Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Haydn at the Keyboard

No. 249 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Tuesday Blog. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast249



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I’ve surprised myself going through the thought experiment of “blind listening” to the five works I selected for this week’s montage and wonder out loud who composed these works. Might I suggest you do a blind listen yourselves before reading on…

When we think of Joseph Haydn, we think primarily of his symphonies and his string quartets – at least, I do. However, and it should not be surprising, Haydn left a substantial amount of work for the keyboard – 21 piano trios, 13 divertimentos, 52 piano sonatas and 11 piano concertos – and that’s only the pieces that are in the “official” Hoboken catalog!

Listen to the Rondo all'Ungares that concludes the Piano Concerto no. 11 and ask yourself whether that ditty isn’t Mozart at his most playful? The Vivace movement follows the recipe of so many of Mozart’s opening movements. Yet both concertos programmed today are by Haydn and not Amadeus.

The Sonata no. 50 (or is it no. 60?) sounds to me like something Schubert would have written (or even the aforementioned Mozart in the case of the sonata no. 49).

We often accuse Haydn of composing “formulaic” music – think of a lot of his middling symphonies - and in fairness maybe our uninformed association of Haydn’s piano works with other composers of his time talks not necessarily of a “Haydn formula” but rather of a “classical formula”, and in that sense, no other composer of the period has done more to establishing the “code” and aesthetics of classical form than Haydn.

This may explain why his piano music in particular doesn’t have his unique fingerprints – or maybe Haydn’s fingerprints are distinctly indistinguishable!

You decide... I think you will love this music too.