Monday 31 March 2008

Today is Joseph Haydn's birthday. If he had lived, he would have been 276 years old. So fast, so numb, curse you Father Time!

I've been working my way through listening to all of his symphonies lately, not just the famed London symphonies from the climax of his career, or the various odds and ends of Esterhaz jobwork that are set apart by having nicknames attached to them in popular parlance, but every single one of the 104 (possibly more) symphonies he wrote. I'm still mulling over the first 15 symphonies, in fact.

They are all elegant, lively and pleasant pieces of music - there's never a dull moment here, and with the commencement of his appointment by the Esterhazys it's fun to see him spreading his wings as it were, and exploring the possibilities of different instruments, possibly inspired by the aim of giving various virtuosi in the Esterhazy service their spotlight moments. However, the 3rd Symphony is the first one that, to my ears, bears the stamp of a growing confidence, with its jaunty opening fast movement and the simple, almost folksy but utterly captivating slow movement.

Poor Haydn's skull had a complex post-mortal history, thanks to the nefarious schemes of phrenologists. It's a remarkable story. Perhaps it could be used to make a musical version of the classic British horror flick, The Skull ?

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