Showcase March-April 2015 - page 42

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MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA SHOWCASE
Program Notes
apr
10, 11
Franz Joseph Haydn
Born:
March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria
Died:
May 31, 1809, Vienna
Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, Farewell
rince Nicholas Esterházy, who became Haydn’s
employer after the death of the composer’s initial
patron, Prince Anton Paul Esterházy, was a vigorous
advocate of conspicuous consumption. He had built a
pseudo-Versailles on the Neusiedler Lake, near what
is now the Austro-Hungarian border, and the more
enchanted he became with it, the longer were the periods
of service he demanded there from his musicians. As
capellmeister, Haydn enjoyed some perquisites and
privileges, but for the rank and file of the orchestra, the
long sojourns in the country meant painful separation
from their families.
a symphony’s subliminal message
In 1772 it seemed as though the household would never
return home to Eisenstadt, and the increasingly depressed
musicians appealed to Haydn for help. His response was to
write a symphony in which the customary quick finale was
broken off in mid-course, the music then continuing as a
second slow movement. During the course of this
Adagio
,
one player after another blew out the candle at his desk
and departed, leaving just two violinists on stage at the
end, concertmaster Luigi Tomasini and Haydn himself.
The prince got the point, and the court left for town the
next day. This, at least, is the most likely of the various
stories tied to this piece.
The
Farewell
Symphony owes a large part of its present
fame to that anecdote, but it was one of Haydn’s most
valued, most circulated, most played symphonies even
before the story came to be generally known in the 1780s.
Haydn’s originality was most strikingly manifested in the
extraordinary series of intensely dramatic works in minor
keys he wrote around 1770, and the
Farewell
itself is, on
any terms and by any standards, one of Haydn’s greatest
symphonies. Minor-key symphonies are rare and special
in this period, but the key of F-sharp minor is rare among
the rare. The blacksmith at Eszterháza had to build new
crooks, additional lengths of tubing, for the horns in
F-sharp needed in the minuet.
the music
allegro assai.
The
very quick and forceful first movement
is music of uncommon passion, with its striding arpeggio
theme and its tensely syncopated accompaniments.
Introducing a completely new theme of enchanting grace
in the middle of the development, and not ceasing to
elaborate and expand material long after we expect the
settling process of recapitulation to have begun, it is as
remarkable in form as in feeling.
adagio.
The limpid and muted second movement, like the
Andante
in Mozart’s E-flat Symphony, seems to promise
more innocence than it delivers: the tone of voice stays
low, but the modulations are amazing adventures.
menuet: allegretto.
Next comes a robust minuet, full
of surprises at every turn in harmony (the first bass
entrance!), rhythm and scoring. The horn-dominated
trio quotes a Gregorian melody from the Holy Week
liturgy, one Haydn had used some years earlier in his
Lamentatione
Symphony, No. 26.
finale: presto – adagio.
The
Finale
begins at great speed
and in a condition of high urgency. Where we expect it to
be over—it would be a terse finale, but not implausibly
so—Haydn makes a large harmonic loop and comes to
rest on the dominant of the home key, as though he were
to begin again. A long silence is broken by an
Adagio
in
A major, the same key as the “real” slow movement, but
quite unprepared and unexpected here. After a colorful
little passage for the winds, the first oboe and second
horn fall silent. To reassure the puzzled copyist, Haydn
writes “nichts mehr” (nothing more) in his autograph.
The music resumes, and one by one, instruments play
farewell solos and leave: bassoon, second oboe, first
horn, double bass (whose solo, more elaborate than that
of the others, moves the music into its final harmonic
destination of F-sharp major). The survivors play the
gently pathos-filled slow music again. The cello leaves,
then all the violins but two, then the viola. The two
remaining violins are muted, and their music, too, leaving
us somewhere between tears and a smile, recedes into
silence and darkness.
Instrumentation:
2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns,
harpsichord and strings
Program note excerpted from the late
Michael Steinberg
’s
The Symphony: A Listener’s Guide
(Oxford, 1995), used
with permission.
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