In the lead-up to the 300th anniversary of Joseph Haydn's birth in 2032, the Joseph Haydn Foundation in Basel is organising, producing and financing the performance and recording of all 107 of the composer's symphonies by Il Giardino Armonico and Basel Chamber Orchestra under the artistic direction of Giovanni Antonini, one of the most highly-respected specialists in baroque, early classical and classical music, with its project Haydn2032.
Between the autumn of 2014 and 2032, all of Haydn's symphonies are to be performed and recorded in the course of nineteen concert seasons, with two projects per year.
Basel, Zurich und Eisenstadt have already signed up to host the project. In Berlin, Radialsystem V – one of the most innovative and experimental venues in Germany – is to enter into a long-term partnership with the project. The French group 'outhere music' is the cooperation partner on the recording side. And to accompany the project, the Joseph Haydn Foundation will be publishing a lavish, limited edition collector's book, complete with text and photographs by contemporary artists. The renowned agency Magnum Photos will supply a team of photographers to accompany the project and contribute a series of images for each subject area.
In the footsteps of Joseph Haydn
It is many years since a recording was made of all of Haydn's symphonies. And there has never been a complete recording of all the symphonies played on historic instruments. Nor has there been a series which has fully put into practice all we have learned in the last thirty years about how this music was performed at the time of its composition.
Haydn2032 is to reawaken interest in the composer, on the one hand re-establishing his reputation as a great musician and writer of symphonies, and on the other, enabling him to play his due part in contemporary discussions on music and culture. Haydn was never accorded the 'honour' – if that is the right word – of being the object of the Beatlemania visited upon some of his contemporaries last century.
We can only speculate as to why Haydn was not embraced as warmly by mass and pop culture as were Mozart and Beethoven. Perhaps it was because of the enormous body of his work, which is almost overwhelming in scale. After all, it does include (!) 107 symphonies, 83 string quartets, 50 piano sonatas, 50 solo concertos, 3 oratorios and 24 operas. Or perhaps it was because Haydn's life was never touched by great tragedy.
But perhaps it was also because there is a degree of subtlety about Haydn's music, which rather than brashly wearing its heart on its sleeve, reveals itself somewhat more gradually; as Simon Rattle puts it, the rockets go off more slowly with Haydn (Die Welt, interview on 11 October 2011). Haydn's music is characterised less by external drama and a primitive need to get its message across than by a delicate unfolding which discloses the intricacy within. It has none of the anguish of Wagner. Perhaps many are unable to appreciate at a first hearing the subtlety in Haydn's music, the simplicity with which transcendent beauty is expressed in just a few notes.
A kaleidoscope of human emotions
Love, yearning, isolation, joy, despair – these are timeless phenomena experienced by the masses the world over. Antonini sees in Haydn's symphonies not least a (musical) study of human life, prompting him to arrange them not in chronological order, but thematically. With his analytical, questioning approach, Antonini will grant his audience direct access to the entire kaleidoscope of human emotions which feature in Haydn's music as nowhere else.
The symphonies have been grouped around certain themes so that the individual projects are like tesserae, each expressing a particular emotion, which fit together to create colourful facets of human life. Their thematic arrangement should also serve as a compass to listeners, guiding them through the 107 symphonies and providing a strong foundation upon which the less well-trained ear can build a deeper understanding of the works and identify more readily with the emotions they express. By arranging the works thematically, the intention is to reduce the frequently off-putting magnitude of Haydn's oeuvre to a more manageable scale in a series of emotional snapshots.
The concert series will interweave works by Haydn with others by his contemporaries. This will provide the symphonies with historical context and set them against the musical background of the time. As a result, the concerts and recordings will also feature composers such as Gluck, Porpora, C.P.E. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Michael Haydn, Stamitz, Pleyel, Salieri and others.
In his music making, Giovanni Antonini places himself entirely at the service of the composer. He leaves nothing to chance when researching musical sources and harmonic contexts, and adopts a radical and unsparing approach when demonstrating their function and effect in creating and releasing tension and developing a musical line, all of which can build up into a riveting experience for the audience.
He is uniquely talented when it comes to constructing a whole world of conflicting tensions and subtle, harmonious musical facets, and in his ability to direct the music with an organic, rhythmic pulse.
New forms of expression for the 'Haydn' phenomenon
Given the lack of proper appreciation for Haydn's work within the world of music and among the general public, the Haydn2032 project recognises this as an opportunity to give the composer a voice in the present day and age, and to have that musical voice heard through his music. In addition to recording all of his symphonies, an attempt is to be made in other artistic disciplines too, such as photography and literature, to find new ways of expressing the phenomenon that is Haydn and his work. By taking a fresh look at the composer, these disciplines should also serve as a catalyst, making Haydn a regular topic of conversation in other areas of the arts too.
As part of a media partnership with the respected agency Magnum Photos, some of the top photographers of our time will be producing series of images for each of our projects, which will find inspiration both in Haydn's music and in the respective themes. Haydn2032 also plans to work with contemporary writers, who will produce short literary visions in which they muse on the significance of Haydn in the present day and age.
Haydn in 2032 – the aim of the project
The project aims to produce a spectacular new recording of Haydn's symphonies and to create multi-media links with other disciplines, thus generating new synergies which draw in music-lovers, but also musicians, conductors, concert promoters and orchestras from all over the world.
The project would like to see the recordings and concerts unleash a fresh exhilaration for the composer's music, and open the eyes and ears of a wide public to the important contribution made by Haydn's symphonies in the evolution of music.