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ChildrensPictureBook.info Review

The Farewell Symphony
By Anna Harwell Celenza
Illustrator JoAnn E. Kitchel
Publisher Charlesbridge Publishing

Today’s music magazines often tell us the stories behind the songs we hear played on the radio. We may sometimes forget that there are real stories and real people behind even centuries old classical music. The Farewell Symphony, Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 in F Sharp Minor, has such a story.

Anna Celenze tells the story of a group of musicians working for Prince Nicholas Eszterhazy. Separated from their families for the summer as they accompany the Prince to his summer palace, they request the Prince’s permission for their wives and children to join them for the rest of the summer. The Prince refuses leaving the musicians frustrated but submissive. Summer turns to autumn and the Prince still hasn’t decided to return home from his summer quarters. Haydn worrying that a direct approach will only irritate the Prince, decides to write a symphony that will help the Prince see just how the musicians feel about the whole situation. Thus, the Farewell Symphony is composed, and it is played for the Prince for the very first time. As the Prince listens, he begins to recognize that each movement was written to evoke the different emotions his musicians had been feeling: anger, sadness, and frustration at being treated with contempt. Finally the surprise ending punctuates the message with an exclamation point as each of the musicians in turn leaves the stage. It’s time to go home and the prince finally understands the musicians desire to be with their families.

The Farewell Symphony comes with a CD. It is an excellent way to introduce children to listening for the meaning in music or the emotions the music is meant to evoke. After reading the story, children should be able to understand the Prince’s reactions to the music. They can then listen to the symphony themselves and determine if they respond to the music in the same way.


The Farewell Symphony

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