Hyperion Records

Symphony No 104 in D major 'London'
first performed on 4 May 1795

'Haydn: The London Symphonies' (CDS44371/4)
Haydn: The London Symphonies
MP3 £20.00FLAC £20.00ALAC £20.00Buy by post £22.00 CDS44371/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Movement 1: Adagio – Allegro
Track 9 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [8'43] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 2: Andante
Track 10 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [7'40] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio: Allegro
Track 11 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [4'55] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Movement 4: Finale: Spiritoso
Track 12 on CDS44371/4 CD4 [6'43] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Symphony No 104 in D major 'London'
Haydn’s last symphony, No 104, was premiered to the usual ecstatic acclaim at the benefit concert on 4 May 1795 that brought him the colossal sum of four thousand gulden. (‘Such a thing is only possible in England’, he recorded in his notebook.) Whether or not he intended the work as his symphonic testament, its mingled grandeur and earthy vigour, argumentative power and visionary poetry make it a glorious final summation.

One of the more plausible explanations as to why this, of all the last twelve symphonies, became known as the ‘London’ is that the main theme of the finale reminded listeners of a London street-cry to the words ‘Live cod!’. The slow introduction of the ‘Drumroll’ might have seemed an impossible act to follow. Yet No 104’s D minor opening rivals it in tension and mystery, evoking a cosmic vastness within its two-minute time frame. The Allegro resolves minor into major with a heart-easing melody. This tune returns, varied, as a ‘second subject’; and there is another delightful variation, airily scored for flute and oboes, at the beginning of the recapitulation. The magnificent development is perhaps the most powerful and rigorous in all Haydn’s symphonies, worrying obsessively at a six-note fragment of the theme and building inexorably to a climax of white-hot intensity.

The tranquil opening of the G major Andante is deceptive. The second half of the melody expands with an unsuspected breadth and profundity, while the ferocity of the G minor central episode eclipses even the comparable outburst in the Andante of the ‘Clock’. But the apotheosis comes after the varied reprise of the opening tune, where the music floats towards unearthly tonal regions before slipping magically back to the home key. The final bars, as so often in these late slow movements, are suffused with a nostalgic, valedictory glow.

The boisterous minuet trades on aggressive offbeat accents and rude dynamic contrasts. There is a typical Haydnesque joke when the laughing trill that ends the first half later breaks off for two bars of silence and then re-enters in a conspiratorial piano. After all this fooling Haydn begins the pastoral trio with a more subtle joke, feinting at D minor before opting for a more remote key, B flat major. While the finale’s main theme, announced over a rustic drone, evoked ‘Live cod!’ to early London audiences, its origin has also been traced to a Croatian folk tune. Offsetting the swashbuckling energy is a yearning contrasting theme in sustained notes, of a kind unique in Haydn’s finales. This melody reappears near the end of the development, where it seems to become hypnotized. Then, with a breathtaking harmonic sideslip, the recapitulation takes us unawares—perhaps the subtlest transition in all Haydn, at once witty and poignant. True to form, the composer continues to mine the potential of the opening folk tune, right through to an incandescent coda which Brahms—a fervent champion of Haydn’s music—was to remember in the finale of his own D major symphony, No 2.

from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDS44371/4 disc 4 track 12
Finale: Spiritoso
Recording date
1 September 2008
Recording venue
Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland
Recording producer
Ben Connellan
Recording engineer
Michael Rast
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: The London Symphonies (CDS44371/4)
    Disc 4 Track 12
    Release date: February 2009
    4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
   English   Français   Deutsch