Movement 1: Adagio – Vivace assai
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio: Allegretto
Movement 4: Finale: Vivace
Repeated emphasis on the introduction’s alien C flat gives a tangy, chromatic flavour to the Vivace assai’s sweeping tuttis. Most striking, though, is the way the popular-style second subject, breezing in like an afterthought, gradually usurps the musical narrative. After dominating the development (which slips almost immediately to C major), it virtually crowds out the main theme from the recapitulation, generating one of those exhilarating expansions that led Tovey, rather misleadingly, to equate Haydn’s recapitulations with Beethoven’s codas.
‘The effect of the wind instruments in the second movement was enchanting’, wrote the Morning Chronicle, a reference to the beautiful contrapuntal elaboration of the opening theme by flute, oboes and bassoon. Set in the luminous, ‘third-related’ key of G major, this is music at once tender and exalted, with a dramatic, even anguished, development and a recapitulation that works the serene second theme to a disturbing climax replete with military-style fanfares. The powerfully symphonic minuet continues the work’s ‘mediant’ tendency by setting its wistful Ländler trio in C major. Clarinets then oversee a subtle lead-back to the E flat of the minuet. The finale, initiated by another irresistibly catchy tune, is a tour de force of kaleidoscopic orchestral colouring (the ‘second subject’ fragments the melody between instruments, like a comical mini-concerto for orchestra) and contrapuntal brilliance. The young Beethoven, who learnt far more from Haydn than he ever admitted, was so impressed with the scintillating fugato at the centre of the movement that he copied it out for study.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009