Oxford Composer Companions: Haydn (Anglais) Broché – 28 mai 2009
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By dipping in and out you get up-to-the minute scholarship in bitesize form. (Andrew Clark, Financial Times)
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I was drawn to this book to help me in my project, completed recently, of listening to CDs of each of Haydn's 104 numbered symphonies and preparing a survey of them in reviews on this site. Thus, the Oxford Companion includes a 34-page essay on Haydn's symphonies by Professor Simon McVeigh, Goldsmithe College, University of London. Professor McVeigh's article includes an introduction to symphonic form and traces its development from Haydn's earlist to his final works in nine carefully organized sections. Virtually every symphony is given some individual attention, as McVeigh examines the course of Haydn's symphonic writing throught the 36 years he employed it. I found this guide indespensable to my project of getting to understand Haydn's symphonies myself in some detail and preparing a survey of them to encourage others to hear them.
I supplemented the basic article on the symphony with many others from this volume, including, most basically, a long biography of the composer written by Wyn Jones. I found valuable the many articles about the intellectual climate of Haydn's day, particularly the articles on Enlightenment, Freemasonry, Sturm und Drang, and Josephism. There are articles on sonata form, the minuet, and variation which are critical to better enjoying the symphonies. The article on performance practices discusses issues in the performance of Haydn from his lifetime up to current debates. There is an excellent article treating "recordings" of Haydn's music and an essay titled "reception" by the dean of Haydn scholars, H.C. Robbins Landon on how Haydn's music has been received and assessed over the years. These are only some of the articles that were of interest to me as a heard and wrote about Haydn's symphonies.
This book gives a compelling picture of the breadth and depth of Haydn's output. It includes lengthy essays on every form in which Haydn worked including the string quartet, oratorio, piano sonata, trio, concerto opera, mass, song, baryton music and much more. Many works are discussed in individual entries. Haydn is a composer that one can stay with and love over a long period of time.
The book is over 500 pages in length and the entries are organized alphabetically. The book opens with a "thematic overview" which is an index to the entries arranged by subject matter. I found it easy to use, but those coming to the book will want to examine it to find the entries that interest them. Following the detailed entries, an appendix lists Haydn's works organized by type. This appendix impressed me as little else could with the vastness of Haydn's output. A second appendix covers individual numbers in Haydn's vocal works.
This book is essential for those wanting to do scholarly work on Haydn. But, perhaps more importantly, it will appeal to lovers of music who want to explore and enjoy the work of this great composer in depth.
Then, if you want more, get this book. It seems to have everything, that is, biography (of Haydn and the people he knew), discussion of the music, and cultural background of Haydn's life and work. I read it cover to cover, and was repeatedly rewarded with interesting items that were new to me. The sections providing appreciations of the individual works are helpful and would be good for reading along as you listen to the music.
The book is well written. Much of it is by Jones himself, but there are contributions (it seems) from virtually all of the leading contermporary Haydn scholars. Strikingly, the prose style and tone of scholarship are rather uniform throughout the book; Jones as editor must have run a tight ship.
Comparing this book to earlier volumes I have read (for example, the biographies of Ferdinand Pohl, Karl Geiringer, and Mary Hughes), I find it to be lot more careful: it doesn't engage in psychological speculation about Haydn, and it doesn't rely very heavily on the three silly tale-spinners who wrote early unreliable biographies of Haydn (Dies, Carpani, and Framery). Another difference between this book and older biographies is that, in the past few decades, there has been a massive campaign of archival research on Haydn's life and work, whose results are effectively exploited here.
In sum, quite an accomplishment. There's no index, grr, which almost led me to leave off my fifth star.