Symphonies Nos 90 and 91 were composed one after the other in 1788. While all three symphonies recorded here open with a slow introduction, No 90 is unique among them in the way the ensuing Allegro takes up, more or less intact, the main melodic idea of the Adagio. The Allegro’s secondary theme is given to the flute, then the oboe, and shows Haydn’s writing for the woodwind already looking forward to the later London works. The slow movement is in one of Haydn’s favourite forms, that of double variation. A melody in F major alternates in an A–B–A–B–A pattern with a contrasting one in F minor. There follows a rather French-sounding Menuet (Haydn even uses the French title) with a delicately scored trio section. In the sonata-form finale the same idea furnishes both the first and second subject groups, the contrast being provided by texture and key. Key itself plays an important part in the remarkable ending to the movement. An extended recapitulation in C major culminates in what, to all intents and purposes, sounds like a resolute conclusion. But Haydn has a trick up his sleeve. He gives the whole orchestra four bars rest then takes up fragments of the main theme a semitone higher, in D flat major, and spends a lengthy coda bringing the music back soundly to C again.
from notes by Matthew Rye © 1991