The bad news is: The United Kingdom will officially declare on March 29 that it intends to leave the EU. The good news is: It won’t leave the EU. Not by 2019. I looked into my crystal ball and saw endless negotiations in Brussels. Dead-lines will be extended and the stock markets will be in turmoil. Political infighting will follow. The present government will not last. The crystal ball goes blank again.
The EU is like Hotel California: You can always check out, but you can never leave. And to encourage all those who do not want to leave the EU, here’s some up-lifting music. Let’s take a break from politics. A symphony written by a continental composer bearing the name to the City of London.
Majestic and stirring
In 1795, Joseph Haydn wrote Symphony No. 104 in D major (Hob. I:104). I heard it a few weeks ago at the Philharmonie de Luxembourg, ironically performed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. It is a beautiful work – majestic, optimistic, stirring. I can recommend the recording by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. After the premiere, Haydn noted: “The audience was very satisfied, and so am I.” The musical scholar Charles Burney wrote in a letter to his girl: “No human being has ever produced anything like that piece. What Apollo and the muses may compose or perform, we can only guess from compositions like these.”
A framework of six notes
The symphony is written in four movements. The adagio opens with a solemn fanfare by the orchestra, echoed by the strings. The introduction is followed by a very melodious theme that keeps coming back. The second movement is an interestingly structured song, calm and peaceful at the beginning, stormy and violent towards the end with an interlude perfomed by the flutes binding the two together. The third movement takes the form of a minuet and yes, it sounds like a dance. It picks up the six-note-figure of the first movement, the framework of that movement’s main theme. The last movement – allegro spiritoso – starts playfully, gardually becomes more vigourous.
The last symphony
Did I say already that it is a beautiful work? I guess, I did, but one cannot repeat it often enough. By the time Haydn wrote that symphony, he was a reknown composer all over Europe. Aged 63, he was no longer at the service of any nobleman, but had retreated with a comfortable pension. He lived in Vienna, but he had accepted a commission to compose two sets of six symphonies for Johann Peter Salomon, a London based violinist, composer, conductor and music impresario. No. 104, the last of the twelve symphonies, was the coronation stone of an impressive career.
© Charles Thibo