Haydn’s Solar Poetics

(Australian Haydn Ensemble, Adelaide Town Hall, Saturday 5 March 2022)

Haydn’s 30 year gig with the company-store-bound Esterházy players, players fed and watered by a family a bit like the Rockefellers of another age and place, was productive. His very first hits were symphonies 6, 7 & 8, the so-called Morning, Noon and Night symphonies, the first of some 80 that were written for the Esterházy clan. The programme notes put it well, albeit well-baked:

The top minds of Europe were abuzz in 1761. Venus was transiting the sun for the first time since science had twigged that it could pinpoint our place in the solar system. Meanwhile, the most enlightened of Austria’s ruling families needed a composer to provide what we’d call content for their pre-eminent orchestra. It was a dream gig in some respects: yes, you had to wear servants’ livery but you got to live in a palace. Your bosses were no fools though – they could spot hackery a mile off – and even scarier were the musos’ demands.”

This great all-day concert showed glimpses of the early masterworks in that acoustic Elysium that is the Adelaide Town Hall.

It began with 20 + players on stage, tuning up.  An elderly lady, near your correspondent, thought they’d started (but first, the now risible welcome-to-country, the risible face-mask strictures, the unnecessary mobile phone warnings and yet more limbering up) – then Erin Helyard, Conductor and harpsichordist, appeared.

TVC, addicted to sleeping in on the weekend, and with other plans for the evening, plumped for the noon session, featuring some great nascent works by Haydn and others:

C.P.E. Bach: Sinfonia in F Major Wq.181
Mozart: Keyboard pieces: Keyboard Piece K.2-5 (written when Amadeus was about 5 or 6)
Haydn: Keyboard Concerto in F Major Hob.XVIII:3
Haydn: Symphony in C Major Hob.I:7 Le Midi

The ensemble, some 20 plus players, were impeccable; even better, they were so cohesive, lapping-up Haydn’s generosity in passing-out cabaret turns to each instrument (as with a death-metal band, every one gets a solo), and the tone of the music seemed to emblematize the myriad noon-time shades – serene, hectic & bustling, sleepy, prandial.  Helyard is a genius on the spinet; this one an original, that he played with verve and great taste, while conducting, which kept him as busy as a bee – and we were all transfixed for an hour and ten. Another great coup for the Adelaide Festival.

Credits at this link:



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