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FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN (1732-1809)

Symphony No. 60 in C major (1774)

I. Adagio - Allegro di molto

II. Andante

III. Menuetto

IV. Presto

V. Adagio (di Lamentatione)

VI. Finale: Prestissimo

Franz Joseph Haydn’s contributions to the symphonic form are immense. With over 100 symphonies to his name, Haydn's nickname as the ʻFather of the Symphony’ is well earned. The symphony's evolution as a formal design is a study of gradual expansion, from its Baroque beginnings with just strings to the addition of more instruments and multiple movements. By the Classical era, a move was underway from the three-movement symphony scheme (two fast outer movements and a slow middle movement) to a four-movement scheme (fast ʻsonataʻ, slow ʻandante, minuet/scherzo, rondo/sonata). 

 

Haydn's 60th outing with the form is an exception. The 26-minute score calls for two oboes, bassoon, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. Cast into six movements, the unorthodox structure of the symphony is a masterful perspective in musical comedy. The work carries the subtitle "Il Distratto" or The Distracted Man and feels more in kin to a suite. Haydn's assembled the symphony from incidental music he composed for Jean François Regnar's comic play, "Le Distrait." The title refers to Leandre; a man so easily distracted he nearly forgets to attend his wedding.

 

Leandre’s saga begins with an Adagio introduction. When the music picks up pace in the exposition proper (Allegro di molto), forgetfulness rules the day. The lively music in 3/4 times comes to screeching halts in several bouts of distraction. Haydn composes Leandre's drifting attention with diminishing dynamics and augmenting the rhythm to a slow crawl. There is even a joke in this music with Haydn taking a detour, quoting the first movement of his "Farewell Symphony" (#45) in the development. Distractions aside, Leandre remembers he has something important to do. The music ignites into "Ah-ha!" moments, and the day, or at least the wedding rehearsal, is saved.

 

Inescapable interruptions plague the Andante or the wedding rehearsal. The elegant processional, marked at the piano dynamic, is immediately interrupted by a marching band of oboes and horns. The wedding party recovers and regroups, coalescing into string unison. All seems well as the processional resumes, but the rigamarole of interruptions continues. In the end, the wedding party calls it quits and joins the band.

 

The minuet and trio offers a seemingly standard delight in the third movement, a wedding dance. However, a subtle change towards a more contrapuntal texture hints that perhaps even during a dance, Leandre's attention wanders towards other subjects. In the trio, a shift in character implies that the protagonist has drifted to a completely wrong part of town. 

 

A “normal, text-book" symphony would find a festive conclusion in the Presto romp of the fourth movement, but this is Haydn; creator of the "Surprise" and "Farewell" symphonies. The rustic quality of the music, with string unisons and spirited busy passages of scales and figurations, hint that Leandre is still finding his way back to the wedding but is lost.

 

Beware! Audiences might fall into Haydn’s trickery and applaud after the Presto movement, but the story is far from over. The Adagio (di Lamentatione) changes pace into bridal pathos; where's the groom? The wedding dirge doesn't last long; a fanfare processional begins, a reminder this is a wedding, not a funeral. But the pathos returns, still no groom in sight. So before it ends, a sudden surge in tempo hints that Leandre has remembered, it's his wedding day!

 

Luckily, Leandre’s journey back is now a short trip, but not without obstacles. If the 1770s had rush-hour traffic, a gauntlet of horses, carriages, sheep crossing, and a royal parade stand in the way. The Finale: Prestissimo is hysterical. The music halts with open strings from the get-go, screeching with 18th-century brakes. Haydn has the violins detune the G-string down a half-step to F# to be re-tuned back up. Perhaps the musicians forgot to tune their instruments; it's madness! In any case, the effect is a risky maneuver to perform without breaking the string or returning to the correct pitch in real-time, but all is fair in love and war. Leandre returns in the nick of time to say, "I do.”

 

Franz Joseph Haydn was born on March 31, 1732, in Rohrau, Austria, and died on May 31, 1809, in Vienna, Austria. © MTF

(Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai)

ABOUT THIS PERFORMANCE (MASTERWORKS 4):

Invention, inspiration, and re-imagination unite in a program journeying through memory, time, comedy, and the new and ancient sounds of the Gamelan. Violinist Kristin Lee and conductor Andrew Gram join your Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra in the Hawai’i premiere of Vivian Fung’s Bali-inspired Violin Concerto No.1, Haydn’s Symphony No. 60, and Stravinsky’s gateway to musical time travel, Pulcinella Suite.  © MTF