have to be eight of you if you want to castrate a boar - two
at the front and two at the back, two to do the cutting, two
to do the binding. It takes eight of you to castrate a boar.
am prompted to offer you that piece of necessary advice by
the presence on this CD by Jenő Jandó – recorded ten
years ago but not, I think, issued until now – of Haydn’s
Capriccio in G, an extraordinary set of variations
on the folk-song ‘Eahna achte müssen ‘s seyn’ (the opening
sentences above being my attempt at a translation of the first
verse of the song). I call it a set of variations, and it
appears on a CD entitled ‘Piano Variations’, but it isn’t
by any means an altogether orthodox set. The theme is first
presented in an incomplete form – cut off, as it were. The
first half of the theme reappears in largely the same form
in a series of different keys, arranged to the sharp side
and the flat side of the home key. The very inventive material
in between these repeated iterations of the first half of
the theme largely takes the form of variations on the second
half of the theme. The whole demonstrates both Haydn’s robust
sense of humour and his extraordinarily subtle musical intelligence.
So, too, in varying proportions, do the other sets of variations
on this richly entertaining CD.
Twenty Variations belong to much the same period as
the Capriccio. Working with a simple, dancing theme,
Haydn has some characteristic surprises for his listener –
some of them harmonic, some rhythmic. Individual variations
exploit particular musical ideas – such as the triplet rhythms
of the first, the thirds of the tenth variation and the chords
with tenths for the left hand in the final variation. The
whole is a small-scale encyclopaedia or handbook of keyboard
Divertimento, for piano duet, acts out – as its title
suggests – an imagined music lesson. The opening theme is
played by the ‘maestro’ and is imitated, almost phrase by
phrase, by the ‘scolare’. Gradually, the material becomes
a little more demanding and the ‘progress’ that the pupil
has made is rewarded, in the second movement, by the granting
of a greater independence from the examples provided by the
master. There is much charming music to be heard in the enactment
of this scenario.
harmonically sophisticated variations catalogued as Hoboken
XVII:3 have as their theme the beautiful minuet from the second
of Haydn’s Opus 9 Quartet. Some of the variations - especially
the tenth - are attractively ornamented, some play teasing
games with rhythm and dynamics. The C Major variations, written
shortly before Haydn’s first visit to London, are pleasant
if unexceptional, fluent and graceful.
variations on “Gott erhalte” were not published until 1815
and were, for a long time, attributed to Abbé Jose Gelinek.
The theme is, of course, familiar to us – if from nowhere
else – from Haydn’s Emperor quartet (Opus 76, No. 3). Indeed,
these piano variations are, effectively, a keyboard arrangement
of the variations in the string quartet. The results have
a quiet dignity, a restrained lyricism which is very attractive.
might, of course, be much to be said about the rightness,
or otherwise, of performing all this music on the modern piano
– some of it pretty certainly being originally written for
the harpsichord, and some of it for several different early
incarnations of the fortepiano. But such issues need not,
surely, be discussed every time we listen to performances
of Haydn’s works for keyboard. It is surely sufficient here
to say that Jenő Jandó plays the pieces
with clarity, intelligence and affection (and that Zsuzsa
Kollár makes a very good ‘pupil’ in Il maestro e lo Scolare.
This is enjoyable music without great pretensions (but characterised by
the high intelligence that has gone into its composition),
played with a matching lack of pretentiousness. Jandó resists
any temptation to inflate the music, while making it clear
that it has much more than porcelain daintiness to offer -
after all the castration of boars is not the kind of scene
very often depicted on the porcelain of the time!