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Symphony No 52 in C minor, Hob I:52

composer
early 1770s

 
Though often described as the ‘father of the symphony’, Haydn did not invent the form: rather, he took a budding genre which was already evolving in the mid-eighteenth century from various forms of the orchestral prelude: the operatic overture, and the sinfonia which typically preceded an oratorio were both equally ancestors of the first movement and finale of a typical eighteenth-century symphony. These dramatic forebears most plausibly explain the dramatic qualities of what have often been called Haydn’s Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) symphonies, a misleading label since Haydn composed those minor-key works—including the Trauer Symphony (No 44) and the Farewell Symphony (No 45)—well before the Sturm und Drang literary movement had started. Symphony No 52, composed in the early 1770s, has been identified as the last of Haydn’s symphonies in that dramatic style, and was described by the Haydn scholar H.C. Robbins Landon as the ‘grandfather’ of Beethoven’s dramatic Fifth Symphony (both works being in the key of C minor).

The opening movement—Allegro assai con brio—is one of the most dramatic and disconcerting that Haydn ever composed: just try predicting the phrase lengths or where the each cadence is going to fall! A calm and relatively graceful second subject offers some balm, though again with some unpredictable qualities to keep listeners on their toes. The second subject’s opening phrase deceptively launches the development section, before the music is hurled into turmoil by the resurgence of the first theme. The second movement Andante offers relative if uneasy calm. One may suspect Mozart had this movement in mind when he wrote his celebrated minor-key Symphony No 40 in 1788: like Haydn’s movement, his second starts in deceptive tranquillity, but become increasingly disquieted (quite unlike the slow movement of Beethoven’s Fifth). The third movement, again, anticipates Mozart in the brusque style and unpredictable strong beats of its opening and closing minuet, contrasted with a relatively courtly trio section. The Symphony ends with the relentless bustle of a Presto finale.

from notes by Daniel Jaffé © 2015

Recordings

Haydn: Symphonies Nos 52, 53 & 59
Studio Master: SIGCD434Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

Details

Movement 1: Allegro assai con brio
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Menuetto e trio – Allegretto
Movement 4: Finale: Presto

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