Movement 1: Adagio – Presto
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Menuetto – Trio: Allegretto
Movement 4: Finale: Vivace
‘Nothing can be more original than the subject of the first movement’, enthused the Morning Chronicle after No 101’s premiere; ‘and having found a happy subject, no man knows like HAYDN how to produce incessant variety without once departing from it.’ As usual in the ‘London’ symphonies, the motivic seeds are sown in the slow introduction, which prefigures the 6/8 Presto’s ‘happy’ (and teasingly irregular) subject in D minor. Again, though, it is the second subject—a playful, sinuous tune, closely akin to the first—that controls the plot, both in the development and in another of Haydn’s gloriously unpredictable, expanding recapitulations.
Such is the symphonic weight and grandeur of the minuet, the longest in a Haydn symphony, that it comes as a surprise to learn that it was adapted from a minuet he had composed for mechanical organ. The trio’s pointedly naïve flute solo is accompanied by a notorious ‘wrong harmony’ joke which the strings then rectify on the repeat. Nineteenth-century editors with a musical humour bypass thought the joke must be a misprint and duly ‘corrected’ it. Opening with a mellow, songful theme, the finale is a sonata rondo at once intensely concentrated (much of the action is fuelled by its first three notes) and exhilaratingly free in design. After a ferocious ‘developing’ episode in D minor, the key of the symphony’s slow introduction, the recapitulation takes the form of a shimmering pianissimo fugato that Mendelssohn surely remembered in his Octet.
from notes by Richard Wigmore © 2009