Thursday, October 10, 2013

Haydn: Symphony No. 65 in A major

One of the particular delights with Haydn symphonies is that, especially with the earlier ones, you never know quite what you are going to get. Haydn loved to experiment and the Symphony No. 65 is one of his more quirky experiments. Here is where you can find a copy of the score. There are four movements in the usual order:

  1. Vivace e con spirito
  2. Andante, 3/8
  3. Menuetto & Trio
  4. Finale: Presto, 12/8

Here is how the first movement opens:

Click to enlarge

So, what is going on there? The three opening chords (I-V7-I) seem to be an introduction to the theme, not the theme itself, which starts in m. 2. Oh, I recommend NOT reading the Wikipedia article on this symphony as whoever wrote it thinks that "The first movement starts with three declamatory chords at intervals of a rising fourth and a falling minor second". Falling minor second? Just looked at the first violin part and didn't notice the harmony? Anyway, the theme is a nice symmetrical eight measures, but it doesn't quite fit either the sentence or the period model. There is a two measure basic idea that ends on the dominant, then this is immediately repeated, ending on the tonic. Ok, could be a sentence. But then these four measures are simply repeated an octave lower, so it almost feels like a period as there is none of the feel of the continuation section of a sentence. Then the three introductory chords are repeated, but compressed in time. Then we have a new theme with two basic ideas: an arpeggio motif and a little scale idea with sixteenth notes. This theme, with its basic idea/contrasting idea structure, seems to be a period:

After that we have fragmentation of the original basic idea (that is when you take a small motif out of the basic idea and repeat it, work it out):

Followed by fragmentation of the sixteenth note motif from the second theme:

Then there is a sequential progression based on the sixteenth note motif. Next comes yet another new theme, this time an eight measure period on the dominant:

After this, some cadential progressions that end the first half of the movement, the exposition. What was I saying before about Haydn just using one theme? In this symphony he decides to go completely in the other direction with three themes!

I won't go into great detail for the rest of the movement. Suffice it to say that all three themes play a part in the development and in the recapitulation, they return in reverse order.

The second movement, an andante in D major, has this odd little theme:

Later on another little four measure theme appears:

These are expanded and varied and the winds have some nice interjections, but that is about all there is in this movement. It has a strange, desultory character.

The minuet and trio are little masterpieces of rhythmic ingenuity. The minuet starts reasonably enough, but in both halves it wanders into 4/4 for a bit which would completely throw off anyone trying to dance to it. Here is that section. It is written in 3/4, but the motif adds a beat so four measures of 3/4 come out sounding like three measures of 4/4:

Then the trio has its own little rhythmic twist. Both the first and second violins have hemiolas where two measures of 3/4 become one measure of 3/2 by tying over the bar line--but they are not aligned! Their hemiolas overlap:

I don't think I have ever seen this effect used by anyone else!

After all that Haydn gives us an elegant finale in tarantella style that just whistles by:

Click to enlarge

Now let's listen to the symphony. Here is Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music:

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