Mr. Peabody Says:
This is a famous one. With two horns and two English horns, it is unique. There is also quite an interesting story behind it. This time we actually know when Haydn wrote it. Start here for some amazing horn playing and a lot of energy: Finale – Presto 2:50
Giovanni Antonini/Il Giardino Armonico, live
- Adagio 7:45 (0:00-7:45)
- Presto 4:10 (7:54-)12:04
- Menuet e Trio 2:27 (12:09-14:36)
- Finale – Presto 2:50 (14:40-17:30)
Total time: 17:12
- two cors anglais (English horns)
- two horns
- and strings
The use of the English horn in place of the oboe is unusual for this time, and writing for only strings, two English horns and two horns is unique.
The composition date of 1764 appears on the autograph manuscript, which survives.
The name “the Philosopher” is not on the original manuscript and may not have come from Haydn himself. “Le Philosoph” appears on a manuscript copy of the symphony found in Modena dated 1790; thus the nickname dates from the composer’s own lifetime.
The title is thought to derive from the melody and counterpoint of the first movement (between the horns and English horns), which musically allude to a question followed by an answer and paralleling the disputation system of debate. The piece’s use of a muted tick-tock effect also evokes the image of a philosopher deep in thought while time passes by.
All of the movements are in the same key, which is rather unusual for Haydn, although a “church sonata” often did this, and this pattern of slow fast, slow fast fits the model
This is yet another fast movement that certainly has the charm of Mozart and the energy of early Beethoven.
This is just a charming, short minuet. My present impression is that over time minuets got faster, and this may have been how Beethoven got to writing scherzos, which just took this acceleration to a whole other level.
This is an absolutely virtuoso use of two horns.
Haydn composed the work during his tenure as Vice-Kapellmeister at the court of Prince Nicolaus Esterházy. As Vice-Kapellmeister Haydn was in charge of all but religious music in the Esterházy household; in particular he was the leader of the orchestra and was expected to compose symphonies for it to perform.
This ensemble numbered about fifteen players. The intended audience (except on special occasions such as the Prince’s name day) consisted only of the Prince and his guests; thus:
“very often Haydn’s orchestra would have outnumbered the listeners.”
The first performance venue may have been what is today called the “Haydnsaal”, a large hall at the family palace in Eisenstadt “having a very resonant acoustic”. Other candidates were somewhat smaller halls in the other primary Esterházy palaces, at Vienna and Kittsee.