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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDH55119
Recording details: February 1992
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: January 1993
Total duration: 26 minutes 5 seconds

'If you lack a top-class set of these middle-period symphonies, buy these discs and make good the gap' (Early Music Review)

Symphony No 49 in F minor 'La Passione'

Adagio  [11'16]
Allegro di molto  [6'17]
Menuet  [5'29]
Finale: Presto  [3'03]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Symphony No 49, despite its number, is the earliest of the three recorded here, dating from 1768. It indeed marks something of a watershed in Haydn’s symphonic development, combining a relatively antiquated form—that of the church sonata—with, for its time, a particularly modern emotional content. Its form (resulting in the usual fast first movement and slow movement changing places) and nickname, ‘La Passione’ (‘The Passion’), suggest it was intended for church performance during Lent—probably Good Friday itself—when secular music was largely banished from the court.

Yet, for all its publicly expressed emotion, this symphony (together with the contemporary No 26, similarly a ‘church sonata’-form Passiontide work) has long been recognized as an example of Haydn’s so-called Sturm und Drang (‘storm and stress’) works. The Sturm und Drang movement in German literature was in effect an early manifestation of the romanticism that would dominate European culture during the following century. Its theatrical works did not, however, reach Eszterháza (where they became very popular) for some ten years after Haydn’s series of minor-key works to which the expression stuck, showing how, despite his seeming cultural isolation, he nevertheless managed in an unconscious way to keep ‘in tune’ with the times.

All four movements of ‘La Passione’ are in F minor, the only relief being the Minuet’s F major trio. Within the movements, too, the tonal range is comparatively restricted: the relative major, A flat, is called upon fairly frequently, but otherwise the keys used are only those most closely related to F, such as C, D flat and E flat. The slow yet inexorable tread of the opening movement suggests a vision of the Via Crucis, while the following ‘Allegro di molto’ really seems to take up the cudgels, with violin leaps over hurtling quavers in the oboes and lower strings and a rhythmic drive forever pushing the music onwards. After the stern Minuet, the ‘Presto’ brings to a close one of Haydn’s darkest and most austere symphonies, a work of such—literal—passion that one cannot help but feel the grief expressed is more personal than collective.

from notes by Matthew Rye © 1991

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