June 28, 2019

  • Haydn in London


    Joseph Haydn and His London Disciples
    Rebecca Maurer, piano.
    Genuin 19650
    Total Time:  79:04
    Recording:   ****/****
    Performance: ****/****

    Most lovers of Haydn’s music are well aware of the importance of his trip to London in 1791 for the Salomon Concerts.  His arrival was legendary as he had spent so much of his life in at Esterhaza working exclusively for the Prince.  The symphonies Haydn wrote for those concerts are among his most popular and performed to this day.  Haydn’s piano music still has a way to go though before it reaches the level of familiarity of Mozart and Beethoven’s sonatas.  In Rebecca Maurer’s new release, she wants to point out how Haydn’s music had an early influence in the development of English piano music.  Her interest was sparked by the research of Dr. Mekala Padmanabhan whose work appeared in an article about Haydn and London keyboard composers.  Adding to the authenticity is the use of a John Broadwood & Sons fortepiano built in London, 1816.  There are also several world premieres here of music by Thomas Haigh (1769-1808?) and Christian Ignatius Latrobe (1758-1836).

    While the music of Haigh and Latrobe are more intimately-conceived works for a smaller performance venue, it is clear that the two Haydn sonatas that frame their music on this recording were intended for the concert hall.  Maurer has chosen the Sonata in C, Hob. XVI:50 (c. 1794/1795) and the Sonata in Eb, Hob. XVI: 52 (1794) to help point out the way Haydn was exploring London “taste” and the sound of the pianos he encountered there.  He also was able to experience some of the more virtuosic performers active there in the city.  They were composed for and dedicated to Therese Jansen-Bartolozzi, a pupil of Clementi.  To that end, these sonatas we see Haydn exploring richer chordal writing, faster passage work that explores the whole keyboard, and some additional refinements that connected with the local tastes of the time.  The use of an “open pedal” in the C-Major sonata is one example of how knowledge of these experiments can change the very sound of the music and let us hear it with new ears.  Sometimes Haydn’s piano music seems to have these qualities that blend aspects of the Baroque with the new forms of the Classical period.  It is perhaps a better mark of a composer who lived through the musical shifts of the century.  While Maurer’s interpretations are quite wonderful here, with clear articulation and excellent shape to the music, maybe a touch too much of rubato sometimes.  The nuances of what the instrument and her approach to the music bring are best noted with comparisons of more modern performances of the pieces.  The pedaling approach will be the most noticeable adjustment for those more familiar with the music.  Still, these are solid performances that have an added weight when heard against the other music on the album.

    Between the two Haydn sonatas, Maurer has programmed a collection of music by the two composers who had contact with the composer during his time in London.  Thomas Haigh (1769-1808?) actually studied with Haydn.  He was an important pianist and violinist most known for arrangements of other people’s music.  The increase in instruments and demand for published music coincide with this development and his work is a window into this growing industry for “commercial” music.  He is represented here by three pieces.  First are two works that are more immediately influenced by Haydn.  Haigh arranged three popular canzonetta’s (the “Sailor’s Song”, “Pleasing Pain”, and “A Pastoral Song”) of Haydn’s as rondos.  The music is a bit more demanding suggesting its potential as both parlor as well as concert music.  More interesting is his Fantaisie (published in 1817) that incorporates Haydn’s “God Save the Emperor”, references the “Drumroll” symphony, and includes an original country dance!  Also included is a Sonata in Bb which was dedicated to Haydn.  It is an additional example of the way Haigh used other people’s music as a basis for his work while also referencing other music.  The latter occurs in the way the first movement takes its cues from the slow introduction and allegro of Haydn’s “London” symphonies.  The second movement then reworks a popular air by Aisoli as a rondo.  A brief movement by Christian Ignatius Latrobe (1758-1836) from his first sonata, Op. 3 bears a dedication to Haydn.  The gestures here are reminiscent of the composer’s music.  The references to Haydn in the dedications (often using the “with permission of Dr. Haydn”) suggest he may have known of these works, or it might have simply been an additional marketing ploy.  Regardless it is interesting to get a window into the developing piano publishing world and the influence that Haydn’s visit had on London’s musical world with a fresh perspective.

    Joseph Haydn and His London Disciples is a rather fascinating recital whose memorable Haydn sonatas create a perfect introduction to those new to his music while demonstrating the way his music connected to audiences of the time.  For those more familiar with the period and its music, there will be a great deal to revisit here in these performances as one further contemplates the many innovations and musical worlds of the end of the 18th Century and beginning of the 19th.  Maurer’s performances are quite exquisite with a real feel for this music.  However, these are not historical exercises alone, she shapes this music and brings it to life making for a truly engaging experience even in the lesser-known pieces.  One wonders if she might consider tackling a complete Haydn cycle some day.