In Search of Haydn

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COMPOSERS: Joseph Haydn
LABELS: Seventh Art Productions
ALBUM TITLE: In Search of Haydn
WORKS: Various
PERFORMER: Juliet Stevenson (narrator), Henry Goodman (voices); dir. Phil Grabsky


Following on from his acclaimed documentaries about Mozart and Beethoven, film-maker Phil Grabsky moves logically on to explore the third essential figure of Viennese Classicism: Joseph Haydn. In some ways it’s a harder task. Musicians, including the many distinguished figures who take part in this film, have always rated him highly, but his life-story is far less familiar even to regular concert-goers. Spared Beethoven’s deafness and sense of titanic struggle, or Mozart’s childhood fame and exploitation, financial difficulties and early death, Haydn lived a
more equable existence, mostly in the service of a single wealthy family, the Esterházys.

Yet there were international highlights, notably the two visits to London in the early 1790s, and triumphs at home such as the first performance of his oratorio, The Creation in 1798. There were also a number of relationships with women, surprising, perhaps, for a man who admitted he was nothing much to look at.

You can learn a lot about Haydn from biographies, but the advantage of Grabsky’s detailed and comprehensive approach is that you can see the places where he lived and worked – his birthplace at Rohrau in Austria and the palaces where he was employed. You can also hear samples of his work in all genres performed by the likes of pianist Emanuel Ax, soprano Sophie Bevan and Frans Brüggen with the Orchestra of the 18th century, who also enthuse about the music alongside leading Haydn authorities such as David Wyn Jones and Richard Wigmore. It’s an ideal introduction to one of the greatest composers of his time.


George Hall