Sunday, 18 March 2012

Haydn à l’anglaise

Next time you are heading for Duke Humfrey’s Library, do spare a moment to look at the latest display in the Proscholium exhibition case. Haydn à l’anglaise explores the way in which Haydn’s two collections of Lieder, published by Artaria in Vienna in 1781 and 1784 respectively, reached England and how London publishers sought to capitalise on the popularity of Haydn’s music which had taken England by storm, even before the composer’s first visit to this country in 1791.

English versions of Haydn’s two original sets of Lieder were produced, the first adapted by William Shield to English poetry by a number of different named English poets in his collection of ‘Twelve ballads’, published by Longman & Broderip in 1786. Versions of the second set of Lieder were published in an anonymous collection of 1789. In many cases, the English words bore little or no relationship to their German originals.
There was evidently a market for the music of the composer whom the London press had dubbed ‘the Shakespeare of Music’. The 24 original songs proved to be not enough for the musical public so, in order to satisfy the demands of the amateur market, the London publishers turned to Haydn’s instrumental music and set words to tunes from the string quartets and symphonies which were widely played in this country at the time. Two such collections appeared, in 1787 and 1789, one arranged by the eminent English composer, Samuel Arnold. The opposite process also took place and the composer, Thomas Haigh, who had received lessons from Haydn on his first visit to England, turned some of Haydn’s songs into keyboard pieces.

The Proscholium display includes early English editions of Haydn’s songs and related works, and a couple of autograph manuscripts from the Bodleian’s collections. It also features the fine portrait of the 67-year-old composer by the young artist Johann Carl Rössler (1775-1845) which formerly belonged to Mendelssohn but now normally hangs in the Bate Collection in the Faculty of Music. The exhibition is designed to illustrate a lecture being given by Dr Derek McCulloch on 30th March and a short concert by his ensemble Caf€ Mozart, featuring some of the music which they have recently recorded on a CD, also entitled Haydn à l’anglaise. The exhibition runs until 8th April.


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