Ooh, Interesting! Fascinating Facts – Haydn and the Miracle

May 19, 2017

When it comes it to fascinating facts, they can come in all shapes and sizes. From the arm wrestling CEO of a major airline to a man attempting to walk across the Niagara Falls, there’s simply no entertainment feat too small for our blog! This week we go way back in time to the 18th century and a popular entertainer has come to town!

It’s 1795 and one of the most popular composers in the country is Joseph Haydn. Since the death of Bach in 1782, it was Haydn who captured the public’s attention with hardly a concert being performed in London that didn’t feature at least one work by the Austrian composer. He finally made the journey across from Vienna in 1790 and had paid repeat visits every couple of years since. It’s fair to say that on the evening of the 2nd February 1795 at the King’s Theatre, London, excitement level was at fever pitch to hear any of his new works.

Haydn was fairly prolific as a composer. During his London residencies, he completed twelve symphonies (numbers 93-104). Naturally being able to see the great man deliver his own works was a huge deal in the city at the time and so it proved when Haydn was directing symphony no. 96 to a rapt crowd. Desperate to get a glimpse of their hero, the wealthy audience members (it was doubtful you’d have been able to afford a ticket if without money) pressed forward towards the orchestra.

This event meant that there was not only a slight crush on these nearest the front but also led to a middle section of the hall being completely empty. When a chandelier fell from the ceiling – right onto this area of empty chairs - it also meant that nobody died. The concert stopped. Those in the crowd shouted, “Miracle! Miracle!” Haydn was so moved by the show of emotion and the fact that around 30 people were lucky to escape with their lives (a few people received minor bruises), that he named No. 96 as ‘The Miracle’.

What a story! And one that was widely believed for over a hundred years.

Alas, later research suggests that although this event genuinely did happen – that music lovers really did surge to the front in much the same way rock fans do now – it wasn’t during the premiere of No. 96, The Miracle at all. This event actually occurred during the premiere of Haydn’s 102nd symphony, which has no such epithet. Perhaps Haydn added ‘The Miracle’ after experiencing the coincidental event at the King’s Theatre in London but nobody really knows. Regardless, it was an amazing thing to occur and was presumably quite the public spectacle!



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By Henry Fosdike