A view From the Bassoon

We asked bassoonist Simon Rickard a few questions about our upcoming program, his role as bassoonist and what really went on in eighteenth century orchestras.

Question: Haydn is well known for his ability to include humour with drama and beauty. The Farewell Symphony is one of his most famous pieces. How does he achieve this in that Symphony, and what makes it such a well known work? 

Simon: Haydn’s quicksilver wit and effortless elegance are nowhere more evident than in this famous symphony, which earned the nickname ‘Farewell Symphony’ (Abschiedssinfonie) from the deliberately anticlimactic ending Haydn wrote for it.

It is easy to forget that in Haydn’s day musicians were no more than glorified servants. Haydn’s patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, maintained a small orchestra of musician-servants who accompanied him to his summer palace each year for his private entertainment. One year, the stay at the summer palace was very long, and the musicians, wanting to return home to their own families, appealed to Haydn to intercede with the prince on their behalf.

Ever ingenious and creative, Haydn composed this symphony as a message to the prince. At the end of the last movement, each musician snuffed out the candles on his music stand and left the stage one by one, until only a single violinist was left on stage to finish the symphony. This subtle hint must have worked, because the next morning the prince moved his court back to Eisenstadt, and the musicians were returned to their families.

Question: The bassoon doesn’t always have an independent part in this program, yet it is playing most of the time. What role did it have in the eighteenth century?

Simon: The bassoon was the workhorse of the eighteenth century bass section. As such, most eighteenth century orchestras had more bassoons than cellos or double basses. For example, the famous orchestra at the Dresden court, under Hasse in 1768, had five bassoons but only three cellos and three double basses. The orchestra at the theatre of Versailles in 1773 had six bassoons, with only five cellos and four double basses.

Haydn’s early orchestras had two bassoons but only one cello and one bass. However, by the end of his career, the role of the bassoon had changed from being part of the tutti bass section, to become a solo tenor voice. The classical orchestra became standardised at this time, with only two or three bassoons, each playing their own independent part, outnumbered by a greater number of cellos and basses.

Question: J.C. Bach’s symphony is very dramatic and, like Haydn’s Farewell, could be termed a Sturm und Drang work. What does that mean and what should audiences expect?

Simon: Sturm und Drang was a proto-romantic movement in the second half of the eighteenth century that expressed itself in both literature and music. The term is usually translated from German as ‘Storm and Stress’. However the word ‘Drang’ also suggests an urge, yearning or drive. This sums up the nature of this turbulent style perfectly. Full of driving rhythmic energy in the fast movements and languishing affectation in the slow ones, unexpected harmonic progressions and abrupt dynamic changes, this style always keeps the listener on the edge of their seat.

Sturm und Drang is one of my favourite musical movements. I find it absolutely thrilling hearing its exponents, such as CPE and JC Bach, Haydn and even the young Mozart, trying to express romantic concepts using essentially baroque musical language. If only this unique musical movement had lasted longer!

AHE September 2018 News

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Beethoven & Haydn Tour

October 4th - 12th

It's not long now until our Beethoven & Haydn tour begins with the first performance on October 4. This program highlights our love of unearthing forgotten composers and rediscovering unknown historical chamber versions of the classics.

We present the Australian premiere of two rare chamber versions: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and Haydn’s Symphony No. 44 (The Trauer). The program also includes a string sextet by Albrechtsberger and a virtuosic Flute Quartet in D minor by Ries, the lesser known contemporaries of Haydn and Beethoven.

Join Skye McIntosh and AHE for this exciting exploration of premieres. Beethoven & Haydn tours in the coming weeks to:

Canberra | Thursday 4 October, 7pm 
Berry | Friday 5 October, 7pm

Southern Highlands | Saturday 6 October, 5pm 
Sydney | Monday 8 October, 7pm

Newcastle | Thursday 11 October, 7pm
Sydney | Friday 12 October, 7pm 


Symphony No. 44 in E minor (The Trauer) arr. Hague (1810)

Flute Quartet in D minor WoO 35 No. 1

String Sextet in E flat major Op. 13 No. 1 (Adagio and Fugue)

Symphony No. 1 in C major arr. Masi (1800)


Schubert Songs with David Greco - Reviews are out!

 ★★★★ "... a rich and satisfying concert." Limelight Magazine

It was such a privilege working with David Greco on this special project. If you weren't able to be at one of the Schubert Songs concerts you can hear David singing Schubert on his new ABC Classics Album: Schubert Winterreise with our dear friend Erin Helyard.

It's Album of the week on ABC Classic FM this week tooClick HERE to see the album on the ABC Classic FM website.
Vi King Lim in conversation about arranging Beethoven & Mozart

We talk to our fabulous arranger, Vi King Lim all about what it's like to take a full scale Symphony and make a chamber arrangement in the style of the C18th. 

Ferdinand Ries - More than just Beethoven's Secretary
Ries is generally remembered for his role as Beethoven's student and copyist, but he was so much more than that. He was one of the most celebrated pianists of his day and also a composer in his own right.

In our next tour, we perform his virtuosic Flute Quartet in D minor with Melissa Farrow. Listen to this recording of his Grand Sextuor for 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass and piano on YouTube to give you a taste of his compositional style.

AHE at the Tyalgum Festival

We had a wonderful time performing at the Tyalgum Festival in Northern NSW recently. It is a beautiful part of the world and we were so happy to perform at such a wonderful event. Our Artistic Director Skye McIntosh has a special connection to the area having grown up there. In fact, one of her very first public performances was at the Festival as part of its Young Artists concerts back in 1990!
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