Snapping away at leaves
The 45th Symphony, also known as “the Farewell Symphony” is one of my favourite haydn Symphonies, as it particularly demonstrates his fabulous sense of humour and ingenious creativity.
Indeed, Haydn was known to be quite the joker. It has been rumoured that as a young student, he had cut off the ponytail of a fellow chorus member in St. Stephens Cathedral, after which he was caned and dismissed.
Anecdote aside however, his fame was due to his unquestionable musical talent (although Beethoven seemed to disagree -“I never learned anything from Haydn”) and many called him “the father of the symphony”. Even though he didn’t invent the form, he certainly perfected it. One of the most famous composers of his era, he was particularly popular in London, courted by the monarchs and he didnt waste a minute making money out of his fame. Many criticised his rather ‘people-pleasing’ compositional style but most of these works are still in the core canon today.
So anyway, back to the Farewell symphony, first performed in 1772 in the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, Haydn’s patron and employer. The piece was intended to be a musical hint aimed at the prince that his overworked (and homesick) musicians wanted to return home. Indeed, when they stayed longer than planned in Esterhazy’s (swampy and hazardous) summer palace in Hungary, he wrote this rather surprising piece, where the fourth and final movement ends with musicians one-by-one dropping out of the texture. During the performance, they would have stood up, extinguished their candle and left the room until only a pair of muted violins remained.
This particular performance is particularly amusing, the whole orchestra and conductor playing along beautifully with the intentions of the composer.
And with that, happy listening!