Haydn’s “Military” Symphony No. 100

It would be fun to travel back in time to visit the dynamic public concerts of London’s Hanover Square Rooms during the early 1790s. This is when Franz Joseph Haydn was taking the city by storm, conducting his final twelve symphonies (Nos. 93-104) from a seat at the harpsichord. Haydn remained on the payroll of the Esterházy court during this time. But it was London where he was regarded as a rockstar, thanks to an invitation from …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 101, “The Clock”

My performance schedule this week began with a Williamsburg Symphony program which included Haydn’s Symphony No. 101. This is the ninth of Haydn’s twelve monumental “London symphonies”- his final, triumphant, pinnacle-scaling series of symphonies, written for the second of his two trips to England. Haydn was treated as a rockstar in London. One of his symphonies was performed by an orchestra of 300 musicians, an historical detail which might shatter our notion that …

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New Release: Haydn’s “Sun” Quartets, Performed by the Chiaroscuro

Is it possible to hear seeds of Romanticism in the string quartets of Franz Joseph Haydn? Recently, as I was listening to the Chiaroscuro Quartet’s newest album, this thought crossed my mind. The recording features Haydn’s Op. 20 “Sun” Quartets Nos. 4-6. (Last year, the ensemble released the first three quartets of the Op. 20 set). They approach the music from a historical perspective with gut strings, baroque bows, and limited vibrato. But there …

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The 2017 Classical Grammys

Here is an overview of last weekend’s 2017 Grammy Awards in the classical categories. From opera to chamber music, the list features a heavy dose of American contemporary music: Best Orchestral Performance This is the second installment in a series of live-concert Shostakovich recordings by Music Director Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The first recording of the five-part series was honored in the same category at …

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10 Musical Adaptations of “God Save the Queen”

On Monday, Britain celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire Jubilee, marking her 65 years on the throne. At 90, Her Majesty is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. The milestone reminded me of the nearly 140 composers who have created musical adaptations of God Save the Queen, an ancient melody that may have originated in plainchant long before it was attributed to the English composer and organ-builder John Bull in 1619. Here are ten of the most …

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The Belcea Quartet Plays Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn has been called the “Father of the String Quartet.” His sixty-eight quartets, written between 1762 and 1803, pushed the genre beyond frothy court entertainment, setting the stage for composers who followed. Haydn’s quartets demand focused, attentive listening. While earlier string quartets often featured a solo first violin and three accompanying voices, Haydn’s quartets unleash a magical dialogue between equal voices, something Goethe described as, “four rational people conversing.” We often think of …

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Haydn’s Mistitled “Miracle” Symphony No. 96

It isn’t everyday that a piece of music is so fascinatingly inventive that it actually saves lives. But, apparently, that’s what happened when Franz Joseph Haydn conducted his newest symphony at London’s King’s Theatre on the evening of February 2, 1795. The German painter, composer and Haydn biographer Albert Christoph Dies (1755-1822) provided this account: When Haydn appeared in the orchestra and seated himself at the Pianoforte, to conduct a symphony personally, …

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