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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Tuesday, March 23

"A good story, but not exactly true," says Haydn

Synopsis

If you were in London in the year 1792, and picked up the Times for today’s date, you would have been able to read this announcement: “Mr. Salomon most respectfully acquaints the nobility and gentry that his sixth Concert will be at Hanover Square on the 23rd.”

Johann Peter Salomon was the impresario who arranged for Haydn to visit London to present his latest music, and among the works promised for March 23rd was a new symphony, the work we know today as Haydn’s “Surprise Symphony”

This nickname comes from the sudden loud, timpani stroke in the work’s second movement—and the story soon went ‘round that Haydn had wanted to wake up any snoozing members of the audience.

It was a good story, but somebody finally asked Haydn himself if it were true. “No,” Haydn replied. “Rather it was my wish to surprise the public with something new, so as not to be outdone by my pupil Iganz Pleyel, who was engaged in London for a concert series just before mine. My new symphony was well received, but enthusiasm reached its highest point with the unexpected timpani stroke. Even Pleyel complimented me on the idea.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) Symphony No. 94 in G (Surprise) Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Sir Colin Davis, cond. Philips 442 614

Additional Information

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