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Thursday, October 14, 2004
  Symphony No. 92 (Oxford), Hob. I:56, Adagio cantabile (second movement)
Franz Joseph Haydn
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 7 Tracks 54-58

The acceleration of world change contemporaneous with this Adagio is eerily noticeable in the NAWM collection. The fully developed string section that Vivaldi enjoyed is now joined by a flute, oboes, and bassoon, French horn, trumpet, and timpani. This modest representation of the non-string families belies the enormous expansion that lies in wait for them. And strangely, simply because the pieces are getting longer, it is taking me less time to get through a single CD.

It is odd to me that Haydn did not generally use the flute in his orchestration. It works so well here, usually doubling the first violins at the octave. The concept of the orchestra as a layer of string sound on top of which the composer can add woodwinds or against which the composer can set the brass and percussion is, as Haydn knew, a rich point of departure. This organization became popular and possible because of the general standardization of instruments throughout Europe and (I keep coming back to it) Rameau's bestseller. The triad and the fundamental bass had as much to do with early orchestration as any composer's genius.

The impressive twist in Haydn's orchestration for this Adagio is his use of silence. Instead of building to a loud or strained climax, Haydn stretches the music toward the climax until it dissipates into silence. And after a pause of what may seem like 4'33" or something from No theater, he takes us back to the opening tune, which has moments of silence. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

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Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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