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CONCERT NOTES FROM 3/31/18

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in News, Uncategorized | 0 comments

  • Offered by Michael Moore for our listening pleasure:
  • Welcome all to Our Spring Concert, which this year, takes place on the 286th anniversary of Joseph Haydn’s birth, on the last day of March 1832, in the small riparian town of Rohrau in the extreme east of Lower Austria on the river Leitha not far upriver from where it flows into the Danube to mark the border between Austria and Hungary — it was predominantly a German-speaking area but with an admixture of Croats, Hungarians and Slovaks as well. He was baptized the next day and given (as was the custom) the names of two saints’ who had proximate feast days, hence Franz (German for St. Francis of Paola, 2nd of April: that’s day after tomorrow!) and Joseph, (the husband of the Virgin Mary, 19 March). Haydn hardly ever used the first part of his name and as a lad, was usually called by the common Austrian diminutive of Joseph ‘Sepperl,’ which followed him even unto Vienna.

    His dad was the local wheelwright, & therefore an important man in this farming community, although hardly well to do. He & his wife were strongly religious and pillars of the local church: all things considered it’s not surprising that he wound up as the local Mayor. But musically speaking, he gradually became something of an embarrassment to the two most musical of his children, Joseph and (5 years his junior) Michael: for their father loved to sing & accompany himself on his harp, while the kids ran giggling for cover, and Sepperl cried out to his mom, “Mama, Papi’s doing it again!!” But Sepperl (Joseph) loved going to church with the whole family and taking part in the singing, especially when he was singled out to sing, [Joseph was second oldest of the family’s children; Michael was to be the 6th of a group which would top out at an even dozen.] But as the family grew and Sepperl was singled out more & more all over the little town, Papa’s harping & singing gradually became family concerts, while Sepperl’s outstanding singing gradually became matter of local pride. The family sang at home too. As an old duffer, our Joseph the great composer loved to reminisce about these family sing-outs.

    One day a distant cousin, Johann Mathias Franck, the school teacher of the larger town Hainburg an der Donau/on the Danube/ a little more than ten kilometers due north of Rohrau, happened to have business with the local dignitary in Rohrau and stopped with his country cousins. He had already heard the praises of Sepperl’s singing and now he listened for himself and all but immediately urged the parents to let him take the boy, now six years old, home with him so that he could go to a real school and have “real” musical training. (Apparently, this school teacher cousin Franck was also in charge of music in Hainburg.) Adding to this the fact that Hainburg was the town where Haydn’s great-grandfather had settled in about 1650, and fathered the 1st wheelwright in the family, Sepperl’s parents agreed to let the lad go. Two happy years went by, as Sepperl proved to be an eager learner all around, and revealed extraordinary gifts in music, already beginning to compose songs for himself to sing! But it was as a choirboy that he received his most intensive music training, and again it was his fine singing that opened the next door for him. For this fellow Mathias Franck had a close friend, one Georg Reutter, who had recently succeeded his father as the Kapellmeister [conductor/music director] at the great Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna. This man periodically made the rounds of the countryside searching for boys with excellent voices who were deemed morally & intellectually capable of serving as choirboy students in a school of the highest reputation. Having heard from his friend Franck about the extraordinary lad he had living with him, Reutter came to renew friendship and to hear the wunderkind. Often enough these lads would grow into jobs as choir masters, especially if they went on to become priests. Joseph Haydn, as we know, would not follow this path, but 15 years hence his younger brother Michael, would win a job in one of the distinguished churches, and a decade after that, in 1762, beat out Leopold Mozart to secure the role of kapellmeister at the court in Saltzburg! (Papa Mozart had been too busy exploiting the phenomenal musical abilities of his children Maria Anna “Nannerl” the extraordinary klavierist age 11 and of course, her little brother, the violinist Johann Chrysostom Gottlob: (‘John Golden-mouth, praise-God’)? What!?! And if you add the Wolfgang (‘the way the wolf goes’) & Gottlieb (love God or God’s love), translate that into Latin, you get Wolfgang Amadeus, and reach the Mozart you were looking for, albeit a tiny 6 years old.

    Meanwhile Joseph from the age of about 8 until his voice broke at age 17, lived literally in the shadow of St. Stephen’s in the Kapellhaus that housed the choirboys, his life governed by the rhythms of the church calendar, with its associated music, from Christmas through Lent, Easter, Ascension, and on to Advent once more! Religious observance was of the greatest importance to the Hapsburg court, both in public and in private. Choirboy Haydn was immersed in the music of the principal composers of church music in Vienna which included Kapellmeister Reutter and his father, as well as Caldara and Fux and the great Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck. Perhaps more important than this for Haydn’s development was the much older music, by the marvelous Palastrina (1525-1594), Allegri (1582-1652) particularly the famous Miserere, with that gorgeous high aria sung by our Sepperl! Also both Scarlatti(s), Alessandro and his son Domenico, he of the 400+ clavier sonatas, so many of which are in the minor keys.

    The adult Haydn was not much of a minor key composer, whether by preference or to please his patrons. As we have often seen, his String Quartets were composed & published in 6-packs and these were always made up of 5 works in major keys and a single one in a minor. Only 11 of the 108 symphonies are in minor keys = almost 90% major keys and even the choral religious works, which are generally in minor keys, 80% of Haydn’s are in major keys. I stress this here because although only 5 of the 29 Klavier Trios are in minor keys, our concert of five Trios has three in the minor and only two in major keys. I am far from complaining about this, being a melancholy sort of person myself. Our musicians of the Trio Belle Scarpe [pretty feet!] know what they are doing and I’m pretty sure that they are not going to depress us one bit, especially because the three works in minor keys spend a lot of time spinning shimmering tapestries of sound in the relative major keys & dominant majors, so that the minor keys wind up sounding nobly uplifting rather than gloomy, depressed or depressing. So back to the young Joseph-no-longer-Sepperl the country boy: he had made remarkable progress as a harpsichord player, and as a violinist, and had had a couple of cracks at the full organ. But his number one achievement was to become the number one treble soloist! But as time went on, the lad’s voice began to break, occasionally, at first, then undeniably: so much so, in fact, that it was proposed he should be operated on so that he might have a career as a castrato singer! Only a hastily arranged visit by his Dad Mathias Haydn prevented the operation from going ahead. And the ultimate result was that a new leading treble soloist was chosen… And who was this new boy? why none other than Joseph’s brother, of course the not so much younger Michael Haydn (by five years). Was the older brother angry or at least resentful? If he was, he did not show it and in later years, when both brothers had “graduated” from the great Choirboy School, and both had good positions, Joseph would claim that his little brother was the number one composer of Church Music in the whole Hapsburg Empire… nay! best in the whole world!

    And now I’m going to leave the story of our composer’s life at the moment when his formerly gorgeous treble voice broke at age 17 and skip not quite all the way to 70, but to a late phase in his sixties the time of his two trips to London bringing with him the twelve last symphonies known as the London Symphonies, which was also the best time for his Clavier Trios, a half dozen of which he composed for musical people, mostly aristocratic women, that he met there…and, of course, as usual, publishers eager to take advantage of the visits of this great man, thought by English music lovers as the Greatest Composer in all the World — except perhaps for Henry Purcell, deceased almost 100 years.

    If I may indulge a bit of day dreaming, I’m Sorry that he did not know Jane Austen, who, in the 2nd decade of the 19th Century, filled the parlors of her novels with young women who played on keyboards from harpsichords to fortepianos to Broadwood’s wonderful pianos. The earliest of Haydn’s Trios were clearly written for harpsichords, but the later and best of the Trios certainly had the solid sounds of the best fortepianos and especially those new Broadwood Pianos in mind. Someone, I’ve forgotten who, got Broadwood & Co. to send Beethoven one of their pianos, but the poor fellow was already getting so deaf that his satisfaction in their sound was greatly diminished.

    But to return to Jane and her pianistic female characters. Women were greatly limited by class and caste in the type of instrument they could play. A woman holding a barytone voiced instrument between her legs? Forget about it! Or even by tucking a violin or viola under her chin and “wildly” waving her bow-arm around in the air and swaying from the hip. How vulgar! But sitting behind a nicely decorative piece of furniture, to play upon a keyboard and sing…Or perhaps to accompany the manly voice of a suitor or if she were already a wife, to play for the family to sing hymns, one of the new pianos was just the thing. The fact is that of the many dedications of these “trios” that Haydn made, almost all are to women. We should remember that these fine late works were all published and sold as “Klavier sonatas accompanied by a violin and a cello ad libitum.” And if this woman’s suitor, or husband was a good violinist, so much the better, and if he feels like it, perhaps Daddy can get his cello out of the closet and join us, ad lib. The violin parts are often quite appealing and the cello.. well remember that harpsichords & forte pianos and even the Broadwood pianos didn’t have anything like the resounding power of the modern piano and even a modern piano cannot prevent a long held ‘organ pedal’ note from decaying: so Cello’s just what the maestro ordered up. Cello students today, just learning to hold their own in chamber music can be scornful of what these “Accompanied Sonatas” ask or offer the cello to do, but first rate musicians can usually find enough to make a first rate contribution…And sometimes surprise themselves with their own pleasure in their part. My own pleasure in these “Accompanied Sonatas” or Piano Trios continues to grow with these continued experiences through the Saratoga Chamber Players. Vive la musique d’ici!

    Let me add here another bit of our past history. Before today, we have had only four concerts of music by only a single composer. Today is the 5th time. Only the 5th! The first was November 11th 2001, many good works of J.S. Bach. Next was all Messiaen: Le Merle Noire (Blackbird) played by Susan Rotholz followed by the famous Quatuor pour la fin du temps. Then, Mozart to celebrate his 250th Anniversary in October of 2006. Next in April 2014 and so great, Bach bis devoted to that great mountain of gold, the Goldberg Variations (arr. for string Trio). And now today the 5th time Papa Haydn and his wonderful Trios, the third great series of works to set beside the symphonies and the quartets.
    1. Trio in G minor c.13 minutes ”Already enjoyed wide circulation in copies and in print as opus 4 #5, sometimes with the title “Divertimento” Haydn included it in his “Oeuvres
    complètes” which amounted to his saying “I really wrote this one.” Although what we have here is essentially a klavier sonata with a fine violin accompaniment and a reinforced baseline from cello note for note duplicating klavier’s left hand bass line, this work has rightly been regarded as an early masterpiece in theTrio genre. The theme of the minuet is surprisingly wide in scope and in the presto finale the composer (as was then customary) alternates passages of chordal flourishes on the keyboard with forte unison writing. Much of the development has been in the key of B-flat major
    2. Trio in B-flat major. c. 14 mins. Please notice that the next work is in B-flat, the relative major key of G minor. And that after Intermission the key of the 4th Trio is F# minor, which is the relative minor of A major. the key of the 5th and last work in A. The third Trio is again in the minor mode, but notice that D minor is not very far from most of the keys of the other four Trios. This is not Haydn’s doing but rather what pleased our three ladies of the Belle Scarpe in their choosing of works to perform. I have said before that we tend to think of Haydn as a composer who likes major keys.
    3. Trio is D minor: c. 19 mins. to open this work of 1794-95, Haydn wrote an unusual and highly original variation movement in which a D minor and a D major section are followed by two alternating variations. The remaining two movements are strongly contrasted. To the elaborately adorned and Rococo, yet song-like Adagio ma non troppo is linked a strongly rhythmic finale in which the as yet unliberated cello is again used in unison with Piano’s left hand bass part.
    4. Trio in F# minor: c. 17 mins. In Haydn’s oeuvre, the key of F# minor is reserved for only a few important works, for example the “Farewell” Symphony and the String Quartet opus 50 No.4. Our F# minor Trio is also something of an exception among the piano trios. The lively, rhythmic opening movement has a development (with an E-flat minor episode!), which is fascinating in its wealth of modulation. The ensuing triste Adagio with its strangely involuted melodic lines, is largely identical with the slow movement of the 10th “London” Symphony #102 in B-flat major. The serious mood of this deeply felt movement is dissolved in the closing Tempo di menuetto.
    5. Trio in A major: c. 16 mins.The first movement, an Allegro moderato, is astonishingly rich in modulations; in the second, a lovely Andante in 6/8 time, Haydn makes effective use of the contrast between A major and A minor; in the third part, piano and violin weave an elaborate accompaniment to the elegiac mezzo voce main theme. The particular charm of the finale lies in its lively rhythmic drive; its contemporary popularity is shown by the fact that it very soon appeared in an arrangement for piano!

    Summaries by Hans Christoph Worbs translated by Thomas Quinn from 9 disk Phillips Box of Beaux Arts Trio

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