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Symphony No 53 in D major 'L'impériale', Hob I:53


One can scarcely imagine a stronger contrast between Symphony No 52 and Symphony No 53 in D major. Though it is not known which year Haydn composed this work, it was almost certainly about five years after the C minor Symphony, having in the meantime composed several other symphonies (Hoboken’s catalogue not being entirely rigorous in presenting the symphonies in chronological order) as well as composing operas and incidental music for the theatre of his employer, Prince Esterházy (Nicholas I). Haydn was already widely renowned around Europe for his music, and Symphony No 53 became the most popular of his symphonies before he ventured into composing for a wider public in Paris and London: Symphony No 53 has survived in various forms with at least two alternative finales (with two further alternative finales almost certainly not by Haydn), both of these recorded here.

The D major Symphony’s ceremonial start implies a more stately work to grace Esterházy’s palace. In contrast to the dramatic contrasts and surprises of Symphony No 52, its character is unhurried, with a slower rate of harmonic change even in the main Vivace section of the opening movement. With the Andante second movement we perhaps hear something of what Holst meant by “a wealth of experience of town and country”: we hear two charming themes, one in A major which may possibly be related to a French folk theme and certainly was widely circulated in various arrangements; then a second in A minor. These are both subject to variations through the movement. With the Minuet we return to the home key of D, the music straightforward and offering relatively few surprises compared to the minuet of the C minor Symphony. The final movement in the surviving Esterházy orchestral parts of Symphony No 53 is headed “Finale. Capriccio”: much of it is presented in the form of a statement played softly (piano) answered by a forte balancing statement, the movement ending in a lively and literally striking manner with a solo spot for the timpanist. The alternative finale, marked simply Presto, is more often found in old manuscript copies of the symphony and is a more obviously lively piece, a reworking of an overture with some differences in the scoring from the rest of the Symphony—notably divided bassoon parts, and originally no flute and timpani parts (added by Robbins Landon for modern publication).

from notes by Daniel Jaffé © 2015


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


Movement 1: Largo maestoso – Vivace
Movement 2: Andante
Movement 3: Menuetto e trio
Movement 4. Version I: Finale: Capriccio (Moderato)
Movement 4. Version II: Finale: Presto

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD434 track 9

Movement 1: Largo maestoso – Vivace
Recording date
8 September 2014
Recording venue
The Sage, Gateshead, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Nicholas Parker
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch & Chris Kalcov
Hyperion usage
  1. Haydn: Symphonies Nos 52, 53 & 59 (SIGCD434)
    Disc 1 Track 9
    Release date: October 2015
    Download only
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