Synopses & Reviews
Haydnand#8217;s music has been performed continuously for more than two hundred years. But what do we play, and what do we listen to, when it comes to Haydn? Can we still appreciate the rich rhetorical nuances of this music, which from its earliest days was meant to be played by professionals and amateurs alike?
Withand#160;The Virtual Haydn, Tom Beghinand#151;himself a professional keyboard playerand#151;delves deeply into eighteenth-century history and musicology to help us hear a properly complex Haydn. Unusually for a scholarly work, the book is presented in the first person, as Beghin takes us on what is clearly a very personal journey into the past. When a discussion of a group of Viennese sonatas, for example, leads him into an analysis of the contemporary interest in physiognomy, Beghin applies what he learns about the role of facial expressions during his own performance of the music. Elsewhere, he analyzes gesture and gender, changes in keyboard technology, and the role of amateurs in eighteenth-century musical culture.
The resulting book is itself a fascinating, bravura performance, one that partakes of eighteenth-century idiosyncrasy while drawing on a panoply of twenty-first-century knowledge.
About the Author
Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the most unfathomable composers in the history of music. How can such sublime work have been produced by a man who (when we can discern his personality at all) seems so ordinary, so opaque—and occasionally so intemperate?
John Eliot Gardiner grew up passing one of the only two authentic portraits of Bach every morning and evening on the stairs of his parents’ house, where it hung for safety during World War II. He has been studying and performing Bach ever since, and is now regarded as one of the composer’s greatest living interpreters. The fruits of this lifetime’s immersion are distilled in this remarkable book, grounded in the most recent Bach scholarship but moving far beyond it, and explaining in wonderful detail the ideas on which Bach drew, how he worked, how his music is constructed, how it achieves its effects—and what it can tell us about Bach the man.
Gardiner’s background as a historian has encouraged him to search for ways in which scholarship and performance can cooperate and fruitfully coalesce. This has entailed piecing together the few biographical shards, scrutinizing the music, and watching for those instances when Bach’s personality seems to penetrate the fabric of his notation. Gardiner’s aim is “to give the reader a sense of inhabiting the same experiences and sensations that Bach might have had in the act of music-making. This, I try to show, can help us arrive at a more human likeness discernible in the closely related processes of composing and performing his music.”
It is very rare that such an accomplished performer of music should also be a considerable writer and thinker about it. John Eliot Gardiner takes us as deeply into Bach’s works and mind as perhaps words can. The result is a unique book about one of the greatest of all creative artists.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
The Virtual Haydn: A Recording Project
Abbreviations, Scores, and Translations
1 A Composer, His Dedicatee, Her Instrument, and I
2 Delivery, Delivery, Delivery!
3 Short Octaves manduuml;ssen sein!
4 andldquo;Your Most Humble and Obedient Servantandrdquo;
5 An Opus for the Insightful World
6 A Contract with Posterity
Appendix A: Physiognomic Analyses of Plate 5 andagrave; la Lavater
Appendix B: Biographical Outlines of Theresa Jansen and Magdalena von Kurzbandouml;ck
Index of Musical Works
Index of Names