Franz Joseph Haydn Works & "Quirks"

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Franz Joseph Haydn

Works & “Quirks”

Haydn's positive attitude and sense of humor made him a favorite among musicians. Music students valued his knowledge and skill and considered it an honor to learn from him. One such musician was Mozart. Although Mozart was much younger than Haydn, the two men had a good relationship and treated each other with a mutual respect reserved for the obviously gifted. Although Haydn openly considered Mozart as the more dramatic composer, his young counterpart looked to Papa Haydn as a mentor and the master of quartets.

Haydn's sense of humor often came into play during his thirty-year tenure with Prince Esterhazy. The prince had heard his work so often, that be often fell asleep during Haydn’s performances. Haydn decided to “get the prince’s attention” by creating a new symphony for the prince. This symphony was designed to be so soothing that the prince would surely fall asleep. The prince did indeed drift off. Then, suddenly, a loud chord shattered the serenity of the murmuring movement. The prince awoke with a start and almost fell off his chair! Haydn adeptly gave the piece the name "Surprise Symphony." This “surprise” symphony really got the princes attention!

On another occasion, Haydn was plagued by his musicians who were complaining that they were long overdue for vacations. He again faced the dilemma with ingenuity. Haydn composed a symphony during which the musicians' parts dropped off two by two. On the evening of the performance, Haydn saved this symphony as the last number, knowing that dusk would set in and the musicians would need to play the piece by candlelight. As each instrument's part finished, the musicians blew out their candles and left the stage until only Haydn was left. Prince Esterhazy got the message and sent everyone on vacation. Haydn named the piece "The Farewell Symphony."

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