U50 conference celebrates the legacy of composer Joseph Haydn

York University’s Department of Music is hosting an international conference and two public concerts in August in commemoration of the bicentenary of the death of the composer Joseph Haydn. The events will take place Aug. 6 to 9 at York’s Keele campus. Highlights include a performance by the Penderecki String Quartet on Aug. 6 and a fortepiano recital by Malcolm Bilson on Aug. 7, both in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall in the Accolade East Building. Both concerts take place at 8pm and tickets are available to the general public.

Left: Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Portrait by Thomas Hardy. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

With a prodigious output in all of the main genres of classical music of his era, Haydn was the focus of keen interest throughout his life and serious scholarship into his work continues to the present day. While there is already a wealth of extant research, the Haydn anniversary offers fresh impetus for consideration of his music and its reception. The conference at York will bring together internationally renowned Haydn scholars, as well as emerging scholars, to share their research, which ranges from musicology, performance practice and theatre to art history, drama and literature.

Plenary speakers include James Webster, Goldwin Smith Professor of Music at Cornell University; Julian Rushton, professor emeritus of the University of Leeds; Elaine Sisman, Anne Parsons Bender Professor of Music at Columbia University; and dramaturg, choreographer and stage director Sigrid T’Hooft of the International Opera Foundation Eszterháza in Belgium.

Right: Members of the Penderecki String Quartet

The conference also includes two lecture-performances. Bilson will address the question: “Are We Reading Notation of the 18th and 19th Centuries Correctly?” and British composer Geoffrey Palmer will introduce his new string quartet, a work inspired by Haydn. The Toronto-based Windermere String Quartet will perform Palmer’s piece, which he composed especially for this occasion.

The evening concerts by the Penderecki String Quartet and Bilson offer the public the opportunity to join in the celebration of Haydn’s legacy.

Founded in Poland in 1986, the Penderecki String Quartet has become one of the most celebrated chamber ensembles of its generation. Hailed by Fanfare magazine as “an ensemble of formidable power and keen musical sensitivity,” the quartet has graced the major concert stages of four continents and has more than 20 recordings in its critically acclaimed discography. The Penderecki String Quartet’s concert will feature three Haydn string quartets: Op. 74, No. 1 in C Major; Op. 76, No. 5 in D Major; and Op. 77, No. 2 in F Major.

American pianist and musicologist Malcolm Bilson of Cornell University and the Eastman School of Music, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on historical performance practice on period pianos and the music of Haydn’s time. 

Left: Malcom Bilson. Photo by Ellen Zaslaw.

Through his performances and recordings, Bilson has played a key role in restoring the fortepiano to the concert stage and fresh interpretations of the European classical repertoire of the 18th and 19th centuries. He will perform his York recital on a copy of a 1799 Longman and Clementi fortepiano. The program will include works by Dussek and Mozart as well as three Haydn Sonatas: Sonata in C, Hob. 50; Sonata in D, Hob. 51; and Sonata in E-flat, Hob. 52 by Haydn.


More information and a detailed schedule of all the presentations is available on the conference Web site.

Celebrating Haydn: His Times and Legacy is one of the special events being held this year in celebration of York University’s 50th anniversary. Organized jointly by York music Professor Dorothy de Val and Professor Patricia Debly of the Department of Music at Brock University, the conference is co-sponsored by the Wirth Institute for Austrian & Central European Studies at the University of Alberta and is supported by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Tickets for the Penderecki String Quartet performance on Aug. 6 and Malcolm Bilson’s fortepiano concert on Aug. 7 are available through the York University Box Office at 416-736-5888. Admission is $20; tickets for students and seniors are $15.