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A Symphony Exposé Concert
Thursday, October 11, 7:30pm

Ken-David Masur, conductor
Nuvi Mehta, host (and Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II)
Featuring actor Paul Maley

HAYDN: Symphony No. 102

Composer, musician, teacher…comedian? He’s none other than Franz Joseph Haydn, the father of the modern symphony and the genius who influenced Beethoven and Mozart. Haydn was the most popular and successful composer in Vienna at the time, but what's a genius to do when the royal family decides they don't want him anymore? Go to England and become even more famous! But wait...the young Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II has just realized his royal family may need Haydn more than he needs them! Laugh, sit back and enjoy one of our most entertaining Symphony Exposé performances to date. You’ll discover the wit, practical jokes and humor Haydn poured into many of his greatest symphonies, including his Symphony No. 102.

Join us after the concert for one complimentary drink and limited appetizers at The Sheraton Suites on the 12th Floor of Symphony Towers. Plus, meet the cast and musicians. (Symphony Expose subscribers are guaranteed access.) Space is limited so pick up your voucher before the concert in front of the ticket office.


Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major


Born March 31, 1732, Rohrau

Died May 31, 1809, Vienna


            Haydn composed his Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major in London in December 1794 and January 1795, just as he was nearing the end of his second extended visit to that city. These two visits formed a very happy interlude in his life. After spending the previous thirty years in service to a prince in rural Austria, Haydn had been surprised to discover that he was famous in London: he was acclaimed by cheering audiences, hailed by critics, and toasted by society. The Symphony No. 102 was first performed on February 2, 1795, as part of the series of concerts that Haydn presented that winter for the impresario J.P. Salomon, and it found Haydn nearing the end of his long career as a symphonist: he would complete his final two symphonies over the next few weeks and then would leave the form forever. 

            Haydn enjoyed his fame in London, and many have felt that in the symphonies he composed there he was consciously trying to please English audiences: this symphony is full of pleasing melodies, playful energy and a rich sonority. Though Haydn dispenses with clarinets in this symphony, the sound he creates is vigorous and full–Salomon had put together an orchestra of sixty first-class players, and Haydn wrote brilliantly for them.

            The first movement opens with the slow introduction Haydn favored in these years, a sort of grand call-to-order that makes its stately way to the Allegro vivace, where the music flies ahead on an utterly infectious tune. But the ear quickly picks up what Haydn has done: this tune is simply a speeded-up modification of the Largo introduction, and it arrives sounding both fresh and like an old friend. There are several secondary subjects in the first movement, and Haydn even turns one of these into a three-part canon during the vigorous development. But it is the shape and rhythm of the main theme that stay in the ear throughout this movement, and Haydn uses that theme to bring matters to a spirited close.

            It is hard to imagine that a composer so prolific as Haydn was might ever run into a dry period, but he appears to have done just that as he began to compose the Adagio. One of his acquaintances in London described how he solved the problem: “despite all his efforts and struggles, and leaving no source of inspiration for his present requirements untapped, he was unable to think up anything suitable for the Andante of a symphony; he was finally obliged to take up again the beautiful Andante of one of his trios for pianoforte, violin and violoncello and score it for orchestra, making only a few minor alterations.” Stymied, Haydn revised not the Andante but the Adagio of his just completed Trio in F-sharp minor and used it as the slow movement of this symphony. First violins announce a main idea of rococo opulence that will drive this movement, which rises to several modest climaxes before the quiet close.

            The third movement is the expected minuet, featuring a main theme decorated with grace notes and some distinctive writing for woodwinds in the trio. The concluding Presto is an absolute charmer. It gets off to a spirited start with one of those irresistible tunes that Haydn seemed to write at will, but the form of the movement can be elusive. It seems to start as a rondo, but quickly the material begins to develop and take on a life of its own. The exact form doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this movement is full of terrific music and a lot of fun, particularly in its bouncy syncopations, chromatic writing, and playful exchanges between the violin sections. At the end, Haydn breaks his main theme into pieces, slows it way down, and then lets it go, and this symphony flies to its good-natured close.

- Program Note by Eric Bromberger


October 11, 2012

Online sales for this performance have now been discontinued. Please call the Ticket Office at 619.235.0804.

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