Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sunday Classics preview: Haydn takes his time (2)


You say you've always wanted to hear the familiar theme of the slow movement of Haydn's Surprise Symphony played on the tuba? That's OK, no need to thank us.

[UPDATE: Sorry about the wrong clip. It never occurred to me to check it because I had seen the tuba clip in place! Only then, I recall now, something went kerplooey with the HTML coding in the post, and the whole thing was in jeopardy, and the simple solution was just to reimport the embed coding, and . . . well, I had this other clip I was working with, and . . . -- Ken]

by Ken

As I noted in last night's preview, in which we heard the gorgeous theme and variations of Haydn's Emperor Quartet in C, Op. 76, No. 3, we're listening this week to a few Haydn slow movements. Tonight it's what I'm wagering is the best-known of his symphonic slow movements, that of his Surprise Symphony, the second symphony of the first set of six he composed for London -- the one known in German as the symphony "mit dem Paukenschlage, "with the timpani blow." Both nicknames are trace back to this very movement.

HAYDN: Symphony No. 94 in G (Surprise): ii. Andante

One of the electrifying surprises of Leonard Bernstein's New York years was the discovery of his uniquely zestful flair for Haydn. After the fact, it's easy enough to connect the almost uncontrollable playfulness of Haydn's musical imagination, to which I referred last night, with the insatiably joyful restlessness of Lenny's musical mind.

New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded Dec. 14 and 16, 1971

"Playfulness" isn't necessarily a quality we think of automatically in connection with Eugen Jochum, but beneath that perhaps staid exterior, there was a quietly lusty sense of fun. Explain it however you like, he too seems to have had an inborn affinity for Haydn.

Berlin Philharmonic, Eugen Jochum, cond. DG, recorded April 1972


A lively sense of play? An imagination that instinctively dug below the surface of a piece of music? Add matchless elegance and finesse to the list, and you must be talking about Pierre Monteux. In 1959, at the age of 84, he recorded a luscious coupling of Haydn's Surprise and Clock Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic.

HAYDN: Symphony No. 94 in G (Surprise):
i. Adagio cantabile; Vivace assai
ii. Andante
iii. Menuetto e trio, Allegro molto
iv. Finale, Allegro di molto

Vienna Philharmonic, Pierre Monteux, cond. RCA/Decca, recorded April 1959


We focus on another Haydn symphonic slow movement, a piece unlike any other I know -- one that seems to have attracted all the great conductors.

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