Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Haydn Edition

I have two confessions this morning: I have a weakness for those big boxes of CDs that are such good value these days, and I have an abiding enthusiasm for the music of Joseph Haydn. Given this, plus the news that Brilliant Classics released a big box titled the Haydn Edition in November, it was inevitable that one thing would lead to another.

So yes, I just received the box yesterday and I'm already deep in the symphonies that occupy the first thirty-three discs of this 160 CD box. Yes, I already have the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra thirty-seven CD box of all the symphonies, but those performances, fine as they are, are all taken from live concerts. The ones in the Haydn Edition are by the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra and were recorded in the Haydnsaal of the Esterházy Palace where they were originally performed. From what I have heard so far, they are brilliant and energetic performances. Down the road I'm sure I will do a post comparing the two sets.

The other box of Haydn already on my shelves is a box of the complete string quartets with the Angeles String Quartet, a perfectly serviceable version but not one that keeps drawing me back. So I am looking forward to hearing the Buchberger Quartet performances. Some of the other reasons I got the new edition is for the piano sonatas and trios, the operas, the masses and, heck, even the baryton trios which I have never heard. Why oh why, I cry to myself, could not the Prince have been a serious guitar aficionado instead of a baryton player? Then we might have had dozens and dozens of guitar trios from the pen of Haydn and the history of the guitar would be quite different. Alas...

There are lots of things to bemoan about the general state of culture these days, but the accessibility of great music is not one of them. These CDs are less than a dollar each and contain a vast wealth of truly great music.

The wonder of Haydn is that, even from his very first symphony, he wrote energizing, charming, delightful music, and kept doing it with greater and greater subtlety for forty or fifty years.

Here are the first five symphonies performed by the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra conducted by Adam Fischer:


Will Wilkin said...

The big box sets from Brilliant Classics are wonderful! I've got the Brahms Complete, the Beethoven Complete, the Corelli Complete and the Frescobaldi Complete Editions, as well as the Carissimi Oratorios and Monteverdi Complete Operas and a 14-CD set of Stabat Maters by many composers --love them all!

I don't have the Haydn Edition by Brilliant, but I do have that 37-disc set of his symphonies from Sony, by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies. The discs I've played were always very nice.

In a recent blog article you mentioned the relative obscurity of the also-prolific Johann Michael Haydn's music as a counter-example proving Franz Joseph Haydn is not revered because he is a dead white male but rather because he was GREAT! All true, but the community choir I'm in did sing a Michael Haydn piece last May: his Laetatus sum. It was a great piece to sing and probably also to hear!

Bryan Townsend said...

Michael Haydn was a perfectly decent composer. Mozart even lifted one of his symphonies and passed it off as his own (with an added adagio). But there are lots of decent composers and only a few truly great ones.