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The Farewell Symphony Hardcover – July 1, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
In this intriguing history lesson for music lovers, Prince Nicholas of Austria forbids his musicians from bringing their families to Estherh za, his summer palace in the Hungarian countryside. The court musicians under composer and royal music director Joseph Haydn's care grow increasingly homesick and restless, particularly when the prince extends his stay well into the autumn of 1772. "It will take a great deal of cleverness and tact to influence the prince," says Haydn. His solution: to compose a new symphony as a way of conveying the musicians' emotions to his employer. The real story behind Haydn's famous Symphony No. 45 (in F minor)Atracing the underlying moods that accompany each movement and ending with the musicians leaving the stage one by oneAwill likely make attentive listeners of its readers, as they gain a newfound appreciation for music's simultaneous subtlety and power (a CD recording is included). And if Celenza tweaks history by investing the characters with thoughts and emotions of her own devising (e.g., upon hearing the "explosive chords" and "surging melodies" of the "angry" first movement, the prince senses "the musicians' frustration over having to remain at Esterh za"), her interpretation of the events is plausible. Kitchel's (The Heart of a Friendship) brightly bordered watercolors verge on the simplistic, particularly the cartoonish features of the characters, but include plenty of historical detail. Ages 4-9. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 2-4-Celenza's story is a delightful introduction to Joseph Haydn, his "Farewell Symphony," and 18th-century court life. The composer asks Prince Nicholas if the homesick musicians might invite their families to join them at the summer palace in Hungary, and the answer is an emphatic and angry no. When the stay extends into late fall, the musicians again appeal to their royal music director, this time to convince the prince to return to Austria. Since words again fail to persuade him, Haydn decides to try music. His Symphony in F-sharp minor reflects the musicians' anger, sadness, and frustration, and finally moves Nicholas to return home. Based on true events, the story is well told and suitably illustrated with striking watercolor-and-ink cartoons with simple lines and exaggerated characterizations that convincingly convey a sense of the excess and finery of the period. The white-wigged musicians are bathed in fiery crimson as they play the angry first movement and the tearful prince is covered in a wash of blue during the sorrowful second passage. There are notes on both 18th-century symphonic form and instruments as well as on the events and personalities in the story. An entertaining musical history and a well-produced package.
Louise L. Sherman, Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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English is not my main language, but I do consider myself to be sufficiently fluent to have a say on matters of language: It strikes me that this book perhaps uses language that may be a bit too lofty for Amazon's recommended audience of 4-8 years; certainly the lower spectrum probably will not be able to properly grasp it.
The following cd has a recording of the Farewell symphony, as well of the "Horn signal" symphony, no. 31. Both of these recordings are of solid quality, and certainly improves the value of the book for anyone who hasn't already got an exhaustive collection of Haydn's symphonies. A very minor point, however, is that the Horn Signal is put first on the cd. While this is stated on the front of the cd it is a counter-intuitive solution, and it is bound to happen that someone not familiar with the works will be puzzled by why the first movement of the Horn signal symphony is described as "angry".
These are minor quibbles, though. If I am correct that the language used may be a bit too much for Amazon's suggested age group, that shouldn't be a problem for most; children do, as we all know, have a tendency to grow. I highly recommend this book, then, for anyone wanting to expose their own or other's children to the world of classical music. The music of the Farewell symphony I would think is supremely appropriate for this: It is intense, but not overpowering, of appropriate length and proportion, and is, finally, an acclaimed masterwork. And Celenza has certainly done a commendable job describing it for anyone not yet ready to take on James Webster's book on the subject. :)