Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Haydn - Symphony No. 52 in C Minor

Within the symphonic output of the prolific Josef Haydn there are symphonies of his middle period that fall under the label of Sturm und Drang, (storm and stress). These are dramatic works, reflecting the same dramatic elements that were found in contemporary German literature. Examples of these dramatic symphonies are Number 44 (Trauer) and Number 49 (La Passione)  and perhaps the most dramatic of all, number 52 in C minor.

The symphony is scored for two oboes, one bassoon, two horns, strings and continuo. It is in four movements:
I. Allegro assai con brio -  Haydn begins the first movement straight away with a theme full of energy and biting accents. The second theme is in a major key and is in great contrast to the first. This initial contrast sets the pace for a movement that is full of tension and mood swings.
II. Andante - A stately, easy dance-like theme is interrupted periodically by darker moments, in keeping with the overall tension of the symphony.
III. Menuetto e trio - Allegretto -  Haydn transforms the courtly dance by using accents and mild dissonance into a subdued stomp. The underlying tension is broken temporarily by the bright trio, but the stomp has the final word.
IV. Finale - Presto - Haydn maintains tension by continuing the strong accents and tones in the minor key. The strings chatter away, and the symphony ends in the minor.

It is well to remember that Haydn wrote most of his early and middle symphonies for the orchestra at the Esterhaza palace where he was kappelmeister, an orchestra that normally had between sixteen and twenty two members.  The following video consists of sixteen members, the size of orchestra Haydn wrote the symphony for.  It is a testament to Haydn's skill and talent that he gets so much sound from a relatively small group.

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