Room 63--Hayden drops a hint

Franc Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was a clever man. He was probably the most prolific symphonist of the late 18th early 19th centuries. He was employed by Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, a Hungarian-born prince aho who had several palatial homes, one in Eisenstadt (his German home) and another in Hungary. Haydn had to write whatever the Prince asked for, and he certainly liked symphonies. Haydn wrote over 90 while in the Prince’s employ.

In 1772, the Prince stayed at his Hungarian place for several months. Haydn and his musicians were there to entertain at the Prince’s whim. Unfortunately, the musicians were obliged to leave their wives back at home. They were, shall we say, getting a bit edgy. After all, what else was there to do on those cold Hungarian or German nights in a residence that lacked central heating?

Haydn decided to drop a hint to the Prince when he composed his Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, now known as the “Farewell” Symphony. The first three movements are pretty standard. He saved his trick for the closing section. The movement begins at a fast pace, but about halfway through, it changes into a slow movement. At the time it was first played (in an environment without electricity), the music stands were merely illuminiated by candlelight. As the piece ends, the musicians are directed to leave one by one. In Haydn’s time, they would extinguish their candles. The room gradually got softer and darker, until finally there are only two violins left. When they finished the candles were put out and there were no musicians left. Pretty nifty? And Haydn and the musicians got their well-deserved time off.

Let’s hear the end of the piece.

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