Haydn’s Symphony No. 96 acquired the soubriquet ‘The Miracle’ through an unfortunate, and enduring, misunderstanding. The Viennese landscape-painter, Albert Christoph Dies (1755–1822), in his reported conversations with Haydn, states:
When Haydn appeared in the orchestra [...] the curious audience in the parterre left their seats and crowded towards the orchestra the better to see the famous Haydn quite close. The seats in the middle of the floor were thus empty, and hardly were they empty when the great chandelier crashed down and broke into bits, throwing the numerous gathering into the greatest consternation. As soon as the first moment of fright was over and those who had pressed forward could think of the danger they had luckily escaped and find words to express it, several persons uttered the state of their feelings with loud cries of “Miracle! Miracle!”.
Later commentators, following Dies, have incorrectly ascribing this particular miracle to the first performance of Symphony No. 96 – which actually took place on 11 March 1791 – and the name has stuck. The same story, as related in the London newspapers, correctly dates the event to 2 February 1795 during Haydn’s second London season, at the performance of Symphony No. 102: