by Daniel Hathaway
A dismembered maiden, a Slavic hero and a mismatched beau with ADD shared the stage with Czech guest conductor Jakub Hrůša and The Cleveland Orchestra last Thursday evening at Severance Hall. That sounds like the cast for a particularly unlikely sitcom, but those were only a few of the characters brought vividly to life by Haydn in his “Symphony” subtitled Il distratto, by Dvořák in his symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel and by Janáček in his “Rhapsody for Orchestra,” Taras Bulba, three evocative pieces inspired by different genres of literature.
Although it goes by the name of Symphony No. 60, Haydn’s six-movement work is really a suite recycled from the incidental music to Die Zerstreute, the German reworking of a comedy by Jean-François Regnard staged at the Esterházy Court. The plot concerns an unfocused daydreamer, Leander, who is pushed into a romance with Isabelle by her Parisian mother — but, of course, Isabelle has her eyes on someone else.
You can count on Haydn to be witty, but Il distratto finds him reveling both in sophisticated humor and low-hanging jokes (e.g. subtle musical references to Leander’s distractedness, and a sudden, noisy tuning session by the violins in the finale that had the audience giggling.) [Read more…]