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The Toy Symphony (full title: Cassation in G major for toys, 2 oboes, 2 horns, strings and continuo) is a musical work with parts for toy instruments and is popularly played at Christmas.
It was long reputed to be the work of Joseph Haydn, but later scholarship suggested that it was actually written by Leopold Mozart. Its authorship is still disputed, however, and other composers have been proposed as the symphony's true author. The symphony did not appear in published form until 1820. In the first edition the composer was given as Haydn with no further identification. From that time it was assumed that Haydn was the composer of this seven-minute, three movement homotonal symphony which calls for toys, a trumpet, ratchet, nightingale, cuckoo and drum. A fanciful story was concocted in which Haydn composed this work after purchasing several toys at a fair, and then performed the result at Eszterháza for delighted children at a Christmas party. By the 1930s scholars began to doubt that this tale was truthful, as no such work appears in the exhaustive Entwurf-Katalog Haydn himself compiled of his own compositions.
The identity of the true composer of the Toy Symphony seemed clinched with the discovery of the work in its three-movement form in a manuscript copied by Leopold Mozart in 1759. This was supported by the existence of a similar work (also once believed to be Leopold Mozart's) The Musical Sleigh-Ride, which calls for a cracking whip, sleigh bells and other sound effects that resemble those in the Toy Symphony. However, the accuracy of the Leopold Mozart attribution was called into question as it became clear that even The Musical Sleigh-Ride was probably not Leopold's work; he was an avid copyist who made exemplars of dozens of pieces by hand.
The best research indicates that the Toy Symphony is not even a symphony as such; its three movements are most probably compiled from one or even several toy cassations (i.e. divertimenti)—long, multi-movement works that were written in the 1750s and 1760s in and around the city of Berchtesgaden, a major manufacturer of toy musical instruments. Both professional and amateur composers wrote these pieces, and existing sources are not clear if much of this literature can be safely ascribed to any composers of note, let alone such 'magic' Classical-era names as those of the Mozarts or the Haydns.
Recent research on a newly found manuscript suggests the Austrian benedictine monk Edmund Angerer (1740–1794) to be the author. If Angerer's manuscript is the original, the Toy Symphony was originally written not in G but rather in C, These findings, however, are disputed among scholars. There is reason to believe that the true composer will likely never be known, in whole or in part, given its confused origins and the paucity of related manuscript sources.
- p. 201, Ewen (1965) David. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey The Complete Book of Classical Music Prentice-Hall
- See title page, including incipit in staff notation, at http://www.musikland-tirol.at/images/notenberchtoldsgadenmusiktable50.jpg (last visited 2010-09-03).
- Who Composed the "Toy Symphony" known all over the World? (German and English)