Monday, 11 August 2008

142. Joseph Haydn - Symphony no.83, "La Poule" (1785)


Title: Symphonies Nos. 82-87, The Paris Symphonies
Performers: Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
Director: Adam Fischer
Year: 1992
Length: 25 minutes


This is one of the funnest of Haydn's Symphonies, and having become known as the "Chicken" Symphony gives you an idea why, the first movement has a second theme that sounds pretty much chickeny, in a very abstract way, of course, it doesn't sound like clucking, but it does bring to mind a chicken walking about.

Although this is the most obvious characteristic of the piece, it is by no means the only one, the other theme of the first movement if great, and the rest of the symphony holds its own pretty well. None of it holds up to the first movement, however.

As an example of Haydn's sense of humour there are few better pieces. And for a genre of music which is sometimes thought of as stuffy and not-humorous this does good job of dispelling that idea.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Parisians had long been familiar with Haydn's symphonies, which were being printed in Paris as early as 1764. H. C. Robbins Landon writes "All during the early 1780's Haydn's symphonies were performed at the vairous Parisian concerts with unvarying success, and numerous publishing houses -- among them Guera in Lyon, Siber, Boyer, Le Duc and Imbault in Paris, etc. -- issued every new symphonic work by Haydn as soon as they could lay hands on a copy."

The work was composed for a large Parisian orchestra called "Le Concert de la loge 'Olympique'" (Orchestra of the 'Olympic' (Masonic) Lodge). This organization consisted in part of professionals and in part of skilled amateurs. It included 40 violins and ten double basses, an extraordinary size of orchestra for the time. (Haydn's own ensemble at Eszterháza was never larger than about 25 total.) According to Robbins Landon, "the musicians wore splendid 'sky-blue' dress coats with elaborate lace ruffles, and swords at their sides." They performed in a large theater with boxes in tiers. The performances were patronized by royalty, including Queen Marie Antoinette, who particularly enjoyed the Symphony No 85, giving rise to its nickname.

The individual responsible for commissioning the symphonies from Haydn was Claude-François-Marie Rigolet, Comte d'Ogny (i.e., count of Ogny), an aristocrat still in his twenties (his life dates were 1757-1790). The Count, who was the "Intendant Général des Postes" (postal service superintendent), grew up in a very musical household, where his father kept a great collection of musical manuscripts. Patronage of music may have been an extravagance for the Count, since at his death he left a huge debt of 100,000 livres.

The actual negotiations with Haydn were carried out at Ogny's request by Joseph Boulogne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the talented leader of the Loge Olympique orchestra. Haydn was paid 25 louis d'or for each symphony plus 5 louis for the French publication rights; the sum was apparently very satisfactory from Haydn's point of view, since the lack of copyright laws had generally prevented him from profiting much from his popularity as a composer.

Here's the first movement, unfortunately the quality isn't amazing:


William J. Zick said...

A lengthy account of the life and music of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) incorporates the findings of the latest documentary biographies and can be found at, dedicated to African Heritage in Classical Music. A dozen brief audio samples of the compositions of Saint-Georges can be heard at the website's Audio page. Dozens of CDs of his music are available.

Francisco Silva said...

William Zick: Very interesting website/blog you have there, added it to my bookmarks, thank you.