Sunday, September 12, 2010

The man...the legend!

Franz Joseph Haydn

He works hard for the money...

Oh Papa, we hardly knew ye.

We had our second afternoon of the Haydn project, and played through two more in the "berühmte" quartets.  In the Peters edition, they are the 2nd and 3rd quartets in the book, but the first one we played was Opus 9 number 2 and the second one was Opus 77 number 1 (David played first violin on the Op. 77 no. 1).  The first quartet was more of a violin piece with stringed accompaniment: the 1st violin had a ton of beautiful music, and the 2nd violin, viola and cello (yours truly) were there to make the 1st violin part sound even more beautiful.  This is not to say that it was boring for the rest of us, as can sometimes happen, especially for the viola and cello parts.  Once we played Haydn's Opus 1 number 1, and it was dreadfully boring for the bottom two instruments.  Del (our violist) and I basically had the same part, an octave apart, and it was straight eighth notes all the way through with little in the way of variation.  Yawn.  Next time something like that comes around, we'll take turns playing, and the other will go out for a drink.  Sorry Papa!  I've included a selection of the first page of that quartet - the viola and cello parts are the last two lines, and you'll note a similarity of the notes, whereas the top two lines have a bit (just a weensy bit) more variation.

Opus 1 number 1

The Opus 9 number 2 has a bit more for the entire quartet to do, but as I mentioned earlier, it is still really a 3 instrument accompaniment for the first violin.  Here's a link to a Youtube video of the Opus 9 number 2.  It's only the first movement.

The Opus 77 number 1 is an entirely different animal.  Quartet.  Whatever.  The difference between the two piece of music could not be more extreme, unless you were talking about two different composers.  So you can compare, here's a video of the 3rd movement of the Opus 77 number 1.  This quartet is much more of a quartet, in the sense that each instrument has a distinct part that comes together with the other three to create something entirely different than the sum of its parts.  Each part is integral to the whole, and if one drops out (say if they lose their place, which we of course, never do, no, not us), there is a definite gap in the music.
  It just sounds wrong without all of us, and you wouldn't see that with the earlier quartets.  It's clear that Haydn was figuring his way around the medium, and by his later years, he had clearly figured it out.

We've been having a lot of conversation about Haydn himself - the man.  We each know snippets about him, and we all know that he's composed an awful lot of music.  What we found today is that we don't really know much more than that.  I've been doing a little bit of research, and here's some of what I found:

125 symphonies
26 operas (11 are lost)
77 (no, 68! no, 55, no, 90!) string quartets (this has been an issue, as you can see)
47 piano sonatas
4 oratorios

Plus a bunch of other stuff.
He did most of his composing working for Prince Esterhazy, where in addition to writing music, he also had to rehearse and coordinate performances.  There were supposed to be two instrumental concerts and two opera performances a week.  A week!  And he was expected to compose a big chunk of that himself.  Yikes!  And I complain about the number of essays I have to grade.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Haydn Project

We started our Haydn project tonight - we're going to play all of the Haydn quartets.  There are an awful lot of them - I think the official number is 83, although on the web you can find folks that will say there are 68, and others that will say more than 90 (that's kind of cheating, don't you think?  Let's be specific, shall we?).  We're playing off of the Peters Edition, which has the quartets divided into four volumes.  The first two volumes have the 30 famous (berühmte) quartets, and the last two have the remaining 53 in our official count.

The first one in the book was Opus 17 number 5 - it's a nice little quartet (it's short - the cello part is only 3 pages for the whole quartet!), but it definitely has some funny little musical twists that can catch you if you're not paying attention.

We play again in September!

82 More Haydns to Play on the Wall.....

Well, I guess I'll be the first to post on the new WASHINGTON Da Capo Quartet blog. We learned tonight that we have competition. Who knew there was another Da Capo Quartet.....who sound a bit more accomplished than we? But we were a fully-formed quartet BEFORE that Da Capo Quartet was (we think). So we are pondering a lawsuit. But we may just change our name to the Washington Da Capo Quartet. Washington DC Quartet. Or, because of our love of Shostakovich, the Washington Da Capo Qbabtet.

Anyway, for some background, we are a bunch of teachers (2 former, 2 current). I (David, Violin II) teach Government in Silver Spring, MD, Jessica (Cello) teaches World History in Fairfax County, VA, Valerie (Violin I) taught English in Silver Spring, MD and now dabbles in college near Baltimore. And Del (Viola) taught EVERYthing a long time ago (mostly in Philadelphia). We've been playing together as a group for.....I don't know.....8 years? Did we start in 2002? Correct me, please... We leaving qbabtetting together. We laugh, we cry, stumble, we persevere, we clear our heads. It's great fun. Perhaps our greatest asset is Del's qbabtet library. He owns EVERYthing, which is awesome. For an amateur quartet, we've sure played a whole lot of quartets.

We made a recent pact to play ALL of the Haydn string quartets, hence my blog post title. One down (the first.....actually NOT his first, but the first in the first book of Beruehmtes....and it was kind of fun and not so easy, especially for Violin I) and only 82 more to go (I think).

We also played Bartok #1 (Jessica, correct me if I'm wrong) for the 3rd or 4th time and it started actually coming together (in parts). We enjoy it a little more each time! I have an atonal little ditty stuck in my head right now, in fact.

More soon....