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Haydn's Joke Quartet

November 15, 2019

On this week's lecture, resident lecturer Bruce Adolphe discusses Haydn's Quartet in E-flat major for Strings, Hob. III:38, Op. 33, No. 2, “The Joke”. Featuring a performance by the Aeolus Quartet (Miki-Sophia Cloud, Rachel Shapiro, violin; Caitlin Lynch, viola; Alan Richardson, cello).

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Welcome to the Inside Chamber Music podcast presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. I'm Bruce Adolphe, Resident Lecturer at CMS, where I started the lecture series in 1992. In 2011, we began livestreaming the lectures on our website. The audio for this podcast comes from the ever growing archive of videos made available live and on demand at ChamberMusicSociety.org.

We look at the music from a compositional perspective and find parallels in novels, plays and poetry. Plus, we explore historical context and with live musicians in the studio. During the lectures, we experiment with performance issues. Today's lecture is about Haydn's String Quartet in E-flat Opus 33 Number two, known as The Joke. Originally recorded October 16th, 2019. Stop me if you've heard this lecture before.

So a violist and a conductor walked into a bar and the bartender says, “Does anyone here know a good joke?” And a violinist at the bar says, “I do. A violist and a conductor walk into a bar. And the bartender says this Anyone here know a good joke? And there's a violinist sitting there says, I do.” Okay, that never ends.

And that's kind of like the way the famous joke in the Haydn is. It's his most famous joke because it's called the joke, and we will get to it. But there are a lot of other funny things he did and we're going to do a lot of those first. He’s an extremely humorous guy, but I wanted to make the point that his humor in music is really a lot like humor in language.

He's captured a lot of the things we think of as just normally funny. I have a few examples in English. Timing, the exact timing, the placement of a note, a chord with a rest. For example, this from Anthony Burgess, and that's the end of the World News. Now I'll say it again, and that's the end of the World News.

And that was something that really bothered him when he heard it the first time he turned it on, he heard just that and then it became part of a book he wrote. Why don't you- do mind asking me a question? Ask me the reason for my success as a comedian.

Bruce, what’s the secret to success as a comedian?

Timing. Okay, that’s a famous joke, but I love that one. It’s very musical, too. And then here’s one. We have a bet about this one. So we’ll see here. This is a from this is from a famous radio program of Jack Benny. And you hear him humming, walking down the street. (singing) Hey, buddy, this is a stick up. Your money or your life. I said, your money all your life. I'm thinking it over Now, I see. Okay. Do I win? They didn't get it. Right. No. No. It might have been the delivery at the time. Yeah, but the pause there. If you don't know anything about Jack Benny, then that pause is not funny. I have to admit. You have to know something. And what you had to know is that that's a hard question for him, because he doesn't know which is more important because money is... Okay.

You got that. Now, one more example of in... What those were examples of course, are timing, first of all. The pause, the silence. What is the silence about? And that's a particularly interesting silence. And then here's another thing that Haydn does a lot, which is the logic of the music. The setup of the logic gives you the wrong answer.

As as Charlie Chaplin defined humor as two very opposite things colliding, which is one kind of humor. Certainly he had that a lot. And that does happen. Interruptions that are like collisions do happen in Haydn. But logic going wrong is, so here's an example from Chico Marx. Right now I do anything for money. I kill people for money, I kill you for money.

No, no, you're my friend. I kill you for nothing. Okay, now that's it. I don't have to analyze that. One of the problems of talking about humor is when you analyze humor, it gets it gets a little sticky. But that speaks perfectly about skewed logic. And you're following it perfectly, you know, and then I won't say more about that, but because I don't want to go down the path of over academic-isizing humor, but Haydn did funny things that are not so well known.

This is from the symphony. Are you ready to play this little passage? This is from a symphony number 60, and I'll tell you about it after you listen to this just a brief excerpt. (music) Okay. Now, you may think that is very broad humor. It doesn't seem like Haydn, but that's because his symphony number 60, which we're just going to briefly refer to here, is the only symphony that he wrote or anybody wrote, really, that the entire symphony is incidental music for a comedy that was put on at the time.

Everything. The overture, every movement has to do with this particular comedy called Il Distratto, The Distracted One or The Absentminded One. And what, to make a long story short, they forgot to tune is the idea and already, and they tune once the play has started and and the overture has started. And in the play there's a character, the lead character who forgets when he goes to the wedding, that he's the bridegroom at the wedding, he has a handkerchief that reminds him of that, but he can't remember what the handkerchief is for. Things like that.

So Haydn, even in the revue, Haydn is mentioned as being as good as the playwright, which is, you know, quite an amazing thing. Now, Haydn, like every other funny or extraordinary person who's out in the public eye, has his imitators. So there was a Polish composer who's not well-known any more named Pavel Vernadsky. Anybody know the music of Pavel Vernadsky?

I didn't think so, but maybe somebody out there watching the stream? Okay, well, we know him only because he imitated Haydn a lot and seemed to get away with it. Here is a piece, just the opening of a piece written three years after that symphony by Pavel. Vernadsky. (music) And then she goes on to a tune, you know, and then they all go on tune.

So, he took the tuning idea and he built it into the composition. You know, Haydn's famous farewell symphony, where in the last movement, each player leaves until there are only two left and then one left and no one left, which was a signal to Prince Nikolaus at Esterhazy that he had kept every one too long and they needed to go home.

Well, Vernadsky wrote a symphony where one at a time they enter at the beginning and then play, and at the end they all leave one at a time, too. So he did, a little overkill and very unoriginal. I just thought I’d- now, before we get to the actual joke piece, it's interesting to know that the whole idea of this kind of humor really got a boost with his Haydn's Opus 33, which is a set of string quartets.

And this is because Haydn renegotiated his contract with the prince at the time. He was at Esterhazy for almost 30 years as the prince's composer and conductor of operas and keyboard player and private teacher and all of this. And at one point he renegotiated his contract because the contract that he had said that everything he wrote belonged to the Prince so that he couldn't make any further money on it, which the prince thought was fine.

He was paying him well. He had food, he had a place to live. He had a job. What did he need to keep his own music for? But Haydn renegotiated that. And the prince really, you know, he loved Haydn's music and he supported Haydn. So he let him have, at this point, a contract that said he could sell his music to publishers as much as he wanted and ask for...

So he might write something for the prince, but then he could sell it to a Ataria or another publisher, and he could sell it in different countries, whatever he wanted. So the very first thing that he wrote after that new contract was a set of quartets called Opus 33, a very catchy title, and Opus 33 Quartets all have wacky humor and interesting new things because Haydn immediately thought he was going to go out there and entertain the entire world, which he did.

In fact, he was already able to get this contract from the prince because his reputation way exceeded the how far he had traveled or where he had been just by his music being played so often. So we're going to play a few examples from the G major quartet, Opus 33. Number five. It's the same opus as the Joke Quartet.

And we will get to the Joke Quartet in much more detail after some highlights here. So you probably remember if you were at the Haydn lecture about a year and a half ago, if you were there, and you might not be, that one of Haydn's favorite humorous tricks, tricks of humor is to confuse you about the beginnings and endings of things, which was a little bit like that joke that I was reading that never ends.

And so many of the Opus 33 quartets have an opening gesture that sounds like an ending. And in fact, it is the ending as well as the opening. So here let's hear the first excerpt from this quartet. (music) Yeah, that's the opening. So you notice that the opening (singing) is the same as the... and the ending (singing). Play that one more time and just for fun, because we don't know about the performance practice that much, make a little break as if maybe the opening is the ending. Just a little more time just to see if we can get a laugh out of that because I'm setting it up. (music)

Yeah, so, and you hear it twice. Now, there's a lot in this piece. Let's keep going. Another example in this piece that is hilarious is about interruptions and you'll hear what happens. It's a lot like, I mean, I know that Haydn didn't drive a car, but it is a lot like, at least in the research that I've done. It's a lot like driving when something unexpected happens or you forgot, you ran a red light or somebody else comes the other way, which in real life is never funny.

But remember, it's James Thurber who said that tragedy plus time equals comedy. So everything is funny if you wait long enough. Unfortunately, most people don't wait long enough. Here we go. (music) So that had two jokes in it, right? The first one is a little bit harder to hear than you might think because it's already loud, but a key comes crashing in.

The wrong key just comes right in there. We'll do this again in a moment. When that key comes in, could you be like ten notches more intense and louder? And then they get lost at the end and by get lost, like they, this wrong key came in. They managed to get back on the road to the right key, but then they think, “Wait a minute. Where am I going?”

I might be facing the wrong direction. Let’s try that. (music) Yeah. Now, that, you know, Haydn is one of the only composers that with no words and no story where people laugh out loud and in a concert hall, it happens too, and it's perfectly okay. Just remember that. And if you want to laugh out loud at the actual concert, I'll tell you when.

The concert with the Joke Quartet is on October 20th with the Orion Quartet. So you can laugh at the Orion Quartet, which is really very rare occurrence because they’re... Okay, so now the next excerpt from the same piece, I won't tell you what's happening here. Just play. (music) Yeah. So several things happen. Obviously, you know, you're getting these things are part of his language.

Again, we got lost. And again, it has to do with key and an interruption. So these huge interruptions make it so you musically feel like you've spun off the road and you're going the wrong way. You're not sure. You stop. And then the cadence that was the opening phrase comes in, but the piece is not over. So these techniques of humor are becoming very clear, I hope.

So, now, the last little excerpt takes us to the end, and it has, again, a few of the same kinds of things. There's interruption and there's a different way of being lost with some sustained chords where you feel like I really have to find my way back to the right key. Remember, key is really very important in any music that's in a key. Being in a key is a location.

It's being in the right place and going in the right direction. So they get interrupted. They have to find their way back. They get a little bit lost again, and then when they come back, you finally get that opening phrase, which is also the ending phrase. But to be sure that it's over in this particular case, you get it twice. That way, you feel absolutely fine.

Now, don't forget why maybe you didn't know this, but anyway, if you didn't pretend you do and don't forget this, that the symmetry in classical music is one of the games that they play. Symmetry is not just there all the time. That you do this and you do it again. (music) When it starts, it doesn't come back . (music) You don't get that rhythm again.

But at the end you do get it twice and you say, “Oh, finally, symmetry.” But it's over. Alright. So let's hear that last bit. (music) And that's the end of that. Unless they start playing the whole thing again. There is a repeat sign. There is a repeat sign. So in fact, they should play the entire second section again, which musicians often skipped the second big repeat, but in this case one would do it.

Yeah, I mean, you don't have to do it later because of time. But one would do it because it's hilarious and you just think, “Is this never, ever going to be over?” Even though you don't really want it to be because it's entertaining. So now we get to the joke quartet, and when you start with the first movement, the joke quartet... This is already a joke because my iPad is saying, “What can I help you with?”

Okay, the first movement doesn't have one joke in it. The last movement is where this big joke is, which is when is the piece over? When do you applaud? It brings the audience in. Now, you know, Hadyn’s humor, does something that music before Haydn, that without words, no story, didn't really do which is it allows the audience to somehow become aware that they're listening instead of just listening to music.

You suddenly think, “Wait a minute, what's going on here?” Or, “Is this over? Should I applaud?” Which is what he does. You might feel engaged in a different way, almost like in a play when you're made uncomfortable. He makes you uncomfortable in the joke quartet. Schubert sometimes did that, and the most famous example is in the Trout Quintet.

There's a spot where the audience always applauds because they think it's- and it seems like it's over. And the only way you would know if you don't know the piece is that the ending there is not in the right key, but it has gone on for a very long time. It's almost 12 minutes at that point and and it stops and it's a huge ending.

And I'll never forget it happened here in Tully Hall, Live From Lincoln Center broadcast where our New York audience in front of the entire world applauded in the wrong place. See, I'm glad you laughed at that, because it is funny. I mean, you know, maybe we were saying, “Well, we told our audience to do that because that's what Schubert wanted.”

Okay. So here's the opening theme of the beginning of the Joke Quartet, the first movement. Let's just play up to bar 10, 11, 12, the middle of 12. (music) Right, okay. Now that already tells you a lot about the piece. There's a simple folksy little tune, but the second phrase has an argument already. It has a problem.

I mean, I have relatives like this. You're sitting around a dinner table and you're talking about something that it's not- you're not talking about politics. You're not talking about the world. You're talking about something very simple. And still somebody just really gets upset and takes it very far. And then you have to calm them down and get back to normal conversation.

The first violin sort of does both here. It presents the simple theme and then it gets a little upset. And one of the funny things about it, if you want to think of it technically, is that you have... (music) This little thing, these little notes. (singing) It's that that gets the person upset, right? It's not- the theme has its long notes. (singing)

But it's this. (music) Something about that really irritates me. And so the violins takes it. They say, “Yep.” They say, first violin goes... (music) and they say, (music) “Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's okay.” And then- but even further from the fifth to the sixth to the seventh to the octave, and it's getting bigger and bigger and they still say, “Sure.”

And then... (music) So it goes from a small interval, a bigger, bigger, bigger to the octave, and then it moves up a note and then they have to calm it down. Could we play just up to that point. And now that we know that that's what it's about, it might affect the way you play too. I don't know. But try to think of it as a play for all of us.

Yeah. (music) Yeah. Hilarious. Okay, good. Now this keeps going. And I have a favorite device that many of you know of. A way of looking at what's extraordinary in a piece by, especially Haydn and Mozart, because Haydn and Mozart's music really does capture conversation like that probably more than any other music. And there's a cliché about chamber music, which is basically true, that, at least for Haydn and Mozart, a lot of string quartet music is like conversation.

You know, an idea is introduced, they pass it around, they discuss it, they get into a problem over it, and they resolve it. It's a lot like conversation, but it's much more than that because what Haydn, and Mozart also, but we’ll stick to Haydn today. What Haydn does with these conversations is he puts the things in that are not just polite.

They're like real people. There's interruptions, there's rudeness, there's a sudden outburst, a change of subject, confusion, getting lost, a lot of these things happen. So, in order to really show you how far he's taken this, I have asked the quartet to play, it turns out to be five or six or seven, whatever it is, versions of the same passage.

I've removed a lot of it, so it's pretty short now. Everything you're going to hear is by Haydn. In the order that these measures appear. It's just some of them are missing. And the idea is, as I put it, you have to listen. Really, this is not easy listening.

As we put it back, as we bring the music back, it is important that you try to remember what you just heard because something new will come in and it's not going to be like in the style of Stravinsky. It's still Haydn. So, here we go. Let's start- well, maybe some of it is. So let's start you know where and here's the first shortest version of this material. (music) Okay, that was very short.

In it, you had just a simple statement that could have really been written by almost any composer. That's part of the point. Nothing dramatic happens. Now, we're going to put back quite a bit here, but not everything. And so listen carefully, because as it expands, it's going to get harder to remember. (music) Okay. Now, I hope you got that.

There was another four measure phrase where things got a little more dramatic. Now we're going to put back another phrase, which is a little more obviously different, where they, that this feeling of something went wrong and you're lost for a moment that comes in now. (music) Wait, wait, wait. Yeah, it's very confusing with the road map. Try that one again.

This is this is number three. Okay. That's okay. They're reading from the same music with lots of cuts in different colors. Okay, try that again. (music) Okay. Now, that was quite a lot. It's very different. There's more. Okay. Now the next one, which is number four, you'll see there's an outburst in the first violin. I'm just preparing you for that.

There already was a little outburst. Now there's a bigger outburst. Okay? This is number four. (music) It's still not over. But that outburst went perfectly into the ending that we have. But the outburst actually is the first half of a bigger outburst. So now we're going to put that back. It's getting bigger and bigger and more and more interesting. (music)

Now, you would think that's everything and it is almost everything. But the very, very last phrase we took out two bars. And the reason for taking them out is that the viola and cello have something to say there. So we took it out. Now we're going to put it back. So you're going to hear all the music just as Haydn wrote it finally in this section with several outbursts. A small one from the first violin, which leads to a little quiet, playful, getting lost thing, then a huge outburst, then everybody does an outburst.

It finally comes to an ending. But listen carefully, because at the ending there is an opening up in the middle and we get something nice from the viola and the cello that you haven't heard yet. (music) Okay, did you catch that little bit there? That, everything adds to the humor, the lightness, the surprises, And with Haydn and Mozart, these interruptions, which sound so realistic, are what makes the music so alive and so realistic and makes it endure because it makes us laugh.

And it also it reminds us of something in real life. If we take all of that out and just let it be balanced and clear and symmetrical, it's not like life anymore and it's just boring. And I think a lot of people who don't understand classical music, and by classical I'm only talking about the 18th century, you know, the real classical period of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and early Schubert, that they do understand how volatile and subversive it is.

It's all about being subversive. Even humor, of course, is about being subversive. Just like I'll kill you for nothing. You know, you set up a normative situation and that normative situation is set up within the piece itself. You don't have to know the history of music. You don't have to know lots of pieces by Haydn or Mozart.

You only have to listen to the one piece you're listening to because in that piece, phrases are set up just like in a really good joke, but much more extended, or a good so-called well-made play, but better in which the structure seems to have a normalcy, which you never get. You never get the normal thing. And it's true of drama, too, and dramatic work, obviously, with Beethoven as well.

You get a feeling of what is normal, interrupted, destroyed, taken apart and put back together. And in Haydn it's often funny, but not always. And in Mozart, it's usually warm and funny and many other things. And in Beethoven it's often dramatic, but they all do it. Beethoven is also hilarious at times. Now what's funny and what's not is not always that clear in music.

But there's a passage in the same first movement of bar 40, 41, starting at 42. And what happens here is that little motif (singing) which you hear all over the place. It's not much to it. (singing) I mean, what can you do with that little rhythm? (music) I don't know. Not much. But anyway, so here it gets reiterated.

But what's happening is that it's going down and down to a very distant E-flat minor. It's kind of scary and then it climbs back out of it. So it sounds dramatic, but it's also humorous because first of all, it happens very quickly and it's a chromatic scale in the first violin, and then a chromatic scale down and then a chromatic scale up.

It's they all participate in this thing just disintegrating and locating itself in E-flat minor. And on the way back up, you can just hear Siri saying, “Recalculating. Recalculating.” Until you get back to it again. Let's hear that passage, if we could. (music) Okay, great. I'm sorry. Sorry to stop you. It's hard to stop. I think that you could hear that there's nothing funny about it.

But it is also, this little dramatic, dark passage fits within this comedy because of this chromatic disintegration and coming back up. So it's dark. Just the same way a lot of humor is dark. And that's why I read I'd kill you for nothing, because it's really not a funny subject. I kill people for money. I'll kill you for money. No, you're my friend.

I'll kill you for nothing. There's a lot of humor like that. And we laugh outrageously at it. But it's pretty strange that we do when you think about it too much. Okay, Don't think about it too much. Now we're going to get to the joke movement, which is the last movement. Now, let's just hear the opening tune and we'll talk about that for an extremely long time. (music)

Alright. Now, that tune is a completely simple, folksy, standard kind of melody. It's also very funny and it has a few things about it, though, that are a little unusual. And one thing about it is that the first phrase (music) also could be the ending of something, which is what he set up. That's like that joke about the maybe you've heard this joke about a conductor and a violist who... Have you heard that? Anyway, so it starts and ends the same way.

So we know that Haydn did not have to... (music) He could have done... (music) Sorry. Except he didn't want to end on the B flat. I mean, it's hard to take Haydn apart because it's so perfectly made, but he could have gone... (music) Right? He didn't have to go... (music) Right. So I'm going to play another tune for you because I want you to really appreciate what the simple things that are happening here.

I would like to try to have you think like a composer like Haydn. In other words, think about the structure of a simple melody a little bit because there are some interesting things going on. First, I'm going to play you a tune, and I'm curious if anyone knows what this is. (music) Have you ever heard that before? Probably not.

It sounds familiar. What did you say? Say it. (inaudible) Oh, okay. You're right. I thought you said something even more amazing than that. Okay, so I'll play it one more time and I'll tell you now, this is, it's phrase by phrase, an inversion of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Okay? So that's why it sounds familiar. Here, listen again. (music)

It could work. Right? All right. Somewhere Over The Rainbow goes. (music) Now, let's analyze this just a little tiny bit just to see how it's made, because it's so simple. But to point out a few things, it has some similarities to the Haydn. First of all, the opening phrase could be over. (music) It could be the end of something.

It's not, but it could be because it ends. It's basically an octave. (music) And then this is what the tune is. It's up the octave and down. (singing) (music) It's basically in the slightly ornamented scale going up the octave, down the scale with two motifs and those two motifs are... (singing) (music) Two half notes or and also the rhythm... (singing)

That's it. Except for the pause in the middle. Okay. Then it turns around and goes the other way. That's why this is the tune upside down. (music) Now, this has four phrases and the Haydn has four phrases. Can you just play each phrase and stop for a second in between? Phrase one. (music)

Okay, that's somewhere over the rainbow. Okay. Phrase two. (music) Phrase three. (music) And phrase four. I mean, I could have put that in E-flat major, but it wouldn't have been as dissonant and therefore not as funny. Okay. All right. So, I mean, dissonance can also be funny. So what you have here has some similarities. It's four simple phrases.

And the first phrase ends on a note that could be the end. Bear that in mind, because I'm going to do with that again a little bit later. Now, let's apply the same kind of thinking to the Happy Birthday tune. (singing) That's just there for excitement.

Okay, So the first phrase is not an ending. (music) But the second phrase is. Yeah, you can stop there. (music) Short song. And then you have... (music) So, could be switched with... (music) It could. And don't let this bother you. (music) Right? It's just as good. Maybe not quite as good, but it's hard to know because it's so ingrained in our psyche. I mean, if we learned the other one now over and over and over the the switch, but the switch has to do, that humorous switch is funny because there's a normal pattern that you know. It's been disrupted and it works.

And the fact is that those two little phrases both end the same way. So it absolutely works. Now, getting back to the actual Haydn, he does some obvious things with this, but his main point of the last movement is to get to the joke at the end. The last movement is a shaggy composer story or shaggy dog story, in that he does a lot of things to keep it going, which he's an expert at because- but he wants to get to the end and do the funny thing that he set up.

So you have delightful funny things over and over and over, but they really are fairly lightweight, you know? And what's one of the funny things is that he starts to take it to someplace important and then goes (singing) and back each time, just like a shaggy dog story where things keep happening and happening and the end is just a slight joke.

So let's listen to some of the humor here. How about playing the opening without the repeat and just go until bar 20, the end of 28 or so. (music) Oh, we need that last note a little more. (music) Yeah. Okay. So there are a lot of humorous things in there already. There are repetitions that sound like the kinds of repetitions that sound like the kinds of repetitions when people repeat themselves by repeating what they just said, when they don't actually have to repeat it, they just keep saying it over and over just to make a point of how repetitious something can be by repeating it.

I hope you know I was doing that on purpose. Let's back up a little so you can hear what I mean. Just play from 19, 18, 17 with a pick up to 17. This is the kind of repetition that we mean. We can easily cut something here. (music) And what's happening next is... (music) Yeah, okay. Now what's great about this, though, is this is a conventional form called a Rondo.

Rondo is typical in classical music and by classical, again, I mean 18th century. It's typical finale music where you might have a sonata structure, but you might not. But either way you'll probably have a Rondo. And a Rondo means the main little theme, which is quite identifiable and usually very catchy, keeps coming back every so often. Other things may happen.

They usually do. Something dramatic, might happen or might not. But what's typical of a Rondo, especially Haydn who practically invented it, like he practically invented everything else. And what we mean is that he did everything really beautifully and before him, composers struggled with a lot of these things. And so he identified and clarified and codified and just any other fide- rarified, stratified, dignified, all of these procedures.

So we'll go a little bit further. What I was going to say is that then the theme comes back and when the theme comes back, each time it's a relief because things have gotten a little out of hand. They've maybe going to a wrong key. You may have had a chord that's a little scary, like a diminished seventh chord.

It doesn't stay long. And then the theme always comes back. Again, Haydn didn't drive, never got a license. But there's another driving metaphor because- and I use that only because music moves in time and there is a sense of going from location to location, which you could have done in a carriage, but it's not as interesting. And the feeling that you get lost in a key or that you're in a dangerous area or you're driving along the edge of a road where you there's a huge drop and then you suddenly turn and everything's back to normal and you recognize where you are, that, or where a storm is coming in, you can’t see.

And then it clears up when you make the turn into the next valley. That's the feeling of these, Rondos. That something is off and threatening, but you know it's okay. You just know that it's fine. So it's like driving in one of those self-driving cars, which he also never experienced. Then we have a series of very simple decisions on his part, a series of drones that are very folk-like. And a drone is a pedal point. Something that stays there.

It happens to stay mostly in the cello, but it stays there while the music moves on. And by staying there, you have a sense that everything's going to be okay. And it gives a folk dance quality to it. So let's hear some of these. Let’s start at the second ending where the cello seems to be stuck on an E-flat for a while. (music)

Okay, now the cello. Then the cello is stuck on a C and then in B flat. When we take it right on the C, each, it's very simple and it's very folksy in that the cello is representing this kind of bagpipe situation, which keeps you stable. So even though the chords are threatening to go to other keys, you're kept stable by the cello. (music)

Okay, then what happens? Okay, what I'm going to- I stopped them there, which is a terrible place to stop because Haydn stops and then he asks a question. So let's just take the measure before that stop and then listen very carefully and try to predict each thing. (music) And yeah, okay. Yeah, those silences are great. He writes a little silence the same amount of time, and then three times that amount of time.

It goes by quickly, but it- and it's hilarious because of this silence. And again, he's making you listen to yourself listen. Which is what jokes sometimes do. Like someone tells a joke. You're thinking, Am I figuring this out? I'm not going to bother. Have I heard this before? Oh, I think I know. You're listening to yourself listen. Which is one of the reasons that hearing live music of a piece you know is much more interesting than hearing a recorded thing over and over and over.

Because when you're sitting with other people, you hear it differently just like when you're in a room and someone says- If it's just you and someone else, and they say, “Do you know this joke?” And you say, “Yes, I do.” That's the end of it. But if there's someone else there who so, “I don't know it.” So, they tell it.

And for you who know it, it's still interesting because you're listening to the other person listen. You're re-experiencing the joke by having someone else there and listening to it- in a new way are hearing the person tell it. You're watching the person who doesn't know it and you're having a new experience. And that's what live performance always does.

It's quite interesting. That's why you can hear these jokes over and over. If you heard a recording of the Haydn Joke Quartet, I don't think you'd be playing the last movement over and over for yourself. You might. And there are some people in the audience you can call if that happens. Okay, So then let's get to the actual joke.

But before we do, there's another setup. He keeps setting up the joke. That's the shaggy dog. He keeps setting up the idea, “Is this over? How long is the silence?” He sets it up many, many times. So here's one of the great setups starting at, let's say, 128. (music) Okay. It's fabulous. Now, by the way, the decision to go (singing) this is something they were talking about.

You don't have to do that. Let's let's play it three different ways. Two that are very different and then come back to this one. (music) Oh, you can just do the last thing, you know... (music) Right, now that is just, that's generic, right? Because that could be anything. It doesn't show you that it's funny.

I'm just playing my instrument beautifully. I hope you liked that. That's what that is. That can be fine. You would have no problem with it. But it's not engaged. It's like an actor who has a beautiful voice saying the lines beautifully, but they're not actually showing you, or the character's not in the play. So it's interesting because you can enjoy that and you can also enjoy what they just did, but it's not as interesting.

So let's do another one. Whatever you might do. (music) Now, that's very close to what you're going to do. So let's do one now where you all participate in some weird way and also there's a little something funny in the viola there that I'm just drawing your attention to it. (music) Now, that leaning tone in the viola is a little funny because it goes lower than the cello.

How funny is that? Compared to what's going on in the world, it's hilarious. No, but it is kind of funny for the violas to go lower than the cellos at this one cadence point. It's almost like you're doing it on purpose to bother the cello, if you could bring that off somehow. I mean, it may be extreme, but that's what the music is.

You know, it's it's extreme. So there's a joke right there. Now comes the actual joke in which you have- the theme comes back as a Coda. And you probably know this. It’s really famous. You can't tell when it's over because of the silences and you don't know how much of the piece is being repeated. Let's do the ending just the way it's written by Haydn from where you stopped. Just keep going. (music)

I must be over now, right? No, it's not. (music) That's it. Okay.

You know, we did this. It is hilarious. And one of the funny things is that it could actually end, you know... (music) It could also end at the last... (music) Before that. You know, the end of the theme. It has many places it can end. It could end dramatically and slowly. But you're thinking, “Oh, come on. Really? It's not going to end like that.”

So you're hoping not. And then you have all these silences, and that is when you really start listening to yourself listen. Which is a unique thing. Now, I mentioned Somewhere Over the Rainbow has the same structure. Let's just think about... (music) Sorry. That would be the ending. If we do the exact same thing, phrase by phrase, it would end with... (music)

Then you would have the same strange feeling. But because you know the words and you know the song, it's very strange, but it's maybe not as funny because it's more disturbing because you have the context. So, what Haydn had to do in this last movement is set up a context where you got the- you know this theme really, really well now.

You've heard it a million times. How many times? I don't know. Six times maybe? Yeah, a lot of times. And even when you're not hearing and you're hearing little fragments based on it and then you keep coming back to it and finally there's a coda and it's over, and then there's suddenly this slow, beautiful music that you don't expect and you think, “Oh, it's going to end seriously.”

And then you realize it's not and then you're- etc.. That's that's the humor of the entire thing. Now, before they play the both first and fourth movement straight through, I promised some people that I would read again something I did for Haydn last year about falafel. Yeah. Okay, good. It feels like it's not the wrong thing to do.

Okay, before I do it, I wonder if you weren't here. I'm going to set up the falafel concept, which is if you order falafel platter, you can learn something about ornamentation in music and variation, and then you can do development in the style of a composer. So I'm going to first do ornamentation of the phrase I'd like the falafel platter, please.

Now, ornamentation is very simple. If you're not sure about the difference between ornamentation and variation, this will help. Ornamentation. I'd like the falafel platter, please. I would very much enjoy the falafel platter, please. I would very much enjoy one of your superb falafel platters, please. I would very much enjoy and be grateful if you would kindly prepare one of your superb and renowned falafel platters, please, and thank you in advance.

Okay. That's ornamentation. The structure has not changed. The meaning has not changed. Nothing's changed. It's just gotten more flowery. Okay, here's variation. I'd like the falafel platter, please. I'd like the hummus platter, please. I'd like the veggie salad platter, please. I'd hate the falafel platter. There's always one variation in a minor key. I'd like the Falafel sandwich, please.

I'd like the falafel platter, please, because we usually go back to the theme. The structure is always the same because in variations, the structure does not change. Just the feeling of the contents manipulated. Now, here's Haydn. Now that we know a lot about Haydn, a development of that falafel platter. Okay. I'll be right back. I'll be right back.

Because I enjoyed the falafel platter and I'd like another. The falafel platter was excellent and so I'd like another falafel platter when I come back. I'm back as you can see. And I would like to have the falafel platter again, please. The falafel platter is excellent, and I may come back yet again later for another one. Watch out! when you toss the raw falafel into the hot oil, it could be dangerous!

Oh, good. That was close. Ha! No harm done, my friend. Thank you for those falafel platters. And thank you very much for those you will make for me in the future. Thank you very much. See you later. Hey, I'm back. Okay, so now we're going to hear... When you guys recover, we're going to hear the entire first movement of the Haydn Joke Quartet and then the last movement. Is this the piece yet or?

We hope you enjoyed the podcast. Visit ChamberMusicSociety.org to watch videos of these lectures, as well as masterclasses and concert performances. And while you're there, check out the calendar of upcoming Chamber Music Society events in New York and around the world. We'll be back in two weeks with another Inside Chamber Music podcast.