Jul 21, 2022
If you want to understand how a symphony works, look no further than the works of the Father of the symphony, Joseph Haydn.
In 1790, a concert promoter and impresario named Johann Peter Solomon showed up un-announced at the Vienna home of the great composer Joseph Haydn. He immediately told Haydn: “I am Solomon from London and I have come to fetch you.” What Salomon and Haydn were about to embark upon would be one of the greatest successes of both of their lives. Haydn would end up making 2 visits to London, presenting an adoring audience with 12 symphonies, almost all of which are still regularly performed today. But the most famous one is the one we’re going to be talking about today, the 94th symphony, nicknamed “Surprise” or in the slightly drier German version: “the one with the Drumstroke.” The piece is famous for this surprise, which is now so well known that it rarely surprises anyone, though we’ll get into just how you might be able to do that in 2022. But the entire piece is a masterpiece in its own right, and so today we’ll discuss all of the tricks and traps Haydn pulls with his audience, leading to one of the most enjoyable symphonies of his entire catalogue.