Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Joseph Haydn, part 2

I recently subscribed to a new magazine, Listen: Life with Classical Music. In the second issue (May/June 2009), David Hurwitz writes about “Music’s Greatest Innovator.” Haydn “enlarged the expressive scope of [instrumental] music to include not just happiness and sadness in varying degrees, but also humor, irony, desolation, ambivalence--the entire gamut of emotional expression” (p. 53). Haydn’s music differs from previous music because “it “involves a uniquely musical quality (that branch of harmony called ‘tonality,’ or more commonly ‘key’) that Haydn used as the organizing principal of a large instrumental work--what later became known as ‘sonata form.’ This later term… in Haydn’s hands really means turning a piece of music into a related series of dramatic events moving through time as you listen… His themes have specific personalities or characteristics that we can hear change, evolve and interact over the course of a movement or entire work” (p. 54). Hurwitz writes that “Baroque music tends to explore one basic emotion, or ‘affect,’ at a time” (p. 54), while in Haydn, “each movement shows a whole range of contrasting feelings and seldom restricts itself to just one” (p. 55). Haydn’s discovery of musical development “put abstract music on the same footing in terms of importance as vocal music because in his hands it achieves a similar expressive depth and specificity. And this, by any measure, was a true musical revolution, something that had never been done before” (p. 56). Interestingly, because Haydn’s music was not readily available and because he did not fit the later Romanic conception of the artist, his reputation faded and he was perceived as Beethoven’s precursor (p. 56).

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