Good. Connecting readers with great books since 1972. Used books may not include companion materials, some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, and may not include cd-rom or access codes. Customer service is our top priority!
For the past several years, I have been enjoying listening to Haydn's symphonies, quartets, and oratorios and sharing my thoughts with readers. More recently, I have had the pleasure of hearing Jeno Jando's cycle of the Haydn piano sonatas and reviewing Jando's readings in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death. I received valuable guidance in learning about a composer I love and about his piano sonatas from this short study, "The New Grove Haydn" by Jens Peter Larsen.
The book is one of a series of short biographies of the great composers taken from the 1980 edition of "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians." As is pointed out in a short Preface, the book is shaped by its initial format as part of a dictionary. It is based upon the most current, for the time, and reliable scholarship about Haydn while aiming to avoid controversy or overly technical analysis. The book is short, well-organized, clearly written, and does not require formal musical training to understand. It includes a detailed bibliography, arranged by particular subjects (such as Haydn's life, his operas, his symphonies, piano sonatas, historical reputation, what have you) together with an extensive list (90 pages) of Haydn's compositions arranged by categories.
The text itself runs about 122 pages divided into seven chapters. The first five chapters are biographical and discuss what is known about Haydn's life from his early years, through his long association with the Esterhazys, to his two trips to London late in his career, and ending with his final years in Vienna. There is a short chapter on Haydn's personality, and a lengthy concluding chapter on Haydn's artistic development and accomplishment.
The format allowed for good discussions of Haydn's music. The biographical sections of the book offer information of the characteristics of Haydn's music during each period of his life, while the section on the composer's artistic development tries to capture the thread of the genres in which Haydn worked over the course of his life. The book helped me see how and why Haydn changed as a composer over the course of a 40 year career.
The book emphasizes two broad themes in its study of Haydn. The first is Haydn's relative isolation during his many years at Esterhazy from the broader musical culture of Vienna. In a famous quotation, (p. 28) Haydn himself emphasized the importance of this isolation on his development as a composer.
"I was set apart from the world, there was nobody in my vicinity to confuse and annoy me in my course, and so I had to become original."
The second theme emphasized in the book is the character of Haydn's music "fur Kenner und Liebhaber"-- for both connoisseurs and amateurs (pp. 85 - 86). Haydn wrote music of extraordinary depth and sophistication, but he also wrote music readily accessible to a broad audience with little musical expertise. Some of his works show both characteristics. But even the popular pieces show an ability to delight within the restrictions Haydn was given. As Larsen states: "it is part of his greatness that he was able to display his extraordinary musicianship and inventiveness not only in outstanding masterworks but also in more domestic pieces like the baryton trios." (p 86). I was helped in my understanding of Haydn's piano music in particular by thinking of it in terms of "fur Kenner und Liebhaber."
This is an excellent book for listeners with a basic familiarity with Haydn who want to learn more about the composer and his music.
Alibris, the Alibris logo, and Alibris.com are registered trademarks of Alibris, Inc.
Copyright in bibliographic data and cover images is held by Nielsen Book Services Limited, Baker & Taylor, Inc., or by their respective licensors, or by the publishers, or by their respective licensors. For personal use only. All rights reserved. All rights in images of books or other publications are reserved by the original copyright holders.