Movement 1: Allegro moderato
Movement 2: Scherzando: Allegro
Movement 2: Scherzo: Allegro di molto
Movement 3: Andante
Movement 4: Presto
As in Op 33 Nos 2, 3 and 4, Haydn deemed that a broadly paced opening movement was better followed by a minuet/scherzo rather than an even slower movement. (The 1782 Amsterdam edition published by Joseph Schmitt also places the scherzos of Nos 5 and 6 second, before their slow movements.) Marked Allegro di molto, the Scherzo of No 1 is the fastest and most astringent of the set, leaving its distant aristocratic minuet model gasping. Its main section, with its stinging imitations, manic repeated notes from the first violin (determined to pursue its own course) and explosive dynamic contrasts, surely impressed the young Beethoven. The B major trio brings harmonic balm with suave duetting between the upper and lower pairs of instruments.
Whereas most of the slow movements in Op 33 are reveries, the D major Andante of No 1 retains something of the scherzando flavour of the second movement. The main motor of the musical action is the strutting arpeggio theme announced by the first violin, with its faintly comical air of self-importance. Then, in an instance of role reversal that is one of the hallmarks of Op 33, the cello takes over the theme before the first violin firmly but gracefully reasserts its pre-eminence. There is a chromatically piquant second theme, played in bare octaves by viola and cello (Mozart would never have permitted himself this kind of textural rawness) and repeated by the two violins. This leads to a melting cadence over a cello pedal that Mendelssohn may have remembered in the minuet of his ‘Italian’ Symphony. The whole movement exudes a typically Haydnesque mix of lyrical grace and edgy eccentricity.
Edginess is also a keynote of the finale, which contrasts a darkly agitated main theme on the violin’s deep G string with fevered, gypsy-style figuration. Both elements are worked in tense imitation in the development. Most late Haydn finales that begin in the minor resolve cheerfully into the major. Here, though, the recapitulation cleaves to B minor right through to a laconic coda that condenses and distorts the main theme.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2013