Posts Tagged Menlo College

Joseph Haydn (Chamber Music) by Saint Michael Trio at Villa Montalvo Arts Center


This trio of super talented ensemble, entertains and enthralls, delights the audience, and delineates the music of diverse range of composers and genres.  In addition to the classical masterworks, they perform jazz and even rock tunes.  The artists (Daniel Cher, Russell Hancock, and Michael Flexer) make the concerts informative, educational, interesting, witty, and funny.

I attended the performance titled “Haydn on Trial”.  Franz Joseph Haydn, one of the most prominent and prolific composers of the classical period (1732-1809) has also been accused of being simplistic, mechanical and at times, also trivial.  Rising to his defense, the trio performed various pieces of Haydn’s music, interspersed with interesting commentary.  Speaking as if to a jury, Russell Hancock made a strong case to get Haydn acquitted, from the unfair accusations.

Haydn was one of the first composers to write ...

Haydn was one of the first composers to write a pitch change as well as a written out solo for the timpani in a symphonic movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph Haydn pioneered the sonata form of music that would dominate the world of classical music, for over 200 years.  Unlike Bach whose music is precise, controlled, and mathematical, Hayden’s music is a story-telling enterprise.  Hayden introduced narrative aspect to the music.  After the stage is set, the tension is built up to introduce additional themes (like characters in a story), then it is developed further, eventually leading to reconciliation, and finally there is coda or the end with recapitulation.

Haydn was a prolific composer.  He has written 104 symphonies, 54 piano sonata, 24 operas, 76 quartets, 31 concertos, 16 masses, 3 oratories, and 30 songs.   Haydn needs to be compared to the context and the constraints of his time.  Haydn spent nearly 80% of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterhazy family, at their remote estate, in Austria.  He did not enjoy the kind of liberty in composing his music, like Beethoven, for instance.  Haydn wrote pieces requested of him.  Haydn was instrumental in the development of chamber music, such as the piano trio and he is also widely recognized as the pioneer of Symphony and String Quartet.  Haydn was born on the border of Austria and Hungary and he brought the Hungarian folk music elements into his music.  Haydn was also a friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven.

St. Michael Trio performed fantastic pieces of Haydn’s compositions and made a brilliant case on behalf of Haydn.  They proved unequivocally that Haydn if not held to contemporary standards, was a brilliant composer, who also introduced “surprise” elements into his music.

Russel Hancock (Piano), Daniel Cher (Violin), and Michael Flexer (Cello) performed beautifully, presenting the music in highly engaging and interesting manner.  Each of the artists hold high profile careers in the private sector and balance their professional roles with their passion for music.  They are artists-in-residence at Menlo College, perform frequently at Stanford University, and are artists-in-residence at the Villa Montalvo Arts Center.  What San Jose Mercury News says is right on the money, “If these guys were a company, I’d buy stock”.  For further information or for tickets to their performances, go to http://www.saintmichaeltrio.com .

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