Ah! Haydn (2007) by Betsy Jolas
for violin, cello, and piano
US premiere

My passionate attraction to Haydn’s music originated in childhood with the piano sonatas I was then able to sight read. Much later came the revelation of the quartets (Opa. 20, 76, 77...), the oratorios (the extraordinary Chaos from The Creation!...), the Masses (Nelson, In Tempore Belli...), the symphonies...

Yes there was much Haydn on my mind when I set to work on my trio. I knew the choice was going to be difficult.

After much hesitation I decided to write a single movement trio on the theme of the last movement of the London Symphony; one that had haunted me for years for its outspoken simplicity, its strange setting over the sole pedal D, and which today seemed even richer with pitch and rhythm potentialities.

I thus immediately singled out its key notes A G D E as a kind of cantus firmus. The opening prelude is a reverie on those four pitches which will then be heard again and again in various guises throughout the piece. The following fast section focuses on the rather obsessive rhythmic motives of this theme and by stressing this aspect more and more reaches a point where, so to speak, pitch surrenders to rhythm. But this is only temporary. Both components soon recover their just place and the theme is evoked again several times before being left floating away... as swallowed back in memory.

Ah Haydn!

— B. J.    

[from program for February 7, 2011 concert]