Saturday, 7 January 2012

Another Hooray for Haydn

Here's a blog-post title from Jessica Duchen that was bound to get my attention!: Hooray for Haydn. Reviewing Backtrack's annual performance statistics, she was especially pleased that Haydn was ranked as the eighth most performed composer of 2011, a placing consistent with previous years:

It often seems to me that this great-hearted, pure-spirited and tirelessly original composer tends to get short shrift from the concert-going public, compared to his friend Mozart and his pupil Beethoven. But perhaps that isn't the case after all: quietly and decisively, 'Papa Haydn' is getting his just desserts after all, and they may contain chocolate. 

Hooray, indeed!

Jessica links to a piano piece by the great man, and so shall I. It's the Piano Sonata in F, Hob.29 (Sonata No.44).

The opening 'Moderato' is one of those Haydn movements - and there are many of them - which makes you thrill to a new discovery. It's a tray of goodies, full of organised fantasy, from the first theme in the manner of a Turkish march (with all its thirds) to the delightful concoction of arpeggiated flourishes and rhythmically-surprising falling-scale-based figures that constitutes the second subject. Then there's the strange transition passage with its accelerating repeated note, plus much more besides. All the main ingredients are given a thorough stirring in the wonderful development section, journeying through various keys, including minor keys, and being furthered dramatised by the use of silence. Particularly fun here is the passage where a tiny phrase is repeated first in the major then in the minor, over and over again, somewhat in the manner of folksong. The recapitulation continues this stirring process. This is my favourite movement, but its companions are fine affairs too. The beautiful central 'Adagio' is an elaborate,  Classically-balanced movement full of pensive feeling and Baroque-style ornamentation, written in the style of an operatic aria. The final 'Tempo di Minuetto' mixes minuet and variation form, including a syncopated minor-key trio section, and makes for a pleasant conclusion. 

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