- The Cambridge Companion to Haydn
Caryl Clark provides an updated, "richly complex" picture of the composer and his music for the Haydn volume in the Cambridge Companions to Music series (p. xii). The book includes seventeen essays divided into four groups ("Haydn in Context," "Stylistic and Interpretive Contexts," "Genres," and "Performance and Reception"), devoted to providing new and provocative ideas on Haydn's life, music, aesthetics, image, and reception.
In the book's opening essay, Elaine Sisman investigates Haydn's interaction with the musical public and presents the composer as deeply invested in creating, crafting, and defending his public image. She reads between the lines of the early biographical and autobiographical accounts of Haydn's life to show how he portrayed himself as an unlikely success story in which hard work and musical excellence prevailed in the face of constant adversity, ranging from his low birth to problematic early employment. She continues with a number of case studies taken from Haydn's correspondence. Her reading of the "Applausus" letter [End Page 349] of 1768 emphasizes his interest in the quality of performances given in his absence and his local self-image early in his career. Sisman also reexamines Haydn's famous attack on Leopold Hoffmann's "street songs," showing the lengths to which Haydn was willing to go to defend himself against his critics. In addition, Haydn was concerned with heading off criticism before the fact, the most notable instance of which is his written apology attached to the "Augenbrugger" piano sonatas in defense of the inclusion of two movements based on the same theme.
Rebecca Green presents a fascinating picture of Haydn's interaction with Viennese society, focusing on the impact of his forced retreats to the purported wildernesses of Eszterháza and Eisenstadt. She notes that while in the countryside Haydn was removed from Vienna physically (through a geography that exaggerated the distance separating him from the city) and culturally (through musical, social, economic, and even culinary differences). However, he was not so far removed as is typically assumed. She points out that he maintained connections with Viennese society through a private postal service and a number of high-profile visitors. In fact, his correspondence shows a composer highly connected to Viennese musical life, in stark contrast to the lamenting, isolated picture he presented to his readers. Thus Haydn's forced originality was perhaps more of a defense of his particular compositional style flavored with hyperbole, than an accurate statement of his separation from life in the capital.
For the most part, musicologists have relied on inference to construct Haydn's aesthetics, letting his music and contemporary musical treatises do the talking second-hand. In the first of his two contributions to this collection of essays, James Webster pieces together Haydn's aesthetics from his correspondence in an attempt to create a first-hand account of the composer's views on the aesthetics of music. He argues that Haydn was rooted in vocal music, interested in the expressive possibilities of ethnic music, invested in composing in an intensely personal style, and determined to tailor his compositions to specific performers and venues. A highlight of the article is Webster's discussion of coherence and variety in Haydn's music. He includes a number of lesser-known excerpts from letters and anecdotes that portray the composer as both highly attuned to inter-movement relationships and the role of variety and contrast in connecting movements. Using Kant as his guide, Webster further argues that Haydn erred by depicting himself as merely a hard-working composer: by becoming "original" Haydn demonstrated his genius. In all, the article uses a generous amount of primary-source material to provide a virtual handbook of Haydn's compositional aesthetics.
James Garratt's examination of Haydn's nineteenth-century reception yields refreshingly new insights, including an argument that his reputation as a canonical master was in fact solid and unquestioned throughout the century. Instead of rehashing and denouncing "Papa" Haydn...