The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: On Labor Day, let us celebrate the hard work and cooperation it takes to make and deliver art by listening to the finale of Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony and by thinking of all the different kinds of people and occupations that bring us music. What music do you think best marks Labor Day? Plus, the Karp Family perform its 36th FREE annual Labor Day Concert tonight at 7:30 at the UW. | September 2, 2013

REMINDER: Don’t forget that tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is the 36th annual FREE Karp Family Labor Day concert. Usually the best attended concert of the UW School of Music season, the MUST-HEAR event will this year feature three generations of Karps performing music by George Frideric Handel, Ludwig van Beethoven, John Harbison and Felix Mendelssohn with reading of texts by Shakespeare. For more information, including program notes by Howard Karp,  and details here is a link to a story I posted on Friday:

karps 2008 - 13

By Jacob Stockinger

It’s Labor Day again.

As fans of this blog know from past years, I like to use the occasion to celebrate the hard work that goes into making art – all art, but specifically classical music. The work may seem easy or invisible, but it isn’t.

That means I am talking about not only the composers and the performers – but also the countless people behind the scenes. That means the teachers, the editors and publishers, the stage directors and managers, the lighting people, the sound engineers, the publicists, the administrators, and in opera, the people who design and create sets and costumes, the carpenters and electricians, and so many more.

It means everyone who can claim some credit for music and indeed all the performing arts.

Each year, I also like to ask what piece of music best celebrates Labor Day? You can check past years to see previous choices that have included Aaron Copland (below top) and his “Fanfare for the Common Man”; Frederic Rzewski (below middle) and his mammoth set of piano variations on “The People United Can Never Be Defeated” played by Marc-Andre Hamelin; and Giuseppe Verdi (below bottom), whose “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” seems more and more appropriate, given the widening wealth gap and low wages in this country.

aaron copland

Frederic Rzewski mug

Verdi 2

But this year I thought I would take the wise advice of an old friend and a loyal reader and features the final movement of the Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor, the “Farewell” Symphony by Franz Josef Haydn.

The story, as you may recall, goes that Prince Esterhazy, Haydn’s employer and patron, had kept his palace orchestra in residence for longer than usual and that the musicians wanted to head back to their families in Vienna and elsewhere. (Below is the Esterhazy estate, which you can still visit and where you can still hear concerts.)

WYSO Tour Esterhazy Palace FRASER

So the celebrated Papa Haydn (below) came to the rescue and took up their cause by incorporating it aurally and visually into the “Farewell” Symphony, which has since become of his most beloved and perhaps the mostly frequently performed on his more than 100 symphonies.

During the final movement (in a YouTube video at the bottom), the various instrumentalists get up and leave as the music proceeds until, at the end, there is only one or two violinists are left. They then rise and sometimes leave, allowing their silence to speak loudly.


The prince got the message and let the musicians return home.

Talk about solidarity! The famous composer and the nameless musicians helped each other. Too bad our current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and so many other radically conservative Republicans who want to see a race to the bottom a la Mississippi can’t understand the importance and merits of cooperation and of working together instead of against each other.

Anyway, here is the finale movement, offered here in the recognition and memory of so much hard work in music and the performing arts and in the hope of future cooperation and union solidarity against the selfish big money interests that now increasingly run our government and dictate our lives:


  1. please change my e-mail address to

    Comment by Nelson Flynn — September 4, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  2. I don’t know Dr. Sobaskie and while I have nothing but the highest regard for any Ph.D. from UW-Madison, I think describing Mississippi in the terms you used is more than generous. That state has been the scene of some of the most despicable racial actions in the history of the Republic. Even all that aside, I suspect that it’s current record in the areas you describe are quite likely even worse that you indicated.
    Larry Retzack

    Comment by Larry Retzack — September 2, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

  3. I saw Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony performed last season by the Madison Bach Musicians at the First Unitarian Society’s large Atrium auditorium and it was just superb. I really enjoyed it. Larry Retzack

    Comment by Larry Retzack — September 2, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

  4. As always, I nominate the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from Verdi’s “Nabucco.”

    As for Mississippi, while the dig may be hurtful to Mr. Sobaskie, it is not gratuitous on Labor Day. The condition of labor is strongly linked to the quality of the state. Mississippi has the most people in poverty, the highest unemployment, the lowest median income, the fewest high school graduates, and is ranked worst for elderly health and last as a place to live, among other dreary facts.


    Even before Wisconsin was a state it was born into a progressive tradition as a territory by James Madison’s Northwest Ordinance, which banned slavery, required mandatory public education, and established riparian rights for all on navigable waterways. We don’t want to adopt the ways of Dixie, much as I have loved certain adorable folks from the Magnolia State.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — September 2, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

    • As a former Madisonian, as well as a UW Ph.D., I am more than qualified to point out gratuitous infelicity, ignorance and tastelessness in what I read, and am saddened to observe retired newspapermen from that noble city trash the vulnerable. Good night and good luck.

      Comment by James Sobaskie — September 2, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

      • Dear James,
        Hi again, from a current Madisonian and a fellow UW PhD.
        I am sorry your feelings are hurt and your thoughts are contradicted.
        But this additional comment seems more like name calling and slinging insults rather than offering factual evidence to support your point of view.
        You are really doing exactly what you accuse your critics of doing, while your critics at least offer reasons for their views.
        I would love to read something more substantive from you to tell us that we are indeed wrong.

        Comment by welltemperedear — September 2, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

  5. Excellent choice for excellent reasons! Re Walker, I like John Adams’ ‘Short Ride in a Fast Machine’ — thinking about how quickly he and the Tea Party have torn our state apart, how brief I would like his time in office to be, and my joy at his departure.

    Comment by Susan Fiore — September 2, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    • Hi Susan,
      Well said and with a terrific choice and explanation.
      I agree with your sentiments concerning Scott Walker and state government 1,000 percent.
      How quickly a great state can be diminished, and how very long it will take to put Humpty Dumpty back together again — if ever.
      Enjoy the holiday.

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 2, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  6. Well said, Jake.

    Comment by Ann Boyer — September 2, 2013 @ 7:28 am

    • Hi Ann,
      And thank you for your vote of confidence.
      I trust your instincts and judgment.

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 2, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  7. Jacob,

    While I appreciate your vignettes of my alma mater’s cultural life, as well as your impressions of Wisconsin politics today, I am qualified to say that your gratuitous dig at Mississippi deserved a thoughtful editor’s excision.

    Comment by James Sobaskie — September 2, 2013 @ 5:01 am

    • Hi James,
      Thank you so much for reading and replying.
      I always appreciate new readers and voices, and I don’t recall seeing comments from you before, although I could be mistaken,
      I don’t know what your personal qualifications are to say my inclusion of Mississippi as an example of the Race to the Bottom is wrong and should be cut out, but it sure seems that so many of the surveys I see about health, education and welfare rank that state at or near the bottom.
      And lower taxes or not, more big businesses or not, right-to-work or not, fewer regulations and less consumer protection or not, Republican-run or not — that is not where I want this once great state I came to live in by choice to end up, though it seems we are heading in that direction under our current political leadership.
      So at least for the time being, I guess we must agree to disagree.
      Nonetheless, I wish you a happy Labor Day holiday.

      Comment by welltemperedear — September 2, 2013 @ 9:26 am

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