1770s in Music

Music reviews for music published any time during the decade of the 1770s.

1. Joseph Haydn: String Quartets, Op. 20 “Sun” (10/10)

Read the review of the “Sun” Quartets.

2. Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp Minor “Farewell” (10/10)

The “Farewell” symphony is just an incredible thing. The opening is out there for the time period (at least to my ears though apparently it is a pretty traditional form otherwise). And the middle parts are pretty traditional. But the finale is bonkers: it’s slow, for one thing, but it also features a gradual diminution of instruments, till it’s down to just the violins. On stage, the orchestra apparently leaves the stage (and even blows out candles). It’s impossible to hear that obviously, but it’s still a rather radical act (and the sound of the orchestra decreasing is as well). Apparently Haydn was sending a message to his patron, which is pretty funny. Knowing little about this period, I am hard pressed to think of something comparable.

3. Joseph Haydn: Keyboard Sonata No. 40 in E-Flat Hob.XVI:25 (10/10)

The 40th is really whacky and out there, for it’s time anyway. I love this kind of thing where it skirts along, threatening to break rules but never quite breaking them. In the showy parts you almost, almost lose the melody. Really great.

4. Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 46 in B (9/10)

The 46th symphony strikes me as a lot less daring than the 45th at first. But there are subtle little devices he uses to make it relatively unconventional for its day. It’s only in the finale when it gets really weird for its time. And again, it’s a bit of a stand out.

5. Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 44 in E minor “Trauer” (9/10)

The “Trauer” is pretty good.

The first movement doesn’t really fit the symphony’s nickname but is interesting and engaging.

The second movement is where it gets interesting, with almost like a concerto gross type effect, only with a split between the strings and with the group playing off the beat (or whatever you call that in Classical).

The third movement is the first time you really get a sense of “mourning”, at least to my ears, but even then, it really doesn’t seem to quite fit the nickname. Maybe it’s later stages. It must have meant something more to him, as he asked it to be played for his funeral.

The final movement is upbeat again, but it relatively unconventional.

This is probably one of his better middle symphonies with enough interesting stuff going on to keep you interested.

6. Joseph Haydn: Keyboard Sonata No. 39 in D Hob.XVI.:24 (9/10)

The 39th is a gorgeous piece of music. Very, very Classical, but still interesting enough (and clearly difficult) that it isn’t just a simple melody.

7. Joseph Haydn: Keyboard Sonata No. 41 in A Hob.XVI:26 (9/10)

The 41st starts off sounding really traditional but there are still lots of moments for the player to show off.   This one is pretty playful actually. I like it.

8. Joseph Haydn: Keyboard Sonata No. 48 in C Hob.XVI:35 (9/10)

The 48th is very jaunty in the style you would really associate with this era. However, again Haydn shows that he’s not just any old composer. He varies the left hand from phrase to phrase, and that’s before the piece really takes off about a minute in. Good stuff.

9. Christoph Gluck: Iphigenie en Tauride (8/10)

I am not a fan of the ‘classical’ era, compared to the other major epochs of western ‘classical’ music. I don’t know that I ever will be. I’d much rather listen to Baroque, Romantic or various more modern music. But I appreciate anything that was path-breaking (at least I try to) and I do my very best to listen to music while considering the context.

So I have to at least admire Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride (though this is the 1781 German version) even if I had to read about it to admire it more than I would just listening to it. The opera was apparently a watershed moment in French opera (Gluck had moved to Paris) and, given what I have read, I’m kind of glad. Though no fan of French opera in general, it sounds like it might have been ever less interesting prior to Gluck. And if someone like Strauss liked it so much he adapted it, then it’s got my vote.

Definitely not my cup of tea, but worth listening to if you are interested in the history of opera.

10. Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 47 in G major “The Palindrome” (8/10)

The 47th is pretty conventional to my ears. Apparently one of the movements is half backwards, but
I guess I’m not expert enough to hear that.

11. Joseph Hadyn: Keyboard Sonata No. 49 in C-sharp minor Hob.XVI:36 (8/10)

The 49th is rather dark compared to the others in this collection (that I first heard it on), but that’s because of the key, obviously. It’s still not Romantic dark, but it’s borderline (which reminds me of a number of his late symphonies).

It might be my least favourite of the group (of other sonatas from this era), though. Just a little too straightforward.

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