From Haydn: A Paris Symphony Fit for a Queen
It’s said that Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 in Bb was the favorite of Queen Marie Antoinette.
Alas, the queen did not live that much longer, given the tumultuous events that would engulf France just a few years after the symphony’s premier in Paris in 1787.
However Franz Joseph Haydn’s music has endured, and this evening on Symphony @ 7, we have ample proof of his enduring popularity with a new recording of the Paris Symphony known as La Reine (the Queen).
The 6 Paris Symphonies (Nos. 82-87), as they’ve come to be called, were commissioned for concerts in that city, and along with the 12 London Symphonies (Nos.93-104) from a few years later, are generally considered the composer’s greatest. These works come relatively late in Haydn’s life and show the full development of his skill in symphonic writing in a genre he helped create.
All six of the Paris Symphonies were performed in the 1787 concert season of the “Concert de la Loge Olympique.” A couple of things heard by the queen may have led to this becoming her favorite of the group: the slow movement is a set of variations on a French folk song, and the Minuet with its distinctly Austrian-sounding Trio may have particularly delighted her, since she was a native Austrian. But with the sunny opening movement and lively Finale, Symphony No. 85 is a royally entertaining piece no matter how you look at it.
Join me this evening for some grand music-making from the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra led by Harry Christophers on Symphony @ 7. In the meantime there’s this: