Now Hear This “Haydn: King of Strings” - Scott Yoo’s Haydn Listening Journey

By Scott Yoo

Scott Yoo
photo credit: Arcos Film + Music

The host of Now Hear This and Mexico City Philharmonic music director shares the pieces by Joseph Haydn, also known as “the king of strings,” that mean the most to him. A playlist is available where you can listen to all of these special selections.

What is your favorite selection by Haydn? Let us know, and don’t miss Now Hear This streaming pbs.org/gperf, and the PBS Video app.

Haydn The Creation

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Robert Shaw

Everyone knows Handel’s Messiah, but it puzzles me why Haydn’s Creation— modeled after the Handel oratorio— is not equally, if not more, famous.  The very opening of the oratorio— the musical representation of chaos preceding the beginning of the Book of Genesis— is so shocking even for my 21st century ears, decades ahead of its time.  The Creation is some of the best music written by Haydn at the height of his powers.

Haydn String Quartets, op. 20

St. Lawrence String Quartet

I got to know Haydn’s string quartets as a child, reading the violin parts in order to improve my sight-reading!  Hearing only one part of a quartet gives you a very incomplete picture and I was eager to hear the real thing.  I bought my first album of Haydn quartets as a teenager, and have loved listening to them— and playing them— ever since!  There are so many wonderful version of the Haydn Quartets, but the St. Lawrence String Quartet has a particular knack for highlighting the small details and wit in his music.  This recording is like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream— once you start, you won’t want to stop!

Scott Yoo
photo credit: Arcos Film + Music

Haydn Late Symphonies

Cleveland Orchestra

George Szell

Haydn was not only the inventor of the string quartet, but also started another art form that you may have heard of— the symphony!  I’m obsessed with them— my orchestra has performed 20 of them in the past 4 years!  Haydn’s symphonies are often overshadowed by those of Beethoven and Mahler, but you can argue that Haydn’s late symphonies are some of the finest in the repertoire.  And it’s hard to beat George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra at the height of their powers for this amazing music.

Haydn Cello Concertos

Yo-Yo Ma

English Chamber Orchestra

I was obsessed with this recording as a child.  After hearing this recording, I remember being astonished that someone could play the cello as cleanly, athletically, and as fast as someone could play a violin.  How is that possible, I thought?  Of course Yo-Yo Ma is now a legend, but this was one of his first recordings that launched his now storied career.