Friday, April 1, 2011

The Friday Phonograph

Happy 279th Birthday, "Papa" Haydn!

by Anne French

Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn was born March 31, 1732, and we celebrate his birthday a day late (no April Fooling) on today's Friday Phonograph. Affectionately known as "Papa," Haydn lived until 1809, writing volumes of string quartets, piano trios, piano sonatas, symphonic works, folksong arrangements, and more. He was dubbed "the father of the symphony," was a teacher to Beethoven and friend to Mozart. I have chosen one of the most recognizable of his melodies, the second movement of his String Quartet in C major - "The Emperor" - so called because it was written for the birthday of Austrian Emperor Francis II. The stirring melody was later set to a variety of texts and remains a familiar hymn tune in many churches. In 1922 it was adopted as the German National Anthem, using the original text from 1841. Tragically the Nazis later exploited both the words and music, twisting the sound of music into the sound of evil for many. Post-war Germany stopped using it altogether as a national anthem, but it was reinstated in 1952 using only its inoffensive third stanza text. There is a wealth of information online concerning both the music and the text, but I think "Papa" would not want his music to be silenced by the forces of darkness. I hope you enjoy his wonderful piece, played here by the Kodaly Quartet, as we usher in a new weekend and a new April.

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