Franz Joseph Haydn was the father of the classical symphony. Most people know how prolific a composer Mozart was. Haydn may have been more prolific with his amazing composition of 104 symphonies. Haydn had an advantage, as he lived an unusual long time [77 years, from 1732 – 1809] for that era. Like Bach in the Baroque era of music, Haydn, in the classical era was an invaluable contributor to the development of all music. Not only did he lead the way with the classical symphony, he also was an early developer of the sonata composition form of music [consisting of exposition, development, and recapitulation]. He was also a developer of the string quartet.
Franz Joseph Haydn was warmly known as ‘Papa’ Haydn. The people of the time loved Haydn and they loved his great symphonies. They loved his symphonies because it was not just great music, it also had Haydn’s playfulness and musical ‘joke’ he would put in his symphonies. People looked forward to hearing that one moment or phrase that would bring a smile to their face. Haydn never disappointed.
Because Haydn composed so many symphonies, it was hard to remember each by their number. So, many of the symphonies were given names. Not all were named by Haydn but some by the musicologists. You have the Clock Symphony, the Military Symphony, the Surprise Symphony, etc.
The story behind the name of his symphony #96,”The Miracle Symphony,” is legend. As I told you the people of the time loved their Papa Haydn. In the premiere of this symphony with Haydn as the conductor, as it was coming to a close, the people in the back came close to the stage to get a good view of their Papa Haydn, and give him a great ovation. As the story is told, with the people crowded close to the stage, a giant chandelier near the back of the symphony hall came crashing down into the seats that were recently vacated. Thus, the miracle. Historians have confirmed that this did happen.
Symphony # 96 is scored in D Major with the usual four movements of a classical symphony: 1. Adagio-Allegro; 2. Andante; 3. Allegretto; 4. Vivace.
The fourth [final movement] of the Miracle Symphony has a fun, playful nature which is characteristic of a Haydn symphony. I think you will see why Franz Joseph Haydn is one of my favorite composers.
Please turn up the volume and enjoy Haydn’s “miracle” – symphony, that is.
Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony #96 in D Major, “Miracle”: