June 6, 2014

Adrienne Emails--Bach and Haydn

J.S. Bach
Was so keen on hearing the most famous organist of his day, Buxtehude, that when he was 20 years old, he walked over 200 miles just to hear him play.

Bach had 7 children with his first wife, and after she died, he remarried, and had 13 more children. His children helped him copy out parts, which is probably the only way he could have pulled off writing one cantata per week during one part of his career.

Lots of great music, but much of it is intimidating because of its complexity, and many don't appreciate it. You might try his Organ Preludes and Fugues--I'm sure many will be familiar to you.

It was said that when Bach was practicing the organ at the church, people outside the church, not knowing that Bach was inside, believed that there were angels playing the organ. On the other hand, when I was a girl, his organ music made me think of Dracula!

Franz Joseph Haydn
Haydn was probably the most pleasant composer to have ever lived, he was well-regarded by everyone (except Beethoven--who didn't like anyone; and his wife, who sometimes used his music as hair curlers. I don't think she was a nice person.). When he was young, he got in trouble at school a lot. Once, it was for cutting off the ponytail of the boy sitting in front of him. Another time, it was for climbing the school walls. Apparently, the princess was visiting that day, and so he got a "royal spanking"! (That one might be more legend than fact, but I love it.) He was a talented singer, and was in the Vienna Choir Boys, until his voice broke, and he got kicked out.

Later on, he was the court composer for Duke Esterhazy, and he was somewhat secluded, so he was forced to be creative. Many of his symphonies have nicknames, and are pictorial--one describes the sun rising, one is called "The Clock," one is called, "The Bear," and so on.

Three great stories:

Once, during one of his performances, the audience was so moved, they got up out of their seats, and moved right up to the stage so they could swoon, or whatever--they were Classical groupies! Suddenly, a chandelier came crashing down right onto the empty seats. That symphony was nicknamed, "The Miracle."

In Prince Esterhazy's court, the court musicians had gone for a long time without being allowed to go home and visit their families. They asked Haydn if he could help. Haydn composed a symphony in which during the last movement, the musicians gradually blew out their candles and exited the stage, until only two musicians were left. The prince got the hint, and gave everyone a well-deserved vacation.

Finally--and this is the symphony I recommend having your kids listen to because you'll enjoy their surprise if your sound system is good: Haydn was disturbed by audience members falling asleep during the slow movements of his symphonies. You'll hear how he cured them in the slow movement of the "Surprise" Symphony.

p.s. Because he is considered the "Father of the String Quartet," you should listen to some Haydn string quartets. There's one called "The Lark," because it resembles a bird, and there's a great performing group called, "The Lark Quartet," so that's fun.

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