Haydn 95 and Beethoven

This week we have played the Haydn 95 symphony. Written in 1791 this is one of the famous London symphonies for which Haydn was greatly rewarded in fame as well as cash. He must have been proud and happy when returning back to Vienna in late spring 1792. In November Beethoven arrives in Vienna to have lessons with the master. To quote Thayer: “this small, thin, dark-complexioned, pockmarked, dark-eyed, bewigged young musician of 22 years had quietly journeyed to the capital to pursue the study of his art with a small, thin, dark-complexioned, pockmarked, black-eyed and bewigged veteran composer.”

We know Haydn was very impressed with his young student but he was too busy writing new masterpieces for his next trip to London to really spend time correcting and monitoring the studies in counterpoint that Beethoven was eager to pursue and get over with. Is it likely that Haydn showed and discussed his latest achievements, of which he was so proud and exited, with Beethoven? They had coffee together… ( “Coffee, 6 x for Haidn and me” )

Now, what´s the point? As we rehearse the first movement we come across the following passage in the bassline:

Later, in the last movement Haydn reuses this idea in a new context:

Interesting from a composers point of view – or at least interesting enough to immediately  stick to the eye – how the same material is used to connect between movements, something Beethoven was later to make great use of. But being a bass player my fingers disturbes me (I am rehearsing – not supposed to be mind drifting..) : Hey, you have played this pattern before! Sure – isn’t this one of the most practiced sequences of notes in a bass players orchestral repertoire: The scherzo of Beethovens Eroica Symphony ?

Could it be with a slight touch of good humor that Beethoven gives a third example of how this “lick” can be used; ending with a long rythm-disturbing duple feeling. The texture in the orchestration turns into unison string playing (in octaves) at this point in Haydn and Beethoven alike, making this sequence stand out from its surrounding…

Even if, quite likely, this is all mere coincidence; a result of using the same type of patterns, I enjoy the hands-on reminder of how close in time and space these symphonies are and the implied human connections makes it feel somehow contemporary to me. People connect.

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2 Responses to Haydn 95 and Beethoven

  1. Marc Grue says:

    Those 6 coffees they had – you mentioned that Beethoven kept a receipt. Can you scan that? I would love to see it!

    • Jan Alm says:

      beethoven manuscriptThayer refers at many places to this “small memorandum book” but I doubt that there is a facsimile available. But here is a manuscript ( piano sonata in c minor, op 111 ) to show his handwriting. I am sure the engraver was thankful for the clarifying names of some of the notes…

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