Haydn and the Performance of Rhetoric.
Musical analysis of any sort is valuable insofar as it leads the listener (in the broadest sense) to fresh experiences of a given work or repertoire. The same analysis increases in value as it broadens the cultural vision of the perceiver, leading to deeper listening and deeper understanding. On all of these counts, and more, the volume of essays at hand scores high marks.
The book reproduces eleven of fifteen presentations given at the conference, " 'A Clever Orator': Colloquies and Performances Exploring Rhetoric in Haydn's Chamber Music" at the University of California, Los Angeles in April 2001. The apparent goal of the published symposium was to give a discussion of musical rhetoric its full due: to place it in an historical (Haydn's past, present, and future) and cultural context by going beyond a musicological perspective on the subject to include scholars from parallel disciplines. The present volume reunites four contributors to the earlier Haydn and His World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997): Tom Beghin, Mark Evan Bonds, Elaine Sisman, and James Webster. Additional musicologists in this collection include C. P. E. Bach scholar Annette Richards and Haydn veteran Laszlo Somfai. The contributions of classicist. Sander Goldberg, historian James Van Horn Melton, and the two literary/cultural scholars Timothy Erwin and Marshall Brown establish a substantial basis for the image of Haydn as orator. The first essays ("Backgrounds") approach questions of performance, rhetoric, and aesthetics contextually, while the later essays ("Foregrounds") view the context through the perspective of the music and its performance.
Included with the book is a DVD that replicates images found in the book and features mostly audio and some video performances of music examples. Though the editors indicate that "compromises" were made in the production of the DVD, it is wondrously done, and lends vibrancy to the various arguments.
The first chapter, "A Visit to the Salon de Parnasse," precedes "Backgrounds" and is not actually a paper, but a conversation. Elisabeth Le Guin (a major mover in the success of the conference and whose performances on the violoncello are featured on the DVD) fashions a fictionalized and idealized dialogue as it might have happened in a salon. Since Haydn attended salons while in Vienna, this episode provides a vital contextual element for his music. Since the conversationalists are predominantly French, this salon takes place in Paris, where many ideas about performance were being published. Those attending include Diderot, Rousseau, and d'Alembert, and the spoken texts quote their writings, and those of other attendees, and other fresh queries. The participants explore in this dialogue the nature of conversation, and, through a performance of the first movement of the piano trio, Hob. XV: 14, reflect on how their ideas resonate with the performance. The two media even share an awkward silence, whimsically illustrating further parallels.
The first essay, "Performing Theory: Variations on a Theme by Quintilian," is written by Goldberg. Unlike Aristotle, the most articulate of the Greeks in the field of rhetoric, the Roman Quintilian wrote extensively on oration, or delivery. Among the reasons for this difference, the most relevant was the workings of the legal system. In addition to oratory, acting became an element in the issue of delivery. The practice of rhetorical delivery could be complicated by any of four factors: emotion (when and how to employ it), knowledge (usually the more, the better), declamation (an unlimited use of invention), and truth (or, the avoidance of falsehood). The DVD cleverly illustrates performance issues in oratory with a link to a Web site, http://cicero.hummet.ucla.edu/speech.htm (accessed 20 August 2008) that includes three versions of a speech by Cicero, with English translations.
In "Ut Rhetorica Artes: The Rhetorical Theory of the Sister Arts," Erwin reveals the breadth of the impact rhetorical thinking had on the various arts. Design is his topic, not only as a literary element, but as an organizational element in painting as well. In demonstrating the goals of sister-arts doctrine--"to make possible the full articulation of narrative time in pictorial space" (p. 69)--Erwin cites Carlo Maratti's 1681 painting, Apollo Chasing Daphne, an illustration of several passages in Ovid's Metamorphosis. He concludes with an explication of George Colman's 1789 play, Ul Pictura Poesis! Or. The Enraged Musician, based on Hogarth's 1741 illustration of the same name.
Melton provides a biography of Haydn's early years in "School, Stage, Salon: Musical Cultures in Haydn's Vienna," an essay on the composer and "the culture that transformed both him and his world" (p. 81). Three points of contact between Haydn and the culture include his "parish schooling in Hamburg in the 1730s, collaboration with the comic actor [Johann] Kurz in the 1750s, and membership in the [Charlotte von] Greiner salon in the 1770s, and 1780s" (p. 107). Melton also appropriately inserts Johann Mattheson into the weave of early influences on Haydn. It was not only Haydn who was being transformed: his move from the parish school, where he received an education structured by Catholic baroque principles, to the salon, dominated by Enlightenment thought, maps a significant cultural shift in late eighteenth-century Austria.
In the final discussion of foregrounds, "Rhetoric versus Truth: Listening to Haydn in the Age of Beethoven," Bonds explores the issue of how music was perceived, and how this perception shifted from the late eighteenth century into the nineteenth. Bonds compares Haydn's reception to that of Beethoven, whose aesthetic is the dominant one, even today. Unlike Beethoven, Haydn's clarity was self-explanatory; his works may have, at times, toyed with the listener's expectations, but always guided them to the conclusion. Beethoven went further, challenging the listener to understand complex strategies. This appeal to abstract reasoning has contributed to the later composer's image as a philosopher. Bonds also cites Arnold Schoenberg, the idealist, who articulates the position more fully in his writings and music.
Beghin, in "'Delivery, Delivery, Delivery!' Crowning the Rhetorical Process of Haydn's Keyboard Sonatas," takes his cue from Demosthenes (perhaps via Goldberg): delivery is the first, second, and third most important part of oratory. To treat this slant on performance in this mildly complex article. Beghin persuasively confronts the thorny issue of repetitions and how to reconcile them with delivery. He embeds an issue of how to deal with repetitions in sonatas--formal repetitions--into a discussion of female performers who were so prevalent in Haydn's day, but not recognized as musical masters. On the DVD, Beghin exploits the technology, illustrating his own "delivery" with performances viewed through a variety of camera angles.
In "The Rhetoric of Improvisation in Haydn's Keyboard Music," Webster explores an unstable dimension of Haydn's keyboard sonatas and trios: improvisation. His focus is not passages calling for some degree of improvisation from the performer, but improvisatory rhetoric: events that "in the completed work are fixed by musical notation, but ... sound as if they were being improvised in performance" (p. 175). This rhetoric is of three types: "1) improvisatory style as such; 2) [passages with] general features of style that may seem related to improvisation; and 3) [passages with] improvisatory style as a rhetorical device" (p. 175). His primary target is improvisation in which the overall order of a movement or work is subverted by the improvisatory passage. Through these passages. Webster draws attention to the fantastic character of Haydn's music. And in a rhetorical gesture, albeit peripheral, that emphasizes the subversive quality of Haydn's strategies, Webster twice compares them to jazz.
Somfai's essay, "Clever Orator versus Bold Innovator." expresses cautionary reserve with regard to rhetorical approaches to music, asking whether "Haydn consciously worked with the means and rules of rhetoric" (p. 214) while composing, and why contents of his "irregular forms need to be explained in terms of another art altogether" (p. 214). He turns this question towards string quartet performance, asking what Haydn expected performers to understand about their roles as orators. What Haydn communicates is embodied in notation, with the performers unable to see the overall picture for lack of a score. To enable the reader to imagine the problem, Somfai's examples on the DVD include a passage to be heard while looking at one part at a time.
Brown, in "The Poetry of Haydn's Songs: Sexuality, Repetition, Whimsy," focuses on the songs, mostly from the perspective of the texts. He sets upon three tasks: 1) "to discover kinds of variety and character in eighteenth-century lyrics"; 2) to take a "new look at Haydn's music" for these songs; and 3) "what light might be cast on his sensibility in general by the choice of German texts or the manner of his response to the English ones offered by his hostess in London" (p. 231). Brown's vocabulary is informed by literary criticism, not surprisingly, and while his comments bring many layers of insight to the songs, the Freudian explanations are off-putting and tend to bury Haydn's intent, and music rather than elucidate it.
In "Haydn's London Trios and the Rhetoric of the Grotesque," Richards calls attention to Haydn's use of baroque topoi in his later works. Terms synonymous with baroque included "bizarre, fantastic, capricious" (p. 267). By the late eighteenth century, these terms were also associated with the "grotesque." Richards demonstrates the perception of the grotesque in the broader culture, including some applications to performance. The famous Allegretto of the piano trio. Hob. XV:28, forms the center of this discussion.
In the final essay, Elaine Sisman's "Rhetorical Truth in Haydn's Chamber Music: Genre, Tertiary Rhetoric, and the Opus 76 Quartets," the volume returns to the topic of conversation, but significantly enriched. Sisman vehemently and persuasively articulates the role of rhetoric in Haydn, sealing its implications well beyond the realm of metaphor, and confirming it place on an integral level of musical comprehension. "Tertiary rhetoric" is that in which the works "speak intertextually to each other and only through each other to the audience" (p. 282). She supports the claim by intertwining textual models (an autobiographical letter from 6 July 1776) and musical models drawn from the chamber works. It is not enough to identify rhetoric in Haydn's music: Haydn himself is rhetorical. As for tertiary rhetoric, Haydn's works are speaking to one another, most importantly intra-opus, and this "conversation" can not be understood without, a rhetorical sensibility. In musical passages that seem to be merely self-referential (or, worse, repetitive re-hashing), Haydn is actually commenting, that is, doing a gloss, on a previous gesture, and the composer, a homo rhetoricus, intends the listener to follow the argument.
A small technical quibble with the volume: it would have benefited from a topical index, not in the rhetorical sense (there is an index of rhetorical terms). Several recurring ideas, namely "truth," "salon," "improvisation," "genre," might have been referenced to access them more easily. Similarly, there is much in these pages on Haydn himself (i.e., the performer), for which index entries would have been helpful. And the reader should not let the DVD substitute for more first-hand experience: play the music examples yourself, and, if possible, perform the works, keeping the insights in mind.
The overall collection would be of greatest benefit to a performer, particularly one who wonders at Haydn's eccentricities. Here, one will find both answers and stimulants for further thought, even in the non-analytical essays. There is also much for scholars of Haydn and the eighteenth century, and for students of performance or cultural studies.
RILM, New York
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2008|
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