Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Haydn: the Farewell Symphony

There is something so quaintly humorous, so thoroughly in unison with Haydn's genial, sunny disposition, in his Farewell Symphony (known also as the Candle Symphony), that a brief description of it is here given. The story runs thus:

In the summer of 1772, Haydn and his men, exhausted from their confining labors, looked forward to their early release from duty. But Esterhazy suddenly decided that they should remain two months longer. With ready wit, Haydn hit upon a musical method of voicing a protest, which could not irritate the Prince, and, should it fail of its aim, would at least give them all a hearty laugh. Very soon the task was completed (for Haydn wrote with incredible rapidity, and had only to adjust his scheme to the last movement of an already finished Symphony), and rehearsed; and the hour of performance drew near---

The entire Symphony, in the unusual key of F-sharp minor, is music of the finest fiber, and holds its own with the best that Haydn's genius and eminent workmanship ever consummated in the symphonic domain. It embraces the usual four Movements, of which only the Finale is here illustrated, since that is the only one involved in Haydn's humorous plan. This Finale, scored for full quintet of strings, two oboes and two horns, is in the regular sonata-allegro form, tersely presented. This Movement, although completely finished so far as the form is concerned, ends with a semicadence on the dominant of F-sharp, and thence passes over into an extra, fifth, Movement, which is to witness the perpetration of the musical jest. It is a graceful slow Movement (adagio) in A major, of gentle, ingratiating character. It is cast in the Three-Part Song-form, extended by a fourth Part (or Coda) which consists of the material of Part I, but transposed to F-sharp major (the principal key of the Symphony).

At the cadence of the First Part, the 2nd horn and the 1st oboe players (following the direction si parte in the score) blow out their candles, quietly close their books, and with their instruments walk off stage, as if too weary to continue. The other players keep on, but twenty-three measures later, near the end of Part III, the 2nd oboe and the 1st horn leave in the same manner; a few measures farther along, the double-basses, then the 'celli, then all but one of the first and one of the second violins, then the violas---puff out their candles and walk away, leaving only the two solo-violins, playing alone to give the closing phrase. Prince Esterhazy saw the point, interpreted the innocent pantomime in the kindliest spirit and said: "Haydn, I understand you; the gentlemen may leave tomorrow."


xLQPNy The best blog you have!
zi8ZDB write more, thanks.
"but transposed to F-sharp major (the principal key of the Symphony)."

not quite... And thats the important bit. F sharp major is not our home key. F shap minor is. Major keys in this piece might signify death.

gently humorous? more like deeply moving and downright scarey. Its like having the life-blood sucked out of us.
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