Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) has been called the father of the symphony and the string quartet. A friend of Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven, "Papa" Haydn composed an amazing variety of music -- symphonies, string quartets, concerti, masses, operas, oratorios, keyboard works -- and his prolific output celebrates both the heights and depths of life.
In this fascinating book Calvin Stapert combines his skills as a biographer and a musicologist to recount Haydn's steady rise from humble origins to true musical greatness. Unlike other biographers, Stapert argues that Haydn's work was a product of his devout Catholic faith, even though he worked mainly as a court musician and the bulk of his output was in popular genres. In addition to telling Haydn's life story, Stapert includes accessible listening guides to The Creation and portions of other well-known works to help Haydn listeners more fully appreciate the brilliance behind his music.
Calvin R. Stapert is professor emeritus of music at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. His previous books include My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance, and Discipleship in the Music of Bach; Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People; and A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church.
Ordained Servant "A very engaging read. . . . Highly recommended!"
Peter Mercer-Taylor -- University of Minnesota "Calvin Stapert here provides an encounter with Joseph Haydn's life and work that is at once broad in its cultural outlook, confident in its musical explorations, and intimate in its portrayal of the composer's human experience. The music scholar will find an array of Haydn's works, both canonical and farther from the beaten path, revisited with thoughtfulness and keen musical insight. The more casual reader is guided with the gentlest hand toward a rich understanding of what made Haydn's compositional voice so uniquely significant to his era. And Stapert's own voice -- that of a consummate storyteller -- carries the tale of Haydn's remarkable life swiftly along."
John Nelson -- founding artistic director of Soli Deo Gloria "A wonderful and loving work on a great but often sidelined composer. Stapert captures Haydn's marvelous effervescence as he distills volumes of musicological detail into a manageable and enjoyable read. If one wants to explore the vast variety of opinions on Haydn written over the last two centuries, go no further. Ultimately, Stapert makes a strong case that Haydn belongs in the highest echelons of composers."
Kenneth Slowik -- Smithsonian Institution "This excellent study gives a detailed yet eminently readable survey of Haydn's life and brilliant output. . . . Stapert's analyses of important works can be appreciated by readers armed with either scores or recordings, and his glossary entries clearly explain the four dozen or so technical terms he cannot avoid employing. Playing Before the Lord makes a cogent case that, as Stapert so pithily puts it, 'listening to Haydn's music gives us cause to rejoice because it is a revelation of grace, a case in point of the way things really are.'"
Choice (American Library Association) "This is a nice introduction to the career and music of Joseph Haydn. . . . One extremely positive feature of the book is the author's ability to explain in a clear fashion the complexities of musical forms. . . . Recommended."
Catholic Library World "This most enjoyable work attests to Haydn's religious devotion and expresses a love for the life of music as a testament to the most spiritual of all arts — playing before the Lord in authentic love."
Worship "The narrative and the analyses are well written. . . . In short, we get a full-orbed sense of Haydn's life and music."
The American Organist "An excellent and accessible account of an important and noble musical life whose brilliant output had immeasurable influence on the musicians and the music that followed. . . . A most interesting, informative and rewarding read to the learned musician and aficionado alike."
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