Hi Den, I discovered a Lot in Cod alley – and I’m not taking the Michael…

Thursday night (at the inhuman hour of 9 PM – which is normal in Italy) is Ghivizzano choir rehearsal night for our concert which will be on May 10th – at 9.00PM again at Ghivizzano bassa church. Michael Haydn, (Gloria from “Missa Sancti Gabrielis”) Lotti (“Regina Coeli”) and Kodaly (“Stabat Mater”) are the three composers whose music we practised at last night’s rehearsal.. Of course, it is possible to sing music by someone without having to know anything about them. But I was curious to find out more about these guys and, perhaps, remove some notions I had about them.

My preconception about Lotti was that he was old-fashioned for his time. Quite the opposite! Lotti (ca. 1667 –1740) was able to write in every genre and style of music. For St Mark’s cathedral in Venice (where he was born) he wrote masses of masses and madrigals in the a capella polyphonic style of Palestrina, for Dresden and for the Venice theatres he wrote around thirty operas in the latest fashion. At the moment I am listening to a Credo (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgMwmWIAcxY) written in the new concertato style of the time. What a great piece and such a versatile composer! As a teacher Lotti had Zelenka and Galuppi (remember Browning’s poem about him?) among his pupils. Bach and Handel owned copies of his music which they greatly appreciated. Why don’t we hear more of Lotti’s marvellous music live today?

My preconception about Michael Haydn was that he was distinctly second-rate when compared to his more famous brother, Joseph, and that he passed a large part of his life under the influence of the bottle. Michael Haydn ( 1737 –1806spent most of his professional life in provincial Salzburg; no mean feat when Mozart (who greatly appreciated Michael’s music and whose own Requiem was influenced by Michael’s one on the death of archbishop Siegmund) barely lasted a few years in the principality’s stultifying atmosphere. Joseph thought that his brother’s devotional music was better than his own. Michael managed to write a good deal of instrumental music too, including over forty symphonies (one of which was mistaken for a long time as Mozart’s work!) Among his pupils were Diabelli (he of Beethoven’s variations) and Weber. (Interestingly, Michael Haydn might have finished up near us as, in 1802, he was contemplating taking a position with the grand Duke of Tuscany. In the end, however, he remained in Salzburg).

My preconception of Kodaly was that he was a watered-down version of Bartok and only really important for his music education theories. Kodaly (1882 –1967) was actually the one who introduced Bartok to the techniques of ethnomusicology and the collection of folk music. Apart from the familiar Hary Janos suite he wrote concerti and symphonies and what I (and most others who know it) consider to be the greatest work for solo cello, on a par with Bach’s suites. (I still have my Saga vinyl recording of this played by Janos Starker – one of the classic performances of all time). Kodaly’s technique, where hand movements indicate notes and expressions, are standard practice in music education, especially among the young. He must have been a truly charming personality, even in old age: he married his 19 year old pupil when he was already 76: a 57 year difference between husband and wife – and he lasted out another eight years as well – no mean feat!

Anyway I am not sure whether everything I found out about these composers helped to improve my singing but it certainly helped me appreciate what I was singing all the more.

(Below – quiz time – fit the face to the name… no prizes offered)


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