David Wyn Jones, the editor of this outstanding 2002 reference work on Haydn, (1732 -- 1809), notes in his Preface that "Joseph Haydn was the last 'great' composer to be adequately served by scholarship." This book, part of the Oxford Composer Companion series, fulfills its promise of offering a comprensive guide to Haydn's life, music, and legacy based upon the most up-to-date modern scholarship. David Wyn Jones is senior lecturer in music at the University of Wales and the author of numerous books about Haydn and the Classical Era. The 900 plus entries in this volume were prepared by 41 contributors, each a Haydn scholar in their own right. This book is a treasure-trove of information about Haydn for the lover of his music.
I was drawn to this book to help me in my project, completed recently, of listening to CDs of each of Haydn's 104 numbered symphonies and preparing a survey of them in reviews on this site. Thus, the Oxford Companion includes a 34-page essay on Haydn's symphonies by Professor Simon McVeigh, Goldsmithe College, University of London. Professor McVeigh's article includes an introduction to symphonic form and traces its development from Haydn's earlist to his final works in nine carefully organized sections. Virtually every symphony is given some individual attention, as McVeigh examines the course of Haydn's symphonic writing throught the 36 years he employed it. I found this guide indespensable to my project of getting to understand Haydn's symphonies myself in some detail and preparing a survey of them to encourage others to hear them.
I supplemented the basic article on the symphony with many others from this volume, including, most basically, a long biography of the composer written by Wyn Jones. I found valuable the many articles about the intellectual climate of Haydn's day, particularly the articles on Enlightenment, Freemasonry, Sturm und Drang, and Josephism. There are articles on sonata form, the minuet, and variation which are critical to better enjoying the symphonies. The article on performance practices discusses issues in the performance of Haydn from his lifetime up to current debates. There is an excellent article treating "recordings" of Haydn's music and an essay titled "reception" by the dean of Haydn scholars, H.C. Robbins Landon on how Haydn's music has been received and assessed over the years. These are only some of the articles that were of interest to me as a heard and wrote about Haydn's symphonies.
This book gives a compelling picture of the breadth and depth of Haydn's output. It includes lengthy essays on every form in which Haydn worked including the string quartet, oratorio, piano sonata, trio, concerto opera, mass, song, baryton music and much more. Many works are discussed in individual entries. Haydn is a composer that one can stay with and love over a long period of time.
The book is over 500 pages in length and the entries are organized alphabetically. The book opens with a "thematic overview" which is an index to the entries arranged by subject matter. I found it easy to use, but those coming to the book will want to examine it to find the entries that interest them. Following the detailed entries, an appendix lists Haydn's works organized by type. This appendix impressed me as little else could with the vastness of Haydn's output. A second appendix covers individual numbers in Haydn's vocal works.
This book is essential for those wanting to do scholarly work on Haydn. But, perhaps more importantly, it will appeal to lovers of music who want to explore and enjoy the work of this great composer in depth.