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The Cambridge Companion to Haydn
Edited by Caryl Clark

318 pages
Cambridge University Press, 2005
Hardcover: 0521833477, £17.99, $17.99;
Paperback: 052141077, £ 45, $75

Part I. Haydn in Context: 1. Haydn’s career and the idea of the multiple audience Elaine Sisman; 2. A letter from the wilderness: revisiting Haydn's Esterházy environments Rebecca Green; 3. Haydn's aesthetics James Webster; 4. First among equals: Haydn and his fellow composers David Wyn Jones.
Part II. Stylistic and Interpretive Contexts: 5. Haydn and humour Scott Burnham; 6. Haydn’s exoticisms: ‘difference’ and the Enlightenment Matthew Head.
Part III. Genres: 7. Orchestral music: symphonies and concertos David Schroeder; 8. The quartets Mary Hunter; 9. Intimate expression for a widening public: the keyboard sonatas and trios Michelle Fillion; 10. Sacred music James Dack; 11. The sublime and the pastoral in The Creation and The Seasons James Webster; 12. Miscellaneous vocal genres Katalin Komlós; 13. Haydn in the theatre: the operas Caryl Clark.
Part IV. Performance and Reception: 14. A composer, his dedicatee, her instrument, and I: thoughts on performing Haydn’s keyboard sonatas Tom Beghin; 15. Haydn and posterity: the long nineteenth century James Garrett; 16. The kitten and the tiger: Tovey’s Haydn Lawrence Kramer; 17. Recorded performances: a symphonic study Melanie Lowe.
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The Cambridge Companion series provides an overview of the works, life, and context of key composers. The series also includes books on forms and instruments, as well as other titles about authors, philosophers, etc.

Through a series of scholarly essays, this book covers Haydn’s career (Part I: Haydn in Context), his style (Part II: Stylistic and Interpretive Contexts), the types of music he composed (Part III: Genres), and the way his music was perceived (Part IV: Performance and Reception).

With seventeen essays by as many authors, the main issues in Haydn scholarship are addressed. These range from the obscure (Haydn’s Exoticisms: "Difference" and the Enlightenment) to the more mundane (Recorded Performances: A Symphonic Study). Casual fans of Haydn will find neither biography nor musical analysis sufficient to warrant their attention, but those who wish to go further — especially music students and musicologists — may find something of value in the variety and detail of the various essays in this book.

The first part of the book, Haydn in Context, presents a vague and fragmented view of Haydn’s career and the "context" of his compositions, sometimes with commonplaces that belie the scholarly nature of this book. Discussing his "aesthetics", James Webster makes the profound statement that "Haydn’s musical aesthetics by and large agreed with those current in the second half of the eighteenth century." Surprising indeed, that Papa Haydn was actually a composer of his time. Other essays in this section examine Haydn’s relations with other composers, or his "environments".

The second part contains only two articles about Stylistic and Interpretive Contexts. Haydn and Humour is an interesting essay, since Haydn used a fair amount of humoristic motives in his work. This essay has more musical examples than others in the book, but they are essential. However, the second essay in this section, Haydn’s exoticisms: ‘difference’ and the Enlightenment, is more serious, examining the "Enlightenment’s rhetoric of universal brotherhood," and so on.

Part III is perhaps the most interesting to the casual reader, since it gives an overview of the various forms and genres of Haydn’s oeuvre. Yet given Haydn’s prolific output, none of these essays goes much further than what one reads in well-written CD booklets. Only the essay on Haydn’s operas is truly synthetic, and covers his entire career briefly yet sufficiently for readers to have a good understanding of this part of Haydn’s works.

Finally, Part IV contains a group of loosely related essays about "Performance and Reception", a big topic among musicologists when they have nothing more to write about the music itself. While the essay Haydn and posterity: the long nineteenth century is an interesting overview of the fate of Haydn’s music after his death, some of the other writings in this section have lots of big words but say little. I’ll end this discussion with the final sentence of the book, which must mean something, but could probably have made some sense had it been said in a more concise manner: "To listen to a recording of a Haydn symphony is to experience a collaborative artistic representation of the musical work: the musical performance is both practically and conceptually displaced by technological performance." Would that people who write about music do so in a way that readers can understand what they are saying rather obfuscating through meaningless sentences.

The authors of the various essays all have the credentials that allow them to discuss, with authority, the varied aspects of Haydn’s life and works, but this book is not meant to entertain; readers will need to be willing to wade through some stodgy academic prose in the various essays. Extensive notes and a detailed index make this book valuable as a reference work. Musical examples are few and far between, so one can read this even without being a musician. But would the average listener want to read what this book offers? This, dear reader, I leave to you to determine.

Kirk McElhearn



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