A commemoration of Franz Joseph Haydn - (Part 2)
In the second of two articles, we look at parts of the astonishing musical legacy
of this great composer who died 200 years ago this month
‘Papa Haydn’ – the grand old man of the late classical period of
music and so-called father of the symphony – Franz Joseph Haydn - left an
indelible mark on musical development that is as fresh today as when the
music was written over 200 years ago.
Joseph Haydn 1732 – 1809.
Whether Haydn deserved the title ‘father of the symphony’ or whether that
title should be more aptly attributed to Beethoven is not a point I am going
to argue here. Let us be content with the fact that the current Haydn
catalogues list 104 symphonies – which is quite a feat of composition in
addition to all his other works and which alone merits the earlier title.
We do know that Haydn also wrote a number of other small orchestral works
for various groups of instruments at the command of his patron – these being
labelled divertimenti, cassations and the occasional
sinfonia concertante – all of which could just as easily be labelled
symphonies. And we also know, from historical records, of the two serious
outbreaks of fire at Esterhaz which destroyed many of his manuscripts – so
who knows how many symphonies he did actually compose?
What we do know for sure is that within the strict numbering of the 104,
there is a freshness and richness of musical ideas that have endeared so
many of these works to the musical public. It is thankfully quite common to
encounter a Haydn symphony in so many of the orchestral concerts given
around the world today - and how delightful and endearing they are.
In his earlier symphonies, Haydn began to develop and extend musical ideas
and harmonies while sticking largely to the strict rules of the classical
tradition – such things as the number of the movements, their ordering in
terms of tempo and structure, as well as their length – and this was to
continue right up until the final note of the last symphony, Number 104,
But, remember that Haydn was a prankster at heart – and that teenage
characteristic never really left him – nowhere is it more fully realized
than in the beautiful and wistful final section of the Farewell Symphony,
Number 45, where the pace of the final movement is reduced to adagio
as the instruments cease playing one by one.
In the final flourish in the coda of the last movement of the London
Symphony, Haydn cannot resist a cheeky little extension by inserting two
lesser chords between the full tutti, almost like poking his tongue out!
And of course the second movement of the infamous Surprise Symphony,
Number 94 with its fortissimo chord at the end of the first gentle
exposition, purportedly ‘to startle the ladies from their slumbers’ needs no
But, that aside, Haydn was also inventive – he used traditional folk
melodies carefully woven into his classical tapestry to reflect the essence
of his roots – Symphony Number 103 contains a Croatian folk melody
said to have originated in the area between Hainburg and Eisenstadt, and the
final movement of Number 73, La Chasse, contains as its main theme a
melody that is greatly akin to a Basque folk tune, a tune that could well
have travelled across the continent.
The symphonies contain pathos (Numbers 39 and 44 for example),
clucking hens (Number 83) and ticking clocks (Number 101) just
to mention a few of the eccentricities of this marvellous man. But above
all they contain joy – as Victor Hugo wrote in his poem dedicated to Andre
Chenier: ‘Ton chant ajouterait de la joie aux dieux memes’ (Your song would
be adding to the joy of the Gods themselves’) – how appropriate this line is
for Haydn also.
Haydn was also an opera composer – he wrote 13 in all that we know of. This
was a requirement from his patron Prince Nicholas Esterhazy – that he
compose these for the newly built theatre in the grounds of Esterhaz, an
opera house sadly destroyed by fire during Haydn’s residence there.
However, Haydn recognized that opera was not his forte – it is said that
after becoming familiar with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, he resigned
himself to the fact that the operatic pinnacle had been achieved, and he
held Mozart and his operatic writing in particular, in the highest esteem
from then onwards.
There was a constant flow of arias and songs, including several arrangements
of Welsh and Scottish songs that he had come across while in England.
Another great legacy of Haydn comes in his huge output of string quartets,
many of them shining examples of classical form, and the inspiration for the
later famous quartets of Mozart and the earlier quartets of Beethoven. The
piano sonatas and trios are similar and helped pave the way for many
composers in the future; Haydn wrote so many concerti for a wide range of
instruments – cello, keyboard, cembalo, violin, trumpet, double bass, flute,
horn, oboe and lyre.
Dances and marches abound; numerous small ensemble pieces litter his
astonishing output, and just for good measure, he wrote no less than 32
Pieces for Musical Clocks from 1772 to 1793. Religious works also
abound – settings of the Stabat Mater and the Te Deum as well
as graduals, canons, offertories and numerous motets.
Then come 14 grand settings of the Mass itself. Many of these are standard
in the choral repertory today and for those not familiar with these glorious
pieces of music, why not start with the Lord Nelson Mass? From the
dramatically challenging opening of the Kyrie to the final beauty of
the Agnus Dei, Haydn fills his canvas with a richness of harmony and
colour that is exceptional. The opening of the Gloria is magnificent
with a heavenly melodic line given to the soprano that is outstanding in its
The magnificence of this Mass and others is surpassed only by his two great
and almost final compositions, written very much under the influence of
Handel following his two visits to London.
The two oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons, were both
turn of the century masterpieces and they are such a fitting end to Haydn’s
creative and inspirational life, since they were amongst the last pieces of
music he wrote. Haydn remained unquenched by the disappointment that he
could no longer write music as he grew feebler in his old age. Instead he
displayed that quality that the French essayist Joubert has called ‘le plus
beau de tous les courages – le courage d’etre heureux.’ (the finest of all
the courages – the courage to be happy).
And so, on May 31st 1809,
200 years ago, the book closed on the last great Classical composer, leaving
behind him a legacy of music that has inspired and enlightened composers and
music lovers the world over, and which, I am sure, will continue to do so
for the next 200 years.
New international online
dance magazine is launched
Some of you may have realised (too late) that April 29 was International
Dance Day … shame on you! However, for those of you interested in dance, the
launch on the same day of www. asiadancechannel.com, the first online dance
magazine in Asia, may certainly be of interest.
Founder of the new site, Choy Su-Ling, says that, “The USA, Europe and
Australia all have online dance magazines, so why not Asia? The new site
comprises an aggregate of the cultural heritage of many nationalities,
societies, religions, and ethnic groups in the region, and fills the gap for
rich Asian dance content, giving dance across the region the voice it
AsiaDanceChannel does not only cover traditional and classical dance, but
also contemporary, ballet, modern, jazz, Latin American and other dance
forms practiced and enjoyed in Asia, together with dance reviews,
interviews, event listings, and videos. Readers are able to plan ahead for
shows and festivals not only in their own country but as they travel Asia.
The magazine targets dancers and dance enthusiasts as those who have a
general interest in culture and art, and hopes to convert those with no
interest in dance into enthusiasts.
The website, small but interesting at present, promises enlargement and
expansion; it will be interesting to see how it develops. With the
increasing interest in all forms of dance (as well as traditional Thai
dance) being shown here in Chiang Mai, it would be good to see some of our
local exponents represented online.
New exhibition for young Lahu ceramic sculptor Winai Chaso
You may remember that, at the end of December last year, the
Chiang Mai Mail reported on the first exhibition of an amazingly
talented young Lahu ceramic sculptor, Winai Chaso, which took place at
Chiang Rai’s Insii House, the home of Count Gerald van der Straten
Ponthoz’s Chao Phya Abhai Raja Siammanukulkij Foundation, which exists
to support, train, educated and mentor talented hill tribe children.
elegant and truly contemporary feel is given to a traditional hill tribe
subject in this beautiful example of Winai Chaso’s work.
The exhibition was a huge success, with several of Winai’s sculptures
now in the private collection of the ex-King of Cambodia. As a result,
Winai has been invited to hold another exhibition, this time in Phuket,
at the creative lifestyle venue, ‘& Joy Gallery’ on the famous resort
island. ‘People of the Hills’ will open over the weekend of May 23-24,
and for anyone who would like to travel down from Chiang Mai for the
occasion, this is truly a ‘Don’t Miss.’
Winai’s ceramic sculptures use a special firing process which results in
a surface with a unique metallic appearance, making the traditionally
inspired figures glow with gold, silver and copper, accentuating the
original designs in an extraordinary and very effective manner. The
technique, taught in Chiang Rai to Winai by French sculptor, Paul
Beckrich, involves mixing enamels with various minerals and firing the
pieces at carefully controlled temperatures. The results are stunning,
combining the rare talent of this young hill tribe artist with the
innovative effects of the process.
It’s no surprise that Winai’s art is now becoming more and more
appreciated by collectors, both in Thailand and in Europe!