Haydn’s Symphony No. 8, “Le Soir”: Brilliant Virtuosity and Good Humor

Haydn’s Symphony No. 8, “Le Soir,” concludes a symphonic triptych (Nos. 6-8) which was inspired by the movement of the sun throughout the day. The first two works in this programmatic series are “Le Matin” (Morning) and “Le Midi” (Afternoon). The three symphonies were first performed during a single evening in 1761 at the Esterházy Palace in Vienna, not at the aristocratic family’s official residence 30 miles outside the city. They marked the beginning …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 7 in C Major, “Le Midi”: Bright and Inventive

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 7 in C Major, “Le Midi,” is the second installment in a symphonic trilogy (Nos. 6-8) which depicts three times of day: Morning, Midday, and Evening. It was with these inventive works that the 29-year-old Haydn began his nearly three-decade-long tenure as Kapellmeister at the aristocratic court of the Ezterházy family in the spring of 1761. The appointment provided Haydn with top level musicians and a splendid isolation …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major, “Le Matin”: Bold Beginnings

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D Major begins with a majestic musical sunrise. A single, wispy line in the first violins emerges, just above silence, to signify the first hint of dawn. Soon, we are bathed sonically in the warm, radiant sunlight of a new day. It was with this symphony that, in the spring of 1761, the 29-year-old Haydn began his employment as Kapellmeister at the aristocratic court of the …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major: Dynamic and Miraculous

According to legend, during the premiere of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, a chandelier fell from the ceiling at London’s Hanover Square Rooms. Moments earlier, enthusiastic audience members rushed the stage to catch a better glimpse of Haydn, who conducted from the pianoforte. As a result, everyone escaped serious harm. Shouts of gratitude rang out. “Miracle! Miracle!” Symphony No. 96 earned the nickname, The Miracle.  In fact, this harrowing event occurred four …

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Establishing Order out of Chaos: Music of Rebel, Rameau, and Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn’s 1798 oratorio, The Creation, begins with a shocking musical depiction of chaos which, at times, seems to anticipate the chromaticism of Wagner. This famously progressive harmony sets the stage for a masterful dramatization of the creation of the world, as outlined in the Book of Genesis. As shocking as Haydn’s Representation of Chaos was at the apex of the genteel Classical period, it was not without precedent. Fifty years earlier, the …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 99 in E-flat Major: Rousing and Rapturous

Franz Joseph Haydn’s triumphant second trip to London started off with a bang. On February 10, 1794, six days after the celebrated composer’s return to the English capital, Symphony No. 99 in E-flat Major was premiered at the Hanover Square Rooms. A review of the concert in the Morning Chronicle read, The incomparable Haydn produced a new Overture [Symphony] of which it is impossible to speak in common terms. It is one of …

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Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 74, No. 1, The Maxwell Quartet

Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Apponyi” String Quartets (Op. 71 and 74) achieved a groundbreaking distinction in the history of chamber music. They are remembered as the first quartets written, not for an aristocrat’s private palace, but for the public concert hall. The set of six string quartets were composed in 1793 following Haydn’s first extended visit to London. During his thirty year tenure at the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, the composer’s published …

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