Franz Joseph Haydn and the Five-Octave Classical Keyboard: Registral Extremes, Formal Emphases and Tonal Strategies1

By MacKay, James S. | Canadian University Music Review, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Franz Joseph Haydn and the Five-Octave Classical Keyboard: Registral Extremes, Formal Emphases and Tonal Strategies1


MacKay, James S., Canadian University Music Review


INTRODUCTION

Haydn's active period as a composer (ca. 1750-1803) was an interesting time of transition for keyboard composition, in which the nature of keyboard writing (and even the instruments themselves) was distinctly in flux. The popularity of the clavichord and harpsichord, the instruments of choice during the Baroque era, was on the wane, due to the ascendancy of the fortepiano. One aspect that these instruments all shared, which undoubtedly affected the way Haydn and his contemporaries wrote for them, was their modest range in comparison with the modern keyboard. In the second half of the 18th century, keyboard instruments gradually became standardized as to their range: by the 1760s, composers could quite reliably count upon a five-octave range from the F which is two and a half octaves below middle C to the F two and a half octaves above it (FF to f3). This registrai span, with a few exceptions around the tum of the century (especially in England, where fortepianos with extended range were common in the 1790s),2 set the boundaries for most keyboard music published during the first half of the Classical period.

Unlike Beethoven, whose early keyboard works often strain against the registrai limits of the instruments of his time, as Charles Rosen points out (Rosen 1997, 509), Haydn's keyboard music seems to display satisfaction with the boundaries set by the instruments for which he composed. Especially in his later years, his keyboard writing illustrates his efforts to use the entire fiveoctave range of his time in an imaginative manner. Rather than struggling against his keyboard instruments' registrai limits, Haydn sought to turn this seeming constraint to musical advantage. As Charles Rosen has noted:

One of the chief advantages of using an early piano [an authentic Classical keyboard instrument] is that the public can appreciate the way Haydn ... used the upper and lower limits of the keyboards for the most powerful climaxes. The visual effect of performance on old instruments may seem a trivial point, but the dramatic effect of striking the highest or lowest note on the keyboard was an essential part of the musical structure. (Rosen 2000, 210; material in square brackets added by author)

Thus, Rosen suggests that Haydn took into account the medium for which he composed, using the registrai profile of his keyboard instruments to articulate form. This pairing of registrai extremes and significant formal events has a visual component, as Rosen states, but more importantly, may audibly influence how listeners perceive a sequence of musical events. Ernst Oster, for instance, describes how registrai extremes can create an audible link between temporally separate musical events, an abstract Urlinie that controls the shape of a musical composition (Oster 1961, esp. 56-57 and 71). Virtually uniquely among instruments, keyboards have a fixed upper range; thus, the Classical keyboard's uppermost F could be given a particularly vital role in creating such links, and thereby articulating form and musical content. Similarly, the keyboard's lowest F, though less salient than the uppermost F due to its register, could play a comparable role. This essay seeks to explore what role the Classical keyboard's registrai limits play in Haydn's compositional decision-making, examining his keyboard works for evidence of this mapping of form and extreme register.

Haydn, likely more than Mozart and Beethoven, relied upon the keyboard as a source of musical inspiration. He acknowledged to Karl Griesinger, his first biographer, that he got ideas for his compositions by improvising (phantasieren) at the keyboard (Brown 1986, 5). This tactile approach to composition, through which Haydn was physically confronted with his keyboard instruments' range limitations each time he sat down to write, ought to have had some influence on how and where he introduced registrai extremes in his music. It follows that, as Rosen asserts, Haydn would give these extreme pitches special treatment, using them to add emphasis to a musical event in a composition. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Franz Joseph Haydn and the Five-Octave Classical Keyboard: Registral Extremes, Formal Emphases and Tonal Strategies1
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.