Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, Mvt. 4 Presto, Adagio "The Farewell Symphony"

Ok.  Confession time.  I have a hugely strong bias towards the Romantic Era of music.  I mean, I put Brahms in headphones as our mascot.  Come on, that's just...ridiculous.  

The 18th century style saw a major departure from the Classical reverence for the order of antiquity and that burgeoning freedom from repressed emotion has always been something of interest to me.  The whole concept of pairing strong emotional content with musical motifs as a means of communicating a concept or vision produced such amazingly beautiful results.  In my mind, the Romantic era saw the final triumph of the melody as art.  It is the perfect answer to the rigidity of the Classical period's framework.

Anyways, I have noticed a tendency of mine over the years to pick Romantic works for LF over that of the other eras of music.  Bearing that in mind, I have decided (almost unwittingly) to begin these fledgling posts on this blog by working backwards in time.  I guess you can call it a series of sorts.  You may have noticed that the piece from two weeks ago was a modern work, last week's was from the heart of Romanticism, and now this week's comes from one of the more interesting composers of all times in my opinion (certainly a composer who had some interesting and unusual circumstances within which to live).  I present to you, a Classical composer extraordinaire, none other than Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and his "Farewell Symphony".

Before we dive in, here's a general timeline of music history as we know it to be today.  We've done Modern/Contemporary and Romantic.  Now we move backwards into Classical:

Dora would be asking, "Where do we go next?!"
Not shown: Flintstone Epoch and Jetson's Dynasty

Haydn's story intrigues me.  He had such a remarkable relationship with his employer and was himself just a generally happy and easy to work with person.  Far different from the bizarre personality types of the Beethoven's and Mozart's and other "starving artists" of the day, Haydn was a well-adjusted (not to mention well-paid), generous, and funny guy.  His humor frequently shone through his composition. 

Haydn worked for most of his life as the court musician (or Kapellmeister) for the wealthy Esterházy family, who were Hungarian nobility whose family lines date as far back as the middle ages and still amazingly have bloodline relatives surviving today.  Basically, Haydn's job was to write music and put on concerts and operas (as many as 100 per year) for the family and their guests as they traveled from Eisenstadt to other residences throughout Austria and Hungary.  

Haydn was essentially given all that he wished and was allowed almost entirely free reign to compose for some of the finest musicians of his time (all of whom were hired specifically for Haydn to write for).  Both Prince Paul Anton (who originally hired Haydn) and his brother, Nicklaus (who would succeed Paul as Prince following his death) were avid musicians in addition to being wealthy, military-minded nobility.

The Esterházy family occupied several homes, and the family frequently resided in or around Vienna, Austria.  However, Prince Nikolaus disliked the bustle and aristocracy of Vienna and preferred to stay in hunting lodges or the family headquarters in Eisenstadt, Austria, far off from the rest of the nobility.  Eventually, Nikolaus built a huge compound on the site of an old hunting lodge where he would take his summer residence.  Known as Esterháza, it is often likened  as the Hungarian version of the Versailles.  

MTV Cribs 18th Century, son.

So, Prince Nick started spending more and more of his time at Esterháza and as such required that Haydn and the musicians in his employ remain out in the middle of nowhere.  What originally started as a summer holiday to the mansion turned into 10 months out of the year.  The musicians knew they had a good paying gig, but their lovely wives were waiting for them back in Austria.  

everything on the internet said it was some guy's wife discovering his browser history in 1768.

Tensions began to rise and Haydn was pressured to make a move.  Not wanting to anger his benefactor, as they had always enjoyed a fruitful and incredibly amicable relationship, he allowed his wit to come up with a viable solution.  Haydn was famous for his humor (and large, aquiline nose) and he often incorporated it into his compositions.  Most Classical period symphonies were written in four movements (typically: fast, slow, minuet, fast).  Haydn followed suit with Symphony No. 45 (often referred to by the informal title of "Farewell Symphony"), but as the fourth movement approached its completion a coda-like section (remember the Tangelo!) begins.  

This "5th" movement was slower and featured several solos among the musicians.  
The whole idea of a "5th movement in a symphony" thing almost certainly surprised Prince Nick, as he was a fairly accomplished musician himself and would take notice of the unexpected slow section following what appeared to be the conclusion of the fourth movement.  

An interesting aside on the Prince's musical abilities- Haydn wrote some 175 pieces for his favorite instrument the 'baryton' (which was a kind of bass violin with extra strings you pluck through the back of the neck with your thumb or just let them vibrate sympathetically while bowing the other strings).  Prince Nick would frequently play with Haydn and the other musicians as well.  

Dude.  There's just no way I'm in tune.
But getting back to the "Farewell" in Symphony No. 45.

I love thinking about a warm concert hall in Hungary filled with some of the most important and wealthy people of the time, and Prince Nikolaus down in front expecting the atypical conclusion to another enjoyable Haydn symphony.  As that irregular coda dawns, I can just imagine his reaction.  

And as his confusion fades to understanding, one by one the stage grows darker and darker as each of his musicians extinguish their candles and slowly drift into the wings.  

I see a smile growing on his face.  

In the end, in the darkness of that concert hall is Haydn and his concertmaster playing at the front of an empty stage before they too snuff out their lights and fade into the night.  

Prince Nikolaus and his musicians returned to Eisenstadt the next day.

Homework: Write about a goodbye you've experienced (painful or otherwise) that remains strong in your memory.

You can leave your answers in the comments.

See you next Friday.


YouTube wouldn't allow me to embed the content, but here's a link that starts at the final portion of Movement 4 with a very theatrical performance by the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Daniel Barenboim.

The baryton image is attributed to http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utente:Rik86 and used under the regulations of the Creative Commons.
The aerial view of Esterháza is attributed to Daniel Somogyi-Tóth, www.legifotok.hu and used under the regulations of the Creative Commons.
The image of the 18th century couple has an unknown origin.  I will gladly document authorship if someone can find out who owns it!
The timeline image is my own work and I license it for use under the Creative Commons.