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Wednesday, 10 April 2013


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You should definitely try again with the late quartets: they are amongst the greatest achievements of proper music. The last three piano sonatas have similar stature, especially Op. 111.

As a gentler introduction, you might listen to Haydn's quartets, particularly the Op.76 set. They also scale the heights, though perhaps not quite to the same level. Beethoven, I believe, was a little concerned, when he started writing quartets, about whether he was a worthy successor to Haydn: now, I think, we can say with confidence that he was!

Forgive me if you already knew all this.

Absolutely not, Andrew, and thanks for your info - and encouragement.

I discovered the Haydn quartets in 1979 when I went off to buy my first post-gramophone "hi-fi": the bloke in the record shop used the Sunrise Quartet to show off his wares. Bless him. Herewith:

Did I really say "record shop"? Pah! But what did hi-fi shops call themselves? I can't remember. But I do remember being lent several hundred quid's worth of equipment to take home and try out over the weekend without even being asked for a deposit. Changed days.

You might like to read E.M.Forster's essay "On not listening to music", which is in his collection called "Two Cheers for Democracy". A lot in there worth reading.

I remember hearing a professional musician on the radio many years ago talking about the difference between so-called "high and low culture". At a football match, he said, 95% of the audience understand exactly what is really going on, and even the other 5% act so you wouldn't know the difference. The same applies at a classical concert, except the percentages are reversed.

Thanks, DM, what a sweet, old-fashioned thing you are! I would have called them 'record shops' too. Thanks for the Haydn but alas it is playing in stop/start mode but perhaps I will treat myself to the real thing.

'W', I just Googled Forster's essay but no luck, I might have to try the library.

DD, for getting hold of the music, have you tried "Spotify"? On-line music (everything that you have ever heard of, plus a great deal more) for a fiver a month or absolutely free if you don't mind having to choose the next piece before the adverts kick in. (Guess which I have, being a mean sod!)

Worth checking out. I was dubious when my son explained it to me ("What, a great big on-line juke box??!) but it is worth checking out.

Thanks DM for the link, but if I can be pompous for a second ... Haydn just doesn't sink in the way Mozart does. The sonata of the 40th, for example ... Once you hear it, you can't get it out of your ears.

Haydn never has that effect on me. I'm sure it's my fault. Mozart always thoguht Haydn was the better composer.

ihmo Haydn in his pomp probably was a better composer than Mozart.

Listen, if you will, to the Largo movement of Haydn's Op 76 No. 3; Mozart never reached those levels.

The think about Haydn is you never know what's coming next. This is part of his genius, and also explains why sometimes his "tunes" don't stick in the mind to quite the same extent. But then there is the 104th Symphony - now there's a tune that does stick: every time I hear it I'm back at school speech day some time in the late 60's...

Oops oops, rewind - Op.76 No 5 that should be.

Silly me.

I would, yet again, like to complain bitterly at the tardiness of this recommendation.

I have a 'lady friend', a retired from professional performance Double Bass player. I surreptitiously mention this movie as a way to finally 'get a date' only to find it's playing in about three places (slight exaggeration) and the nearest (>100 miles) has one showing left on the night you decide to finally inform me. Was this intentional? Have I upset you? Are you trying to ruin my romantic chances?

So now I'm reduced to either whisking her to 'the smoke' to the Barbican (or possibly a Curzon) or..... Hang on.. Hotel.... Drinks afterwards....Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Thanks DD, if it works I'll forward an invite to the reception.

Thanks, Andrew. And you're right of course about the 104th. I was actually making a comment about me, and my Haydn deafness, not about Haydn himself. I wish I could be cured of it, because so many people find so much pleasure in his symphonies.

"At a football match, he said, 95% of the audience understand exactly what is really going on": wrong, wrong, wrong. Before I took to playing rugby I used to go to watch football on a Saturday arvo: members of the crowd were often kind and warm-hearted to this wee boy, but came across to me as too stupid and ignorant to "understand exactly". Later I found that rugby crowds were more knowledgeable, not only because they were better educated and more intelligent, but because far more of them had played the game at a level above the odd kick-around. Who can doubt the wisdom of the spectator in Glasgow who approached me as I left the pitch to deliver the verdict "You're the biggest fucking scrum-half I've ever seen"?

Oh, Able, why couldn't she be a cellist and then I could trot out that hoary old story about the conductor who stopped in the middle of a rehearsal and turning to a lady cellist said, "Madam, between you legs you have an instrument that could give pleasure to millions and all you do is sit there and scratch it!" Doesn't really work with a bassist, does it? Anyway, good hunting and, er, do let us know if it's a win, draw or lose match!

Yes, yes, DM, that may be true, I have no way of knowing, but have you looked, really looked, at rugger-buggers recently? By accident I have found myself watching a few matches recently and they are mostly grotesque steroidal monsters who look like escapees from a Hammer horror movie! Whatever happened to the elegant players of yesteryear? I suppose they all ended up commenting on blogs!

'W', apologies for your comment of yesterday being dumped in the Spam Box from whence I have just rescued it - TypePad, grrrrrh! I will look into you recommendation.

"steroidal": that's my assumption too. Sad, innit?

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