featuring Mike McCaffrey
I started this podcast to hear and share stories and expertise, people’s unique musical experiences, be it a long-time career and tidbits from it, or a more specific story to share.
But I have to say, the nearly three-hour chat I had with one Mike McCaffrey was unique, and for a few reasons. For one, we apparently both love puns. My blog, which you are currently reading (and thank you) is called Fugue for Thought. His is called Haydn Seek. As this is being written I am listening to one of Mike’s recommended recordings, the piano sonatas recorded by Ronald Brautigam on a fortepiano.
So there’s puns, and there’s obviously music, but there’s also the invigorating fact that we are both amateurs. He tells me that despite a wide range of interests in classical music in the past, as far back as Haydn, obviously, and up to still-with-us composers like Steve Reich, he decided to sit down and think about what he wanted from music, and found that he got it all from the classical era, and essentially tossed the rest of it aside with the goal of coming to know more about Franz Joseph Haydn than anyone with whom I’ve ever spoken knows about any composer. Asking him questions, as you will see, is like chatting with the composer’s neighbor, or a guy who used to share a pint with Papa Haydn on the weekends. I’d say he speaks from experience, but it’s more like a search, he says, finding Haydn, as his blog title suggests. Listen to how he describes it, but… I’ll say that none of our conversation was rehearsed, and I felt like what Mike shared with me was speaking from personal experience, the way you’d expect anyone to tell you what they did the day previous. It sounds like he was there.
Do a search for Haydn on my blog to find some of his earliest works, the sometimes frustratingly-numbered symphonies, and the first few dozen string quartet works, and then go to Mike’s site and check out the wealth of information he’s prepared on the man. I’ll say that after speaking with him at length, I was eager to go buy box sets of his symphonies, string quartets, piano sonatas, and trios, all on period instruments, no less (and I did buy the string quartet box set that he strongly recommended; he was, of course, right). That was one of the things we spoke about: period instruments (but in a later part, the second or third).
In any case, if you’ve ever been intimidated by a massive and somewhat disorganized oeuvre, or just not had much interest in Haydn, you must listen to all the episodes with Mike. By the time we finished recording, it was past midnight or something for me, and I could have stayed up hours longer, and stopped myself from buying all sorts of box sets of music I wouldn’t get around to listening to for ages. In any case, I’m very excited about this episode and the subsequent ones with Mike McCaffrey, expert Haydn historian.