Hyperion Records

Symphony No 94 in G major 'Surprise'
composer
first performed on 23 March 1792

Recordings
'Haydn: Symphonies Nos 93-95' (CDH55126)
Haydn: Symphonies Nos 93-95
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55126  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining  
'Haydn: The London Symphonies' (CDS44371/4)
Haydn: The London Symphonies
Buy by post £22.00 CDS44371/4  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1' (HYP12)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1
HYP12  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
Details
Movement 1: Adagio – Vivace assai
Track 5 on CDS44371/4 CD1 [8'54] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 5 on CDH55126 [8'36] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
Movement 2: Andante
Track 6 on CDS44371/4 CD1 [6'07] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 6 on CDH55126 [6'11] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio: Allegro molto
Track 7 on CDS44371/4 CD1 [4'41] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 7 on CDH55126 [4'35] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
Movement 4: Finale: Allegro di molto
Track 8 on CDS44371/4 CD1 [4'06] 4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 8 on CDH55126 [3'54] Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
Track 12 on HYP12 [3'54] Super-budget price sampler — Deleted

Symphony No 94 in G major 'Surprise'
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Premiered in Salomon’s concert on 23 March 1792, Symphony No 94 was the sensation of the season, thanks above all to the fortissimo chord that disrupts the pointedly naïve theme of the Andante. (In German-speaking countries the ‘Surprise’ is known as Die Sinfonie mit dem Paukenschlag—‘with the timpani crash’.) Haydn had added this as an afterthought, allegedly remarking to the composer Adalbert Gyrowetz, who had visited him while he was composing the symphony, that ‘there the [sleeping] ladies will jump’. A London newspaper, The Oracle, put it rather more poetically: ‘The surprise might not unaptly be likened to the situation of a beautiful Shepherdess who, lulled to slumber by the murmur of a distant Waterfall, starts alarmed by the unexpected firing of a fowling-piece.’ However you hear this big bang, the variations that Haydn weaves on his nursery tune are delightfully inventive, encompassing a turbulent ‘developing’ variation in C minor, an ethereal descant for flute and oboe, and a coda that transfigures the theme with dusky harmonies over a sustained horn pedal.

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

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for CDA66532 track 5
Adagio – Vivace assai
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-93-53205
Duration
8'36
Recording date
23 September 1992
Recording venue
Watford Town Hall, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: Symphonies Nos 93-95 (CDA66532)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: March 1993
    Deletion date: June 2003
    Superseded by CDH55126
  2. Haydn: Symphonies Nos 93-95 (CDH55126)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: June 2003
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label) — Last few CD copies remaining
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