Haydn’s symphony no. 45, especially the final
-Andante, has been looked at puzzlingly twofold: More recent understandings emphasize the wit and humour of the finale, while reports of the late 18th and early 19th century tend to notice a gloomier, even melancholic tint. This perception here is taken as a starting point for an interpretation of that symphony in terms of the 18th-century notion of melancholy as noble suffering of princes, intellectuals, and artists. Since musical works of melancholy are normally for piano or a soloist to allow for an identification of the player and the melancholic, a symphony leads us to ask anew for the melancholy persona of that orchestral piece. Answers are tried that highlight the respective roles of the orchestra, Haydn, and his most eminent listener, Prince Esterházy, within that game of deciphering melancholy. In addition, the different anecdotes concerning the
-finale are analysed as tokens of an aesthetic irritation that try to tame the bewildering musical language of that symphony by linking it with extra-musical narratives. Finally, the often mentioned pantomimic aspect of the finale is taken into account and is interpreted as an important aspect of Haydn’s effort to produce meaning in the instrumental genres.