Saturday, September 06, 2014

New Esterhazy String Quartet: Haydn, Mozart, & Pleyel

I've said for a long time that we need to know second-string composers to understand the context in which the first-string composers worked. The New Esterhazy String Quartet, which I wrote about a couple of months ago, offers a fascinating opportunity to hear such a composer, with an upcoming program that will include a quartet by Ignaz Pleyel, who was a composer as well as a renowned piano maker. Here are the details:

Masonic Brotherhood: Mozart, Haydn, and Pleyel
Pleyel: Quartet in D minor, Op. 8, No. 3 (1786)
Haydn: Quartet in D, Op. 50, No. 6 “The Frog” (1787)
Mozart: Quartet in Bb, K. 589 (1790)
Friday, September 26, 2014, at 8pm, Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street (at Spruce), Berkeley, 94709 tickets for this Friday concert are $20, and sold only at the door
Saturday, September 27, 2014, at 4pm, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church,
1111 O'Farrell Street (at Franklin), San Francisco, 94109

SundaySeptember 28, 2014, at 4pm, All Saints’ Episcopal Church,
555 Waverley Street (at Hamilton), Palo Alto, 94301
Tickets for Saturday & Sunday are $25 (discounts for seniors and students)


Anonymous said...

Pleyel, who'd been a student of Haydn's, was the first-string go-to composer for unscrupulous 18th century publishers looking for works to publish with Haydn's more famous name falsely attached.

Elaine Fine said...

Don't be so hard on Pleyel, kalimac. He was a terrific composer who also made a living as a publisher and as a piano maker. Everyone since the time of Haydn and Mozart has been working under their shadows (and Mozart under Haydn's as well as Haydn under Mozart's). The big problem is that traditional music history (the stuff that was taught in the 20th century) led us to believe that there were only three Classical Period composers worth playing. We now know that this is far from true.

Anonymous said...

Where was I hard on Pleyel? The only evaluative comment I made about him was that he was less famous than Haydn, and, well, he was. Everything I said was strictly factual.

I thought this little story would make people curious to hear his music, or I wouldn't have posted it here. When I first read about it, it did me.

Don't knock people for criticisms they didn't make. I didn't do it to Pleyel, and you shouldn't do it to me.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That particular fact does nothing to make me want to hear Pleyel's music, because it says nothing at all about Pleyel's music, only about the misuse of Haydn's name in connection with that music. The publishers may have been unscrupulous, but people reading that story might wonder whether Pleyel cooperated.

So while you are not literally being hard on Pleyel or his music, you are associating his name with a fraud. I'd consider that a negative.

Elaine Fine said...

Here's an excerpt of a review I wrote about a recording of Pleyel's "Prussian" Quartets:

Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) was an Austrian wunderkind who grew up to be a jack of all musical trades (in addition to writing a great deal of very fine music, he ran a successful piano business and a publishing company). At the age of 15 he went to study with Haydn. Mozart thought a great deal of Pleyel. In 1784, two years after he started writing his "Haydn" Quartets, Mozart praised one if Pleyel's quartets in a letter to his father. He wrote, "It will be a happy thing for music if, when the time arrives, Pleyel should replace Haydn for us".

After Pleyel's death, his 94 string quartets, much of his other chamber music, his many concertos and sinfonias concertante, and his 41 symphonies slipped out of circulation. For much of the 20th century he was known mostly for his violin duets, some piano pieces, and his publishing and piano-making businesses, but during the later 18th century and well through the 19th century he was considered a phenomenon. There was even a Pleyel society in 18th-century America.
Thanks to Dr. Rita Benton (1918-1980), the scholar responsible for cataloging Pleyel's more than 700 compositions, we are finally seeing (and hearing) a revival.

Lisa Hirsch said...

94 string quartets!

I'll do my best to get to the upcoming performance.

Anonymous said...

Lisa: You must be kidding. Here's a guy whose music was considered good enough to pass it off as Haydn's. Wouldn't you be at least curious to hear what it sounded like?

Whether Pleyel was party to any fraud (I don't believe he was) is irrelevant. He won't be earning any royalties from the performance. Say, did you ever hear that Richard Wagner was anti-Semitic?

And then, the fact that he wrote 94 quartets does make you interested. It'd interest me too, but most people would be liable to think he might have spread himself a little thin.

Lisa Hirsch said...

kalimac, I'm interested, and have been for years, in the second-stringers: Moscheles, Hummel, Ditters von Dittersdorf, Boccherini, etc., etc. No, your particular story doesn't make me more interested than I already was.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't make me any more interested than I already am, either, but then I, like you, am already interested. Your comment #4 was speaking in the persona of a person not already interested. (#4: "does nothing to make me want to hear Pleyel," contrast #8: "doesn't make me more interested than I already am.") It was such a person I was addressing, who might find this historical fact amusing or intriguing, and I really don't appreciate getting slammed for this by people who don't need my advice. I actually waited a while before posting to see if somebody else might say a word first.