Aug 31 2011
At noon Thursday, the Pittsburgh Symphony heads to the first of its two concerts at the five-year-old Grafenegg Festival about 45 minutes from Vienna. Yesterday, I joined PSO Principal Oboist Cynthia Koledo de Almeida, Principal Flutist Lorna McGhee, freelance cellist Aaron Zelkowicz, and Vienna Symphony Orchestra oboist Peter Schreiber on a train ride to Franz Joseph Haydn’s town of Eisenstadt.
Peter Schreiber skillfully guided us through the train changes. The Austrian countryside with fields of sunflowers, grapes, and corn rolled by. Our conversation topics ranged from Cindy’s early years in marching band, where she enjoyed playing clarinet, glockenspiel, and oboe – to the classical music programming of Vienna’s Radio Stephansdom. Peter said that too many individual movements are being broadcast in lieu of complete works, and that the Vienna Symphony plays the Brahms Third and Fourth Symphonies a lot.
Haydn was born in Rohrau, another short ride away, but he’s buried in the mausoleum of the Kalvarienberg Haydnkirche, one of thee Haydn churches in Eisenstadt; the others are the Dom and the Franziskaner church. On the way up the mile-long hill to the Schloss, you can stop at the house where Haydn lived while he worked for Prince Esterhazy. You can admire a reproduction of his wig and one of the few drawings of Haydn wigless.
I wonder what Chris Fennimore, our QED Cooks chef, would think of Haydn’s kitchen equipment. One of the 114 Anton Walter pianos in the world is here, and it’s quite possible Haydn played it. His English notebooks reveal messages in a neat hand, in which he writes about soap, asks for tickets to a concert, and sends his thanks.
A short song, Der Böse Weib (The Evil Woman), suggests the unhappiness in his marriage. Haydn’s wife was said to wrap fish in his manuscript pages. She was overly friendly with their minister. Haydn was thought to have a mistress, Luigia Polzelli, with whom he had a child, Anton Polzelli. Haydn and his wife, Anna Aloysia, remained in a loveless marriage for most of their lives. He wrote letters to Luigia long after his retirement.
The Landesmuseum Burgenland in Eisenstadt is participating in Lisztomania 2011, honoring the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt’s birth with the exhibition Franz Liszt – Born To Be A Superstar. The show documents the complicated relationships he had with Berlioz, Wagner, and Schumann, as well as his scandalous relations with the great love of his life, the Polish noblewoman Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. She lived in sin with Liszt since she couldn’t get a divorce. Inside Edition would have given lots of air time to Franz and Carolyn. A plaster cast of their interlocked hands speaks volumes about their deep love.
Haydn’s mausoleum in the Bergkirche includes a reverent marker noting that the composer’s head was removed from his grave in 1820, and was restored to the body in 1954. It’s an interesting story. While Haydn’s head was out and about, another unknown noggin served as a stand-in. Perhaps the thieves, devotees of the pseudoscience of phrenology, thought no one would notice. It’s a most unusual church, the Haydnkirche, in which the maestro presided over his choral masterpieces.
There’s a sunny cobblestone inner courtyard at the Esterhazy Winter Palace. You can admire the prince’s china and silver, but most of all the glorious Great Haydn Hall, where Haydn made music, and concerts are still given. Adam Fischer and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra recorded all 104 symphonies here. Peter Schreiber played on many of them. The tour guide switched on the Symphony No. 6, the “Morning” symphony, and you can sit listening and gazing at the elaborate ceiling frescoes. No doubt Papa Haydn would have enjoyed hearing the Pittsburgh Symphony play Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Hélène Grimaud just 90 miles away in Grafenegg on Friday night.