The Largo that opens Symphony No 91 is a more stately introduction than the more teasing affair of No 90, responding like Mozart and Beethoven to the ‘aristocratic’ nature of E flat major. Yet the Allegro begins in a deceptively simple vein, with its main theme little more than a near-chromatic rising scale played concurrently with a diatonic falling one. As the movement progresses, it becomes clear that this is another of Haydn’s monothematic creations: the chromatic idea is rarely absent and distinctions between ‘first’ and ‘second’ subjects are somewhat blurred, with the most obvious contrasting theme appearing in a tonally transitional context. As in No 90, the slow movement is in variation form with contrasting sections in B flat major and minor, though here the latter forms a ‘one off’ centrepiece. The minuet and trio are followed by another monothematic sonata-form finale.
from notes by Matthew Rye © 1991