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currently listening to …

21st June 2005 permanent link

(actually, was on Sunday evening listening to) … local cellist Johannes Moser, with Ricardo Muti conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, proving that Haydn was capable of writing music just as wonderful as anything by young upstarts Mozart and Beethoven.

Proving it in this case with his first Cello Concerto in C Major, which apparently was lost for years until somebody found a manuscript in an archive in the 1960s. I’d heard recordings of the piece before, and liked it, but hearing it live was stunning. Haydn gets overlooked, or underrated, these days in comparison to his two younger Vienna contemporaries because they, in their later years, largely invented the concept of music as the expression of the divinely gifted artist’s inner struggles and torments; and we these days, still living in the long shadow of romanticism, tend to think that’s what real Art-with-a-capital-A is all about. Haydn just wrote music, and had a great time.(*)

As somebody on wrote:

we have come to value tragedy and irony over comedy and romance; that’s just our historical moment. We’ll get over it in time. In the meanwhile … Haydn sits there and smiles, patiently waiting for us.

What recordings would I recommend? I wouldn’t, because I’ve only heard two, by Jacqueline du Pré and Mstislav Rostropovich, and I don’t find either of them completely convincing. They’re ok, but both really too romantic for this music. The folks at, on the other hand, have heard lots and have strong opinions on them. Han-na Chang has recorded it. I was very impressed when I heard her playing Prokofiev a few months ago, so that’s clearly one for the shortlist. There are samples of it here, but they don’t work with my version of the RealAudio Player.

Maria is generally unimpressed by all this effete Austrian chamber orchestra stuff, and doesn’t feel she’s had her money’s worth until she’s heard a big romantic orchestra belting something out. Preferably something Russian. But that’s ok because after the interval the Bavarian Radio suddenly swelled to 90-plus musicians (having presumably rounded up half the freelancers in Bavaria) for Scriabin’s Third Symphony. That’s a kind of music I personally find it hard to see the point of, although the big waves of sound were undeniably impressive.

(*) I also read on that Haydn – whose music could easily be mistaken for the epitome of genteel respectability (or “aural wallpaper for aristocrats (albeit often superbly well done)”) – was in the habit of going out with his violin to folk music sessions in villages on his patron Count Esterhazy’s estate, “just for a few hours dear”, getting blind drunk and coming back days later claiming little or no recollection of what happened.

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