Haydn Joseph. Symphony No. 92, Oxford
July 1791 – the date and time of the event were precisely agreed upon in advance. But it so happened that Franz Joseph Haydn, the legislator of the Vienna Classical School, was late. After all, today’s the train from London Station to Oxford takes about 60 minutes. And in the days of Haydn, such a journey required many times more time, effort, and obligatory contacts with the local population. At the same time, the composer could not speak the English in their language. I had to change the program on the go.
With the maestro, who had been in England for more than half a year and spent a successful concert season there, it was agreed that he should give three free concerts, performing a completely new, unfamiliar Oxford score. For this role the G-major symphony, which was written three or four years ago for one Parisian graph, came up, who, by the way, did not pay for the order.
So, Joseph Haydn arrived, but there was no time left for the rehearsal before the performance. The main ceremonial hall of the University of Oxford was packed. The ceremony began with exciting, solemn words about the merits of the Austrian composer. It is worth noting that the music of Joseph Haydn overtook his arrival by as much as 18 years (at Oxford, the classics knew, played and exemplified the students since 1773). Then followed the ritual, which was also included in the cost of an honorary doctoral degree – a demonstration of models of skill. Formality, but it was necessary to present something that would confirm the status of an honorary doctor. For the entire biography of Joseph Haydn, they so rarely asked to prove their skills that it was funny for him and not at all insulting. He presented a three-part canon, the sample of which remained to the university for a long memory, as an autograph of a celebrity. The composer will use this music a little bit later in London when he decides to put ten Biblical commandments on the same three-voice canons. Finally, after all the words and rituals, including, of course, putting on the doctoral gown, is the performance, but not yet of the Oxford Symphony. The work was prepared literally in minutes and “stretched” on the skill and charm of a living legend. The fateful historic Oxford Symphony No. 92, with the same notice and excitement, will be played the next day.
In the 18th century, modern philharmonic rules were not respected, and it was not necessary to listen to the symphony in a row without applauding between the parts. The music was perceived vividly, the orchestra was managed rather conditionally, because at that time there could be no talk of any podium and conductor stick. During the performance of the symphony, Joseph Haydn sat at the keyboard of the organ, which was high on the balcony, while the orchestra was located below. The distance was quite significant, so no one paid much attention to the sounds made by the organ. For an educated, well-informed audience, one thing was important: listen to the Oxford symphony from the hands of the creator himself. Moreover, in terms of the creativity and quality of the music being created among the then living English composers, there was no one better than Haydn and was not expected in the near future. It is not surprising that the British were highly appreciated and respected by the Austrian composer. When they put on the mantle on Joseph Haydn, he emotionally cried out: “I thank you!” – the maximum that the then English language allowed the composer.
At Oxford, Joseph Haydn was the star of the season. Respectfully and happily accepting the proposed traditions, the Austrian composer almost immediately became one of the best English traditions. After all, it was here that he was given a ticket to life, or rather, to say eternity.