Friday, June 19, 2009

Haydn, Haydn Everywhere

Have I mentioned that this year is the 200th anniversary of Joseph Haydn's death? I got a bee in my bonnet about seeing some Haydn and found out that they were playing his stuff in his very own room, the Haydnsaal, at the Esterhazy Palace. So today, only through the extreme sacrifice of our babysitters Sheldan (their celebrity couple name), Rob and I went on a date to Eisenstadt.

We had mapped out all the possible routes there, checked schedules, dropoff points and pickup times. We checked the satellite maps to see whether we could walk or needed a cab, and we looked at what was interesting in Eisenstadt.

We took the bus down and arrived 45 minutes before the concert. We drove in past the church where Haydn was buried (without his skull) and so we ran back to see it. His room was exactly the restrained, classical sort of marble spot you'd expect, but it was in this very weird looking Calvary church with people walking across paths in the roof (see above). Turns out that you walk up stairs and through depictions of the stations of the cross until you reach the top. It was cool.

Then we walked across Eisenstadt, which is about as big as your hand, and reached Schloss Esterhazy (not to be confused with the larger Esterhaza on the Hungarian side of the border, which bee I also have in my bonnet). The woman at the door looked surprised when we gave her our tickets and I thought we might be underdressed, but no, it was because we were about one third the age of everyone else in the audience. We took a seat and I noticed that the Haydnsaal, which is renowned for its acoustics, has absolutely bare floors. Looked like unfinished subflooring to me. I guess Mary Wallman was right when she wouldn't let them carpet the floor in the Berkeley ward chapel (she was the organist and she was protective of the acoustics).

The performance was by Cappella Istropolitana and they performed three Symphonies: No. 58 in F major, No. 35 in B major, and No. 41 in C major. Although my favorite was No. 58 (perhaps just because my ears were fresh), I was blown away by the flute in the No. 41, second movement poco andante (which you can click on and hear, though I think our flute was better).

Today Rob and I were amazed at how much we can see and get to without kids. A revelation! Maybe it is only because we were without the kids and trying to cram it all into a few hours, but we are sightseeing machines. As soon as the concert was over, we were off looking for Haydn's house. We decided to go through it and were glad we did. Not just because it was air-conditioned! It was an excellent example of how to make a tourist destination out of nothing, and do it well. The house burned twice in the twelve years that the Haydns lived there (not a great average). They had a copy of a letter that Haydn wrote while in London and it was disheartening to read his excellent English. There was a portrait of him without his wig. And as a special surprise, there were two very famous portraits of Mozart and Beethoven on loan for the Haydn year in the last room. He and Mozart were friends and admirers, and Haydn was Beethoven's teacher for a while, though those two had a stormier relationship.

Yay! We made it! We can't believe we're here! The self-congratulatory nostril shot, improved at least by the paintings on the ceiling behind us.
I had actually written a report to give to my class on Haydn, and didn't get to give it because I was sick, but I found out stuff that helped me enjoy the day. I learned that the Haydn year only has one third the budget that the Mozart year did (which was in 2006). If shown a bust of Haydn, most people think it's Mozart. In the LDS hymnal, we have one hymn by Haydn (number 46, which is the national anthem for Germany) and one by his brother Michael (267). He left his home at six to begin his musical training, then went to Vienna to become a choirboy at eight. He was once beaten at Maria Theresia's orders, for climbing some scaffolding at the palace where they choirboys were performing for her. Later, when he was working for the Esterhazy family, she came to an opera he'd written and said "When I want to hear a good opera, I come to Esterhaza". He was short and had a pitted face from small pox. It would also appear that he had an underbite. He is considered the father of the symphony and the string quartet, and we found out that no fewer than ten significant composers dedicated string quartets of theirs to him (the most famous being Mozart's). He had an unhappy marriage and wrote a song called "The Nasty Wife". It was awful.
I like Haydn because he's a sane artist of the first order. He held down steady jobs, was happy, became increasingly successful, was beloved of his peers and musicians and pretty much everyone except Beethoven and his wife.
After seeing his house, we asked about a place for lunch. Again, we just stumbled down the street until we found it. We walked in and said "we've got a bus to catch in 45 minutes. can we eat here by then?" and they fed us perhaps the greatest goulasch we have ever had and some locally pressed grape juice that rivals Navarro. It was a little place that was hip and unpretentious and not terribly expensive and I'd pack it in my bags and take it home with me if I could.
We had a lovely time. On the home front, Sheldan took the kids to the zoo and they managed to keep them happy, fed and dry and not even break a tooth or a bone! It was a very enjoyable success. This last clip is a smidgen of one of the encores that Rob grabbed just for his mother-in-law, knowing that she would have loved today more than anything else we've done. So enjoy it in your nice cool room, mom!
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1 comment:

MOM said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I loved it, vicariously. Looks like it was a great day and you both look wonderful.