Friday, August 24, 2012

Preview: A "Drum Roll," please, as we prepare to ponder Haydn's amazing adventures in London

"The second movement is a set of variations, and the most original thing about it is that the theme of the variations is in the minor mode, but every second [section] is in the major mode. So the theme is minor, the first variation is major; the second variation is minor; and so on. I daresay that Gustav Mahler was particularly fond of this movement, because his own works show influences of that kind."
-- the late conductor Georg Tintner (1917-1999), from a spoken
to Haydn's Symphony No. 103 (
Drum Roll)

by Ken

It's an amazing story, Franz Joseph Haydn's two trips to London, in 1791-92 and 1794-95, one of the most amazing in the annals of artistic creation, and I want to talk a little about it on Sunday. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's the subject that Georg Tintner raised at the outset of the little talk devoted to Haydn's Symphony No. 103, known as the Drum Roll (for its opening drum roll -- d'oh!) from which I've quoted the couple of sentences above about the slow movement.

As a matter of fact, it's that little talk of Georg Tintner's that prompted me to choose the Drum Roll Symphony, from the second set of six symphonies (Nos. 99-104) that Haydn composed for London, as our "sampler" of his London experience. And I thought we could start by listening to this alternating minor-and-major theme-and-variations movement, one of Haydn's great slow movements (and never mind that it's expressly designed not to sound like a slow movement). Since the movement turns out to be a showcase for the orchestra, I can't imagine a better orchestra to play it for us than the Concertgebouw.

Concertgebouw Orchestra, Colin Davis, cond. Philips, recorded November 1976


As noted we'll be considering the phenomenon of Haydn's conquest of London, and we'll be hearing the whole of the Drum Roll Symphony.

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