Sometimes the composer’s name is what draws us into the concert hall, even if a particular work is unfamiliar to us. At other times, the music itself outshines its creator. And then there are those works whose authorship remains a mystery, like the Toy Symphony on tonight’s program. The first published version, which appeared in 1820, listed Joseph Haydn – incorrectly – as its composer. How did this happen?
Until the mid-19th century, copyright laws were largely nonexistent. To boost sales, music publishers often deliberately and erroneously attributed works to popular composers. This Toy Symphony – there are others, some written by well-known composers like Felix Mendelssohn – has been attributed to Mozart’s father Leopold, both Haydn and his brother Michael, and an Austrian Benedictine monk/liturgical composer named Edmund Angerer (1740-1794). The latest historical research presents at least four different partial manuscript versions of this Toy Symphony and makes a strong argument for Angerer as its most likely author.
This delightful mini-symphony has three movements – fast, slow, fast – and showcases the toys, particularly the insistent cuckoo and nightingale bird whistles. Other toy instruments featured include the glockenspiel, triangle, drum, and ratchet.
© Elizabeth Schwartz.