Hyperion Records

Symphony No 103 in E flat major 'Drumroll'
first performed on 2 March 1795

'Haydn: The London Symphonies' (CDS44371/4)
Haydn: The London Symphonies
Buy by post £22.00 CDS44371/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Movement 1: Adagio – Allegro con spirito
Track 5 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [8'27] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 2: Andante più tosto Allegretto
Track 6 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [9'36] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio
Track 7 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [4'41] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro con spirito
Track 8 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [5'29] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Symphony No 103 in E flat major 'Drumroll'
‘The introduction excited deepest attention’, wrote the Morning Chronicle after No 103’s premiere on 2 March. With its initial timpani roll and its sepulchral theme on cellos, basses and bassoons (shades here of the Dies irae chant), this is the most mysterious, portentous symphonic opening before Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ and Beethoven’s Ninth. Haydn then proceeds to integrate the introduction systematically into the 6/8 Allegro con spirito. A fragment of the Dies irae theme flits by, transmuted into a blithe dance, just before the Ländler-ish second subject. At the heart of the development, after a grand pause, it makes a more theatrical appearance in its original deep bass register, like a spectre at the feast. Then, near the end of the movement, a series of apocalyptic orchestral crashes heralds another dramatic pause and a return of the introduction, complete with drumroll, in its original Adagio tempo. This is finally banished by the Dies irae theme in its dance transformation: at once a gleeful parody and a reinforcement of the symbiotic link between introduction and Allegro.

For his not-so-slow movement (Andante più tosto Allegretto) Haydn writes a set of ‘double’ variations on two related tunes, one in C minor, the other in C major, and both derived from Croatian folk melodies. Haydn gave the C major tune a more exotic gypsy flavour by raising its F naturals to F sharps, in the process aligning it more closely with the C minor tune. After the second major-keyed variation, beginning as delectable ‘toy soldier’ music and ending as an imperious march, a nostalgic reminiscence of the C major theme suggests a final envoi. Haydn, though, suddenly veers into E flat—the main key of the symphony—for a dramatic, modulating coda.

The swaggering minuet exploits and transfigures a traditional Austrian yodel, while the trio features graceful arabesques for clarinets, doubled by the strings (mindful, perhaps, of the limitations of his London players, Haydn tends to use the clarinets cautiously in these symphonies). Like the last movement of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’, the finale is designed as a true symphonic apotheosis. In a compositional feat extraordinary even by his standards, Haydn creates a movement of thrilling harmonic and contrapuntal drama from the bare minimum of material: merely a traditional horn call and a snatch of Croatian folksong.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009

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