When a man is bored of Haydn…

… it is perhaps time for him to be found?  Or to start Seekyn?

It is easy to be seduced by more modern composers and later iterations of the forms of classical music: or even by entirely new musical forms and instrumentation.  However, I do find myself coming back to Haydn – and doing so in a manner which I hope does not bring to mind a dog and a dinner that had earlier been the subject of less than fully unsuccessful digestion.

It is to Haydn (and Harris) that I owe my love of choral music, with some harp glissandi (budget constraints mean you will have to imagine these) taking us back a quarter of a century to a Creation in Bexhill.  Many years ago, he also helped me to both eat well and cement my love of the string quarter when I was staying in Sydney.  To fill my evenings with incident and moment, I went to the local analogue of the Wigmore Hall and almost every concert started with a Haydn string quartet.  This same habit required me to eat early (something to which I am rarely averse) and it is amazing how many good but otherwise fully booked restaurants can find you a table if you are willing to eat at half-five (do not attempt this trick in Madrid, where 17:30 still falls within the scope of lunchtime).

I was reminded of this last night (at time of writing), as Denis Kozhukhin played two Haydn keyboard sonatas and all the petty stresses of life faded to silence.  Pleasingly, his programme included works by both Brahms and Liszt – a surprisingly rare occurrence despite what the folk of Bow (and environs) would have you believe.  I’m beginning to think that Brahms might be like olives: you have to reach a certain antiquity before you can appreciate him (or them).  He did little for me in my youth, but I find him increasingly compelling as I race towards oblivion.

While the Haydn was a thing of joy and reinforced the importance of the Arts to the wealth of the nation (or at least my contribution thereto), the stand-out piece was by Bartók.  His Out of Doors Suite was quite stunning, even frightening, and continues the composer’s rehabilitation in my estimation.  Returning to the Land Down-Under, his Mysterious Mandarin did little for me in Melbourne but with age has come, if not wisdom, at least a monotonically increasing appreciation for his wider oeuvre.

This same piece of music also demonstrated that another profession may not be long for this world: replaced by technology.  Traditionally, a pianist playing from a physical score (rather than memory) would be assisted by a page-turner: her own hands being busy at the keyboard.  Not so young Denis.  He had the score displayed on his iPad (well, I assume it was his – well, he had an honest face) and changed the page using some form of electronic foot pedal communing with the score through the aether.  Even he, who is still the wrong side of thirty (by which I mean younger) needed recourse to his glasses to make this work – but I feel, in the medium to long-term, the days of the page turner may be drawing to a close.  I fear this removes another modest source of income from the musician.

So, cherish your human page turner while you can – Cupertino are well on the way to sending them the way of the lamp-lighter and dodo.

Feel free to continue the lunacy...

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