Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Symphony No. 45 (Haydn)

Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 45, known as the Farewell was written in 1772. It is in the key of F sharp minor, and is one of Haydn's better known works from this period.

The piece is written for two oboes, a bassoon, two French horns, and strings (violins divided into two, violas, cellos and double basses). As is usual for symphonies, it is in four movements:

  1. Allegro assai
  2. Adagio
  3. Menuetto: Allegretto
  4. Presto - Adagio

It was written for Haydn's patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, while he, Haydn and the court orchestra were at the Prince's summer residence in Eszterhaza. The stay there had been longer than expected, and most of the musicians had been forced to leave their wives back at home in Eisenstadt, so in the last movement of the symphony, Haydn subtly hint to his patron that perhaps he might like to allow the musicians to return home: during the final adagio each musician stops playing, snuffs out the candle on their music stand, and leaves in turn, so that at the end, there are just two muted violins left (played by Haydn himself and the concertmaster, Alois Luigi Tomasini). Esterházy apparently got the message: the court returned to Eisenstadt the day following the performance.

The first movement of the work is a turbulent affair in F sharp minor, an extremely unusual key to use at the time of the work. It opens a manner typical of Haydn's Sturm und Drang period, with descending minor arpeggios in the first violins against syncopated notes in the second violins and held chords in the winds. The movement can be explained structurally in terms of sonata form, but it departs from the standard model in a number of ways (just before the recapitualtion, for example, new material is introduced, which might have been used as the second subject in the exposition in a more conventional work).

The second, slow, movement in A major and the minuet in F sharp major are a little more settled. The finale begins in conventional fashion in the home key of F sharp minor, but then breaks off in favour of a slow A major ending in 3/8 time, during which the musicians take their leave.

A typical performance of the piece lasts around twenty-five minutes.

Further reading