I suppose a “Back to basics” kind of thing is normal in January, isn’t it? Not so much a series of resolutions or a grand statement of intent to change my life, but there is most definitely a desire to clean things up a bit and to indulge a bit of simplicity.
In that vein I’ve been listening to a bit of Franz Joseph Haydn of late. Haydn’s reputation has taken a pretty dispiriting turn over the last few decades, it seems to me; he’s seen as a kindly old composer of nice, pleasant, and undemanding music. Haydn is Mozart without the fire, a placeholder to give us someone to talk about other than Mozart in the era between Bach and Beethoven. He’s referred to as “Papa” Haydn, and his symphonies often have cute nicknames: The “Clock” symphony, the “Surprise” symphony, and so on.
Well, to that I say nonsense, because in Haydn I find beauty and passion and the very best of the rationalism of the Classical era. I find formal perfection, structural amazement, and melodies that lodge in the ear with joyous aplomb. Returning to Haydn is like drinking clear, cool water after a long and difficult journey.
Here is the Overture in D Major by Franz Joseph Haydn. Notice how complete a journey he takes us on, all in the space of just under five minutes!