The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1
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Movement 1: Adagio – Vivace assai
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio: Allegro molto
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro di molto
In the eighteenth century G major was the pastoral key par excellence. And both the first movement and the minuet share the Andante’s bucolic associations. Typically, though, alfresco vigour is allied to a concentrated complexity of argument. In the first movement the floating repeated notes and rising chromatic lines of the slow introduction become vital ingredients in the bouncy 6/8 Vivace assai. This initially pretends it is in A minor rather than G major, an ambiguity that Haydn exploits throughout the movement, above all at the nonchalant start of the recapitulation. Only towards the end of the recapitulation, after what is in effect an intensive second development, is the fragile main theme allowed to reach a rounded conclusion. As the reviewer in the Morning Herald aptly remarked, ‘the subject … was remarkably simple, but extended to vast complication’.
The Allegro molto minuet is the fastest and lustiest in all Haydn’s symphonies, a rustic German dance complete with ‘oompah’ accompaniment—though, characteristically, the second part becomes more involved, with its irregular phrases, casual touches of counterpoint and recurrent three-note figure. The delicate trio features the favourite Haydnesque colouring of violins shadowed at the octave by bassoon. By now Haydn was renowned for the coruscating brilliance of his finales. But this one, a sonata-rondo launched by one of his catchiest tunes, arguably surpasses all his symphonic finales to date in its virtuoso handling of the orchestra, its harmonic drama and its comic brio. The timpani roll that batters the music into the alien key of E flat in the coda is a far more potent surprise than the Andante’s famous Paukenschlag, and the kind of coup de théâtre that left its mark on the young Beethoven.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009