Even on a scholarly level Haydn’s music is passed over in
favor of who and what he inspired, innovated and crafted. His personal life
never caught the attention of the public as he was probably never prone to
smashing mirrors in local palaces either.
The elemental importance of Haydn’s music and artistry is brought to
the forefront in David Hurwitz’s new book, “Exploring Haydn: A
Listener’s Guide to Music’s Boldest Innovator”. Hurwitz
mentions early on how Haydn is commonly ignored. He notes that his music
holds many keys to one’s understanding of the immensity of
Haydn’s influence on classical music that followed shortly after his
time up through to today.
Though this book is more than a mere protest to prove how much Haydn was
the father of the symphony. Instead, like Hurwitz’s other
‘Unlocking The Masters’ books, it scintillates in description and
delves into the inner workings of not only Haydn’s music but the
importance of his innovations at the time, his creativity and how these both
carry on through to today.
Ultimately, the passion for the process in which Haydn composed and how
the music developed over time and how the listener should hear these hidden
masterpieces is the crux of Hurwitz’s book. The author’s goal is
to show the novice or beginner music fan what one can expect from engaging in
Haydn’s music. He takes apart each piece and examines it carefully and
skillfully. Truly, by listening to either one of the accompanying compact
discs then reading along with Hurwitz, a new level of perception and
understanding music is presented to the zealous listener. His descriptions
are useful to the unacquainted ear and he opens a new dimension of listening
appreciation. Hurwitz is able to described the music without completely
patronizing the reader into submission. With the knowledge one can cull from
this book, anyone will not feel stifled by Hurwitz’s writing. If
anything he promotes the usage of the reader’s imagination.
An inundated listener is taken on a pragmatic journey through the wild,
colorful and often humorous realm of Haydn. Movements from symphonies and
string quartets from various eras of the composer’s life and career are
highlighted and poured over and dissected with a refreshingly friendly
scholarly flair. Along the way, the music novice is given biographical
information on the master composer. The music is discussed along with the
development and evolution of Haydn’s compositions which give the reader
a well rounded look into the creative process.
This book is a nearly infallible piece of work for the inexperienced and
for those eager to learn more not only about Haydn, but also about music
itself. It falls short only when it attempts to simplify certain matters. For
example, when explaining the difference between major and minor we are left
with an almost exasperating conclusion of: “major=happy,
minor=sad”. Surely there is a middle ground for one to stray far from
the philosophical and bloated writings of say a Theodore Adorno and yet not
have to simply too far in the other direction..
However, these are merely picayune side notes rather than a weighty
complaint. This book may not find it’s way into the hearts of the
cognoscenti, but should serve its justice more fittingly in the class rooms
of high school students on down. With the aid of this book many may find that
there isn’t so much mystery to understanding music but the joy in
discovery as Mr. Hurwitz shows. The overall experience of “Exploring
Haydn” is one that educates with skill, patience and devotion; it
wishes nothing more but for the reader to love and appreciate this underrated
composer as much as the author.