Sunday, July 6, 2008

Haydn: The London Symphonies: Symphony #101 "Clock"

Going through each of these six London Symphonies (after today, we'll have finished three of them) has been a wonderful experience. I can't believe I went this long through life and, until recently, never really listened to Haydn's symphonic works.
Sir Colin Davis and the Concertgebouw Orchestra
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Haydn: 6 "London" Symphonies (Nos. 94, 100, 101, 96, 103 and 104)
Philips, 1977/2001

In fact, when I was a student, my limited familiarity with Haydn quickly morphed into contempt after playing his Trumpet Concerto a few hundred times too many at auditions for various All-State and All-County music competitions. Unfortunately, even the best music doesn't age well after countless repetitions.

But what a mistake I made generalizing from the fact that I got sick of this one work! Just like with my initial, trumpet-centric impression of Mozart, I had no idea what I was missing. Yet again, this blog has caused me to take a new look at a great composer and be overjoyed by what I find.

My reaction each time I fire up one of these symphonies is always a sense of mystification on how I missed out for so long on such wonderful music.

Listener notes for Symphony No. 101:
1) Once again the stylistic similarities between Haydn and Mozart are striking. If a week ago you played the first movement of #101, and told me it was Mozart, I'd believe you. Now that I've started this blog, however, I'll never be tricked again.

2) At 6:27 in the first movement (track 9 of this Philips disc), it sounds like there's a slight engineering error. The volume of the recording drops meaningfully mid-note and then the rest of the track is at that lower output level.

3) I love the whimsical second movement, where the "Clock" Symphony gets its nickname. Listen for the bassoons (with string bass accompaniment) playing the "tick-tock" theme. You think you're in for a pleasant, bouncy little piece of music. But then, at 2:33 into the movement, Papa Haydn pulls the rug out from under you with a booming, minor chord, followed by a loud and thrilling fugue-like passage involving the whole orchestra. Talk about injecting some drama! But then, a minute later, it's back to "tick-tock, tick-tock" whimsy. One again, you can tell Haydn wrote his music with a twinkle in his eye.

4) I'm also beginning to think that a close listen to any of Hadyn's London Symphonies might be an effective cure for depression. It sure worked for me the other day.

1 comment:

Laura Perrin said...

Great blow-by-blow description! And yes, how can the tick-tock not cheer one up?

Love the new song sample widget too.