1791: Haydn: Symphony No. 93 (“FART”) in D major

SATURDAY, October 31, 2020 – 9:48 AM

(For a complete list of all the London Symphonies click HERE.)

Symphony No. 93 (“FART”) in D major, age 59

Instrumentation:

  • two flutes, two oboes, two bassoons
  • two horns, two trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings

Adam Fischer

1st movement

WAH – ta DAH: That’s the way it starts, on a big D octave. Now, the question is: What is unique to this movement. What sets it apart from all others? It moves to Eb quickly. That’s not unique. It’s a slow intro. That’s the norm for Haydn, at least in these symphonies. It goes to a fast 3/4. It seems to be common for Hadyn to write things that sound like scherzo, jaunty music that is too fast for a waltz, more like Beethoven’s scherzos, but in sonata form. Then the lyrical parts actually sound like fast waltzes, and that often happens in the 2nd theme. The expo repeats. Nothing unusual there. So what? A waltz-scherzo in sonata form? The only thing that I can say is that it sounds so much as if Beethoven channeled this orchestration and and texture for his lighter symphonies.

But there is a huge interplay between Haydn and Mozart, so I have to look at Haydn as the greatest innovator. Why? Because he was by far the oldest, born in 1732. Mozart did not come along until 1756, and Beethoven in 1770. So even though Mozart was incredibly innovative, and Beethoven turned the whole world upside down, it seems to me that it all happened because of Haydn. He was a much bigger giant than I had realized until the last month. There is one thing he did that is so typical of Beethoven that I would swear he stole from him. But it’s the other way around, and it’s HERE: These heavy accents and sawing strings are so Beethoven, it’s hard to remember that when you hear this in Beethoven, he copied Haydn. Now, later I’ll have to find the exact Beethoven symphony where he did the same thing.

2nd movement

You hear first G D B G, those notes, and although that is not unique, it’s HERE, the same idea, again and again. I may find a better connection later, but it’s real.For the most part this is a relaxing, polite sounding movement, but there is a very loud note by the bassoon that is meant to be both surprising and funny. It is literally described as a fart. I won’t call this the “Fart Symphony”, but that’s literally what it is! Now, HERE is the fart: Just wait for it! Yup. Someone “let one”, and it was loud! Sorry, but that’s what it is, and you can guarantee that the whole audience laughed. More and more I’m understanding why so many people loved Haydn.

3rd movement

It’s big, it’s pompous, super heavy accents. If it’s a minuet, it’s a huge one. What can we remember this by? I see the hippos from Disney’s Fantasia dancing a minuet. Not for the first time I’m struck by how important the timpani sound is. To me this is more like a slow, grand waltz. Whatever it is, it’s cool.

4th movement

The words “ma non troppo” mean “but not too much”. In other words, fast, but don’t overdo it. Haydn wrote a ton of music like this. His last movements are almost always very fast, varying between light and super energetic, lots of heavy accents. The main theme is pure Haydn, but those three note passages are pure Mozart. It may turn out the he was doing them before Mozart was born, though at this time he had already died.There is so much of Mozart in this that you just hear Mozart’s opera style, and this is no accident. If you mind-melded Mozart and Haydn for a movement, that’s what you would get, exactly this music, but don’t forget to throw in Beethoven. This thing HERE is right out of Beethoven’s 9th.For me this whole symphony is a total home run. You can actually hear Mozart laughing.

The first of the London Symphonies…

Symphony No. 93 in D major is the first of the London Symphonies (numbers 93–104) by Haydn if we go by numbers, and I see no reason not to since they are close to chronological. They were all written over such a small period of time that you won’t run into any strange regarding style or orchestration.

The fart…

There is a hugely funny moment in the second movement where the bassoon player comes in with a colossal fart sound, and you have to know this was on purpose, and the people laughed. Haydn had an incredible sense of humor, and Mozart was known to have written to his family in such rude, crude ways about all sorts of bodily functions that his letters are famous for such remarks. Mozart and Haydn were very close friends. So the humor here is not subtle. I suppose calling this the “Fart Symphony” may not be acceptable even in 2020, but that’s what it is, the symphony with that huge fart sound from the bassoon, and if the audience does not laugh, it means the audience is too anal to enjoy a joke.

Wiki says:

Of the twelve London symphonies, No. 93 appears first in the Hoboken-Verzeichnis catalogue. However, it was likely the third to be composed of the set, after No. 96 in D major and No. 95 in C minor.

I find that I just don’t care. This does not seem important to me except to alert me that the age he was when writing any of the symphonies is more important than the numbers, which becomes important earlier when the numbers absolutely do no always correspond to his age.

There were two trips to England…

That does seem important to me. The last 12 “official” symphonies, 93-104, can be divided into two sets, and that is done by those two trips. The first was so incredibly successful that he did it again, and that’s how we came up with the “London Symphonies”. There are 12. Supposedly there are two more, 105 and 106, but that doesn’t not seem fully agreed upon.

Making the potty humor obvious…

George Szell said:

“if, in concert, none of the audience laughs, then the episode must have been underplayed.”

In other words, this is supposed to be funny. It’s not subtle. You are supposed to laugh, or at least smile.

Don Giovanni

In the fourth movement, the oboe quotes “Viva la libertà” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. But why? When listening to these later symphonies remember that the first appeared around 1891, and Mozart died in December of that year. When Haydn quoted Mozart, it was never stealing. It was always a compliment. The two men were extremely close friends, and Haydn was emotionally hit very hard with Mozart’s early death. In the last movement much of the writing is so much like Mozart that if I had heard this without knowing who wrote it I would likely have guessed Mozart, not Haydn. The reason is not accidental. There are several places where he actually channeled Mozart’s signature phrases and motifs. If it were not so obviously on purpose it would make Haydn here a cheap copy of Mozart. Instead it all works brilliantly, and Mozart, if he had been alive to hear this, would have smiled or laughed in pleasure.

5 thoughts on “1791: Haydn: Symphony No. 93 (“FART”) in D major

  1. It’s rare I can stay interested in a video or song for such a long time. Yet, Haydn knows how to keep me interested. Nice cheerfull and mellow music only to then subvert your expectations with the bassoon popping in out of left field is some real funny and entertaining stuff. I love it when a serious pianist can still find a way to be so lighthearted and fun.

  2. The unexpected element of surprise by the bassoon in the midst of such sweet, lighthearted music is priceless. How could you not react? Haydn must have had a great sense of humor.

  3. I simply enjoyed the cheery nature of the music. I listened to it while out walking on a perfect fall day with a hint of summer in my northern climes. The bassoon – I had forgotten about it by the time it came, and it was more like a “what?!” since it comes from nowhere and disappears.

  4. Potty humor. gotta love it!

    There are piano passages in Haydn piano quartets and trios that I swear could’ve come from Wolfie’s pen. There are stories that they played in the Vienna town square on Sundays, dunno how often… but I’ve read somewhere that they did play chamber music together at times.

Leave a Reply