Movement 1: Allegro
Movement 2: Largo assai
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegretto – Trio
Movement 4: Allegro con brio
The slow movement is in a distant and ethereal E major, though Haydn has softened the blow by ending the first movement in G major. The great trouvaille of this Largo assai is the sudden explosion in its eighth bar on a wholly unexpected chord. In the reprise Haydn manages to cap this moment by filling in the chord with a rapid violin arpeggio; and the theme’s second half is similarly intensified by means of a ‘shuddering’ effect on all four instruments.
Just as the first movement had ended in the major, so Haydn places his minuet in G major, reserving the minor mode for the trio—a reversal of their expected roles. The finale is to end in the major, too, though the continual syncopation of its coda does little to allay the tension of this violent piece. Nor can its renewed emphasis on the notes D and E flat be coincidental—particularly when, as in the first movement, they are hurled forth in a fortissimo outburst at the climax of the development section.
from notes by Misha Donat © 2011