Symphony number 45 in F# minor (the

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Symphony number 45 in F# minor (the “Farewell symphony”)

Between 1761 and 1790 Haydn was employed by the enormously wealthy Esterhazy family who had two palaces on the borders of Austria and Hungary. The court orchestra was similar to that of many baroque orchestras – two oboes, a bassoon, a string ensemble and a harpsichord. But it also included a pair of horns – instruments that became a regular part of the orchestra thereafter.

It was this orchestra that accompanied operas in the palace theatre and played symphonies twice a week. Haydn’s symphony number 45 in F# minor was first performed in the summer prince Nikolaus Esterhazy and his household lived in their Hungarian palace where wives of his musicians where not allowed to stay. The usual date for the prince’s return to his Austrian palace and the reunion of his instrumentalists and their wives had long past. The orchestra asked Haydn to speak to the prince, but instead Haydn wrote a symphony that ended quite unusually, with a slow movement designed to allow the musicians to leave in ones and twos until only two violinists were left. When they finished playing they too blew out their candles and left. The prince took the hint and ordered immediate preparations fro a return to Austria.  

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The importance of the Farewell symphony lies in the way that Haydn uses the formal structure of the symphony to express an astonishing tange of moods. At one extreme is the Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) style – its restless syncopations, stabbing accents, tortuous chromaticism, harsh discords and dramatic silences foreshadow the music of Beethoven, 30 years later. At the other extreme is a serene radiance and classical poise. The last movement of the Farewell symphony contains both styles. The presto is stormy, but the violent mood is restrained by its form. The major –mode serenity at the ...

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