Haydn’s “Farewell,” “Surprise” and “Clock”
Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809), alongside Mozart, is considered to be one of the key composers of the classical period. From 1761, he was Vice-Kapellmeister at the Esterhazy court of Hungary's wealthiest family, composing pieces for the Prince’s functions and events.
Haydn is regarded as “the father of the symphony and string quartet” because of his prolific output and ways in which he engendered more contemporary forms. He wrote 104 (possibly 106) symphonies and over 80 string quartets, composed an array of choral pieces, piano sonatas and concertos.
His sense of humor comes to light in the Symphony Number 45 in F-sharp Minor, known as “The Farewell,” written when his orchestra was due a holiday but had to remain at the palace to perform. At the close of the final movement, section by section, the players stop, acknowledge the audience and leave the stage, until only two violinists remain who stand, bow and exit. Divining the finale’s underlying message, the Prince granted the musicians their overdue vacation.
Haydn's inventiveness comes to the fore in his Symphony #94, nicknamed the “Surprise.” According to legend, a palace guest remarked that the slower movements of his symphonies were a good opportunity to take a nap. Determined that no one should sleep during his music, the composer introduced a “surprise” at measure sixteen of his second Andante movement, when the orchestra joins first violins in a sudden fortissimo G-major chord
Haydn brought fresh innovations to his music, such as the clarinet in Symphony #101 in D major, the ninth of twelve London Symphonies. It is popularly known as “The Clock” because of the ticking rhythm throughout the second movement.
The opus was completed in 1793-94 for the second of his two visits to London, premiering as part of a concert series organized by colleague Johann Peter Salomon, who also acted as concertmaster. The Morning Chronicle reported; “As usual the most delicious part of the entertainment was a new grand Overture by Haydn; the inexhaustible, the wonderful, the sublime HAYDN!”