No 48, although written in 1769, was used (as were two of Haydn’s operas composed for the occasion, L’infedeltà delusa and the puppet opera Philomen und Baucis) in 1773 to welcome the widowed Empress Maria Theresia to Eszterháza, hence its nickname. And very worthy for an imperial occasion it is, with its pomp and splendour evident from the opening bars. Yet Haydn does not resort to mere fanfare-like formulae to convey a festive spirit—this first movement is in fact particularly complex, with a wealth of different themes, an often wayward sense of tonality, and a vigour to the development section that suggests the Sturm und Drang works are not far away. The F major Adagio is more restrained, with muted violins and more solo opportunities for the oboes and horn. Its structure is a sonata form in its simplest manifestation, with in each half a rather detached theme in decorated quaver movement gradually giving way to the second accompanied by undulating triplet figuration. The Minuet reasserts C major in all its pomp, while the C minor of the trio makes a half-hearted attempt at introducing a little sense of foreboding. The finale, dominated almost throughout by vigorous quaver movement, provides a fitting conclusion to this, one of Haydn’s most unbridled symphonies.
from notes by Matthew Rye © 1991