Archive for the ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’ Category

JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)

Highly rated composer, Joseph Haydn still remains, in my opinion, underrated compared to Mozart and/or Beethoven. He is, with Handel (and maybe Beethoven), my favorite composer. It will be impossible to sum up all his production within a few posts this week. Like last week for Boccherini, famously nicknamed the Haydn’s wife,  I intend to look here and there at his instrumental and vocal music.

Keen businessman, modest and having a strong humor, Haydn worked from 1761 to his death for the Esterhazy princes, especially under Nikolaus “The Magnificent” (1762-1790). He is mostly known for is symphonies, string quartets, masses and oratorios.

Scena di Berenice (“Berenice, che fai”)

Composed in 1795 for the singer Brigida Banti, the scena (with recitatives and two arias) is considered one of Haydn’s most accomplished dramatic work. Berenice laments her fate after being abandoned by her lover Demetrio. After she describes her woeful state in a recitative, Berenice sings an aria begging Demetrio not to die without her. Her grief continues to grow in another recitative and aria, where she prays that it finally become so great as to “relieve her of life.” Berenice, che fai was premiered (along with Haydn’s Symphony No. 104) on 4 May 1795 at a concert for Haydn’s benefit.

Rene Jacobs and the Freiburger Barockorchester (and Bernarda Fink!) on Harmonia Mundi label, recorded a great version of it. It lasts more than 11 minutes but it is really worthy. The full libretto is available here (no translation alas).

Scena di Berenice (play or download)

For more information

Harmonia Mundi


Online reviews

Classics Today

Opera Today

Sources for this post

Michael Ruhling, “Haydn in London”, Handel and Haydn Society Program Notes

Marc Vignal, Joseph Haydn, [Paris], Fayard, 1988, p. 467-468, 1227-1228. (French)



Read Full Post »

Friday. It means it is the time for the hidden gem of the week.

For the first entry of that thematic series, I had in mind to put on spotlight Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704). Born in Bohemia, he worked

at the court of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg (the same employer of Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Michael Haydn) from 1670 to his death. He became Kapellmeister in 1684 and was knighted by the Emperor Leopold I in 1690 (his name changed then for Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern). He is known for his contributions to the violin technique and the art of scordatura (mis-tuning of strings).

A great example of scordatura is the Mystery Sonatas set, created around 1676 (but not all were composed at the same time).  The mysteries, or mediations on the life of the Christ and the Virgin Mary are divided into three cycles of five (joyful, sorrowful, glorious). I selected the sonata no 11: The Resurrection, which is part of the “glorious” cycle, is the greatest example of scordatura in the  sonatas series.


WalterReiter, violin/Ensemble Cordaria/Brilliant Classics

(The CD was first released on SIGNUM CD).

For more Information




I selected too a sample from Biber’s requiem in F Minor, composed around 1692 in Salzburg. Youtube offers a good performance of the Sequence part of the Requiem. The latin text with its english translation is available on Wikipedia:

Paul McCreesh/Gabrieli Consort and Players/Archiv

Sources for this post




Read Full Post »

On June 9, 1763, Leopold Mozart, deputy Kapellmeister of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, left the town with his son Wolfgang on an european tour who will end in 1766. The trip will lead the father and the son to Munich, Mannheim, The Hague, Paris and London. It is in Britain, in 1764, that the 8 years old boy will compose his first symphony, from which we will listen the first movement (molto allegro). The symphony is written for an orchestra of two horns, two oboes and strings.

The Mozart family on tour by Carmontelle, ca. 1763

Sources for this post



Read Full Post »