Classic Mornings

Franz Joseph Handy


Oh, that’s an easy one! I’d recognize that name no matter how you scrambled the five letters. I’ve lived with the name Haydn for as long as I can remember, encountering it for the first time in elementary school.

Then I realized I was working on a puzzle that didn’t allow proper names. So “Haydn” got the boot. And suddenly, for the first time since elementary school, I had to find another word with the letters that make up the name Haydn.

“Handy” is not an obscure word. And I’m guessing that others working the puzzle came up with it before or instead of “Haydn.” But I found it amusing that with just a quick reversal of a couple of letters, ”Haydn” became “handy.” 

How handy, I thought, to have a composer who’s a “go-to” for symphonies, string quartets, piano trios, piano sonatas, and a handful of concertos. The pairing of those two words led to a bit of serendipity too. Haydn is known as the “Father of the String Quartet” and the “Father of the Symphony.” The American composer William Christopher (W.C) Handy (1873-1958) called himself the “Father of the Blues.” 

It didn’t stop there. I was working on another puzzle at the same time, which was looking for the word “ringtone,” I remembered that in Germany, a cell or mobile phone is known as a “Handy.” I once found a listing for a store called “Second Handys,” which sells used phones.

I thought about possible Haydn ringtones that might be popular. There’s the famous “Emperor” tune by Haydn, which he used in a string quartet, and which other composers have used as the subject of musical variations. It shows up in a national anthem and a hymn these days. A ringtone might not be an appropriate venue for it.

The winner is obvious: the opening notes of the famous tune that leads to the “surprise” in Haydn’s Symphony No. 94! I’m sure it would be a welcome surprise to those who might hear it. Because it resembles the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the ABC Song, it might attract the attention of children. For anyone recognizing it from the symphony, it might invite an attempt to simulate a “Paukenschlag,” which is the German word for the surprise in the symphony. A foot stomp or pounding on any surface would suffice.

I checked online and discovered that such a ringtone exists. Somebody out there has a “Haydn Handy.”

You can’t get the name Handel out of the letters that make up Haydn or vice versa. You can rearrange Handel to get “handle.” Last week, while searching for a bit of info on Handel, I got Hendrix.

Though they lived a couple of centuries apart, the residences of George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix are only a couple of street numbers apart. There’s a museum and a website known as “Handel and Hendrix in London.” Visitors can learn about Handel’s 36 years in London and visit his home. They also can visit the top story flat, where guitarist Jimi Hendrix lived whenever he was in London.

The Seattle-born Hendrix had inspired the English guitarist Jeff Beck, who died last Tuesday at age 78. I glanced at some of the tributes that appeared online, which included those of other famous rock musicians. And I learned in an article by Shaad D’Souza in The Guardian, that Beck sang in a church choir before he learned to play the guitar.

On Classic Mornings, I don’t play the genres of music that feature Jeff Beck. But with his name in the news, I wondered if listeners would be interested in knowing about a classical music composer named Beck, whose music I do play.

Franz Beck was born in Germany. He and Jeff Beck might be related somewhere on their family trees. Beck was an organist, violinist, conductor, and music teacher as well. He wasn’t a legendary musician, but he wrote symphonies that were admired during his lifetime and even today.

I know that some folks who listen to popular music enjoy wild stories about performers. Classical music has its share. There’s one about Franz Beck fleeing Mannheim, where he was born, after he killed an opponent in a duel. That’s not the end. The opponent was pretending to be dead and met the composer years later. That story has been dismissed by some. 

Another is told of Beck studying with composer Baldassare Galuppi in Venice until he ran off with the daughter of the person for whom he was working. Beck spent most of his life in France - in Marseille and Bordeaux. He lived to be 75.

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