This episode comes at a pretty cool time that I hadn’t planned. I’d planned for it to be uploaded this week (pretty low-fi operation here, so it depends largely on my spare time), but as I was editing and getting it all together, I had some very interesting conversations with people, one of which you’ll be hearing in the next week or so.
They all revolved around the idea of getting into classical music, having an appropriate entry point for that person, what interests them or catches their attention, and that’s different for everyone obviously. I spoke with a fellow concertgoer just today who told me “Bach really isn’t my thing (yet),” and I get that.
Perhaps that says something about the musical intelligence of modern audiences. There are criticisms to be made, perhaps, of people too busy catching fake augmented reality cartoon creatures to pay attention to a lot else in the world around them, and how contemporary audiences of Bach or others were far more musically literate, but I also find that almost without exception, it’s outstandingly engaging to listen to someone speak about something when they’re a) knowledgeable, and b) passionate, and Mike McCaffrey is both when it comes the music and life of F.J. Haydn.
He also has an interesting perspective on said expertise as well as finding your interests or your niche. Of his focused interest specifically in the Classical Era, he says:
You can’t know everything, and I like to know everything… I evaluated what I really liked in music, and I realized it was that period from… 1750 to 1830, cutting the heart out of the classical era, so to speak. I would rather say I knew everything there was to know about Haydn than to say ‘well, I know a little bit about everybody.’
I don’t know that I could commit to being so focused to the exclusion of centuries worth of music (about which McCaffrey also seems to know plenty), but in speaking with him, his rich knowledge of Haydn the man, the composer, and the era makes a compelling argument for knowing everything about something than something about everything.
Also, it’s conversations like these that could make someone realize that their entry point to classical music is Haydn, or one of his contemporaries, or something, seeing him not as a fancy aristocrat in a powdered wig and fancy 18th century getup, but as a human, an artist, an entertainer:
Haydn was an entertainer first and foremost. That’s what he cared about. ‘How are people going to react to this music? I want them to be amused, I want them to enjoy it, and if they’re not going to enjoy it I”m not going to write it.’
Anyway, have a listen. Mike also shares a compelling argument for period instruments:
I wouldn’t listen to Haydn not on period instruments, but I wouldn’t demand that you did.