Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Haydn: Symphony No. 75 in D major

Most composers don't get along very well and some even seem intent on disparaging other composers every chance they get. But the great exception was the genuine friendship and respect between Haydn and Mozart who influenced one another considerably. Sometime in the 1780s Mozart wrote down the themes of three of Haydn's symphonies, probably as he intended to conduct them at one of his concerts. One of the three was the Symphony No. 47 with the palindrome minuet and trio that I covered in this post. Another was Symphony No. 62 in D major that I haven't covered and the third was the Symphony No. 75, also in D major, that I will talk about today.

One of Haydn's tasks as Kapellmeister to the Esterházys was the composition of opera and the discipline of handling the setting of dramatic events within the symmetrical forms that were part of Classical style is one of the things that aided the development of Haydn's symphonies around this time, about 1780. There is a new efficiency, a new focus of all the elements on the overall effect.

The Symphony No. 75 begins with a Grave introduction that moves to the minor. It begins like this:

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When the movement proper begins, a Presto, it has this theme:

Haydn's themes are becoming more crisply crafted and effective. There is one distinctive element here, D#, the chromatic lower neighbor to the E, and it will color the whole movement. Another element, the three short accented quarter notes in mm 4, will also play a large role. One new element is the use of counterpoint. In the recapitulation the theme appears in canon between the first and second violins:

The slow movement, a theme and variations in G major, the subdominant (now Haydn's usual key for slow movements) has the kind of hymn-like melody that Haydn specialized in:

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The minuet and trio are crisply elegant dances. The last movement is a rondo with a theme in small ternary form. This just means that an opening theme is contrasted with a middle theme after which the opening theme returns. This is usually indicated with the letters A-B-A'. Here is the A section, a perfectly balanced period:

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The B section is a looser ten measure phrase in flowing eighth notes:

After which the A returns. There are three episodes between recurrences of the rondo theme, the first a minor version which balances nicely the minor section of the opening grave introduction.

Now let's listen. Here is the complete symphony with the Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Christopher Hogwood:

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