Haydn. What do you think when you hear the name "Haydn"? Beautiful, refined instrumental music... Meticulously powdered wigs and precisely buttoned coats... Aristocracy and patronage and empire...
Yes? And then a delicately ornate lamp and an understated sign announcing the "Haydn Explosiv" exhibit installed at the very palace where Haydn spent most of his career would seem entirely appropriate, perhaps to the point of being unremarkable?
It would, until you stepped into the exhibit and were confronted with a truly extraordinarily bizarre mash up of staid aristocratic portraits, carpeting in such a variety of clashing prints as to baffle even someone recently employed as a funhouse clown, lovingly preserved fragile wooden instruments laid out in glass cases, all of it surrounded by the most disturbing sky-blue wallpaper printed with the disembodied neon-toned heads of Haydn and (I think) his patrons, matching drapes, plus modern art of no apparent relation to Haydn or music of any kind, and multimedia presentations clearly conceived by someone with a tenuous grasp on reality.
Like, see, there's one big room in the middle of it all with the carpet everywhere and the wallpaper and some nice old oil paintings to tone it down a little, although they have to compete with the four projection equipment boxes which are encased in mirrors, just in case you'd missed the really incredible carpet, and there's Haydn music playing (at least *that* makes sense) and the serious array of projection equipment is beaming an ever-changing video montage onto the ceiling. A montage which every once in a while has a few close ups of musicians tuning their stringed instruments (again, sense!) but is mostly composed of grainy clips from (I think) the Apollo 11 launch, slow pans across a sheet of postage stamps commemorating the moon landing, a high-def image of a suited astronaut floating in space, and (change of subject) maps of the Esterhazy Palace grounds (sense! more sense!) which first arrive on the screen embedded in the back of a very large insect which gave the strong impression of a cockroach, though I believe it was actually something else (uh oh, lost the sense again) crawling across a sheet of music (ah! there we are with the making sense!). Then the screen zooms in so all you see is the map, but just when you're starting to relax, here come a small platoon of cockroaches crawling randomly across it, leaving in their wakes fuzzy-edged "erased" paths through which you can see more sheet music.
Full points for creative expression!
Anyway, we were only in the exhibit to kill a half hour before the start of our tour and to entertain the kids (the nice ladies at the ticket desk told us the kids would love the movie on the ceiling).
The tour (of the "highlights" of the Esterhazy collection) was much more what one would expect. A room devoted to an enormous china table setting, another room devoted to the largest silver service exhibited as a complete ensemble in the world, some more stately portraits, a few through-the-ages chairs paired with appropriate wall-covering samples, that sort of thing. There was one baroquer-than-baroque console table, gilded and inlaid with indelicate hunks of brilliant turquoise glass, which the guide was quite proud to tell us was the absolute only one of its kind anywhere in the world (the world should be grateful, is all I have to say, though I'm sorry we didn't take a picture). And some beautiful old toilets under renovation (Mr. Pants was intrigued).
The children were less enamored of the tour, though Mr. Pants got through it fairly well on the promise of a "treat" after lunch as soon as it was over. He still asked to be picked up several times and was noticeably fidgety, but I did manage to understand a certain amount of the German-only tour. Tidbits like the china having cost as much as 4 houses (not sure what sort) back when it was ordered by Prince Somebody-or-other. The silver service was made not that long ago from all the previously owned family silver which Prince Another Somebody ordered melted down for the purpose. Not many large silver services remaining in Europe because so much of it had through the ages been sold to finance wars and other excesses. And the (hideous!) turquoise console table was made just after the Venetian discovery of a new glass recipe which made their glass (the glass from Venice, the glass in the table) the most clear and brilliantly colored glass ever known at that time. Oh, and either my brain was shutting down from German overload by the end of the tour or Mr. Pants was wanting my attention, because all I caught about this lovely set was that it is the something-est something in Europe.
Now, lest we be in danger of laughing ourselves silly over the whole ridiculous thing and forgetting that, in fact, Haydn's music is amazing, the final stop was the Haydnsaal - a really beautiful concert hall with (according to our guide) the very best acoustics in the world and having certainly hosted many premiers of Haydn's works. Perhaps with luck and diligence we'll land ourselves tickets to a real performance there, but for this time we had to make do with a recording. Still impressive.