Haydn eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 69 pages of information about Haydn.

We are far removed from Haydn now, and if often his second subjects seem little different from his first, we must remember that when all was fresh contrasts would be perceived that now have vanished out of the music.  Haydn, neither now nor in his final period, was excessively fond of violent contrasts.  Often the new start in the new key seems to have afforded a sufficient feeling of variety, and it is worthy of note that later, when Beethoven used violently contrasting kinds of themes to express dramatically contrasting feelings, the question of key ceased to have the same importance.  Composers later than Mozart have never troubled to mark their first key, so that the key of the second subject might sound like a grateful change and continuation; the stuff of the themes has been depended on for variety, while for unity the great art of thematic development has served.  So far as Haydn carried this art, we may note a few of his devices.  Double counterpoint, imitation, fugue, or at least fughetta—­these he returned to later.  Bits of themes—­mere fragments marking definite rhythms—­were used in spinning new melodies, a rhythm, or perhaps a sufficiently distinctive harmonic progression, connecting them with what had gone before.  This use of a “germ” idea was chiefly due to Beethoven, who, as in the first movement of the Fifth Symphony, worked out a gigantic piece of music from four notes.  But Haydn knew well how the value of intervals in a melody might be changed by the harmony, how a familiar bit of tune, with the simplest harmonies arranged in a new way, resulted in practically a new melody.  This device he commonly used, sometimes with fine results.  The incessant series of climaxes, leading us on and keeping us in suspense until a certain point is reached, then releasing the tension for a moment, and preparing to do the same again—­these he employed to an extent, but not as Beethoven employed them.

All this Mozart perceived, and made instant use of.  As for the mediocrities for whose benefit Haydn is held to have “stereotyped” the form, what could they learn from him?  I will say what they did learn.  They learnt to take themes which did not sound exactly like the subjects of a fugue; they laid out their first and their second, and then they did not know what on earth to do, and footled and stumbled till it was time for the recapitulation; so that Haydn himself said the worst of the young men was that they could not stick long enough at anything to work it out, and no sooner began one thing than they wanted to be off to another.  They were even worse off in their slow movements.  Unlike Mozart, they never discovered that the continuous melody, the melos, was Haydn’s grand secret; and if they had discovered it, they had not the genius and the simple deep sincerity to make use of the discovery.  That natural sincerity of feeling kept Haydn on the right path through all the weary Esterhazy years, when he was surrounded by French influences and every influence that made for artificiality and falsity.

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Project Gutenberg
Haydn from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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