In Search of Haydn (2012)

by | May 2, 2012 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

In Search of Haydn (2012)
Documentary by Phil Grabsky
Studio: Seventh Art Productions (Distr. by Microcinema International) MC-1311
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: English PCM stereo
Subtitles: English
Extras: Grabsky interview; Complete performances of some of the movts.
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: *****

Grabsky is an excellent documentarian whose previous efforts have included In Search of Mozart, In Search of Beethoven, and The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Haydn’s biography and music are presented in chronological fashion, but the performances of excerpts by some of the finest musicians performing today are the highlight of this informative film. Included are Frans Brüggen’s Orchestra of the 18th Century, Les Talens Lyriques, The Classical Opera Company, The Endellion String Quartet, keyboardists Ronald Brautigam, Christophe Rousset, Marc-Andre Hamelin and Emanuel Ax, conductors Roger Norrington, Gianandrea Noseda, and many others.
Some of the shots show the actual buildings where Haydn lived and worked, and experts discuss telling excerpts from his personal letters. One gets to know not only the tremendous amount of music which the composer turned out during his long lifetime, but to know more about the person himself, and why other composers such as Mozart and Beethoven revered Haydn. The visual staging of the performance of the conclusion of the “Farewell Symphony” is especially effective. While most of the performers and talking heads speak in English, there are of course subtitles for those speaking in French or German. The relationship between Haydn’s work at Eisenstadt and at the Esterhazy family palace is revealed. Viewing the documentary made me want to get out my Nimbus Ambisonic CDs of all the Haydn Symphonies with Adam Fischer and the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra—recorded in the actual Esterhazy rooms in which they were originally premiered.
—John Sunier

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