Composers Datebook

with host John Zech

Monday, September 2

Haydn at Esterhazy

Synopsis

On today's date in 1773, the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa was visiting the country estate of Prince Nikolaus of Esterhazy. Among the attractions there were an opera house, a marionette theater, and the Prince's impressive chamber orchestra led by Franz Joseph Haydn.

It's possible that Haydn's Symphony No. 48 was performed for the Empress during her visit — in any case, this symphony came to be nicknamed the "Maria Theresa."

We do know that Haydn and his orchestra did perform for the Empress — and that they were all dressed up in Chinese costumes for one performance during her visit! Among other "duties as assigned," Haydn had shot three wild hens that were cooked up for the Empress's dinner. Ah, the life of a court musician in the 18th century!

It's also reported that Haydn told the Empress an amusing story from his childhood in Vienna. Apparently some repair work was being done on St. Stephens Cathedral when Haydn was a boy soprano in the Cathedral Choir. The Empress was annoyed at the racket made by choirboys playing on the scaffolding, and ordered that the next one caught playing up there would get a thrashing.

The following day Haydn climbed the scaffold, was caught, and received the promised punishment. Apparently neither Haydn nor the Empress bore a grudge, since it's said they both got a good laugh out of recalling the story.

Music Played in Today's Program

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Symphony No. 48 in C (Maria Theresa) Polish Chamber Orchestra; Jerzy Maksymiuk, cond EMI Classics 69767

Additional Information

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