Symphony 48 In C Major is but one of 19 C major symphonies composed by Haydn, and for many years it was thought to have been written to commemorate Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa of Austria on her 1773 visit to the Esterháza summer palace where Haydn was employed. Subsequent research uncovered a copy of the symphony dated 1769, which discredits the notion. Incorrect though it is, the nickname of the symphony remains and helps to identify it from the other 18 symphonies in C major.
There was a fire in 1779 at the Esterháza summer palace and many of the manuscripts were lost for the seventy something symphonies Haydn had written up until then. Haydn made a trip to Vienna where he knew some professional music copyists had pirated his symphonies for their own profit. He bought a collection of his own orchestral works to replace his own copies. Some of the copies had parts for additional instruments written in them that were not by Haydn, probably to make them more attractive to the pirates' potential buyers. Symphony 48 was one of these works, as there are editions with timpani and trumpets that were not part of Haydn's original instrumentation. It must not have been too big of an issue with Haydn, for he allowed the additions to stand and the symphony is often performed with these added parts. Perhaps this is one reason why this symphony is one of the few of Haydn's early symphonies that was available throughout the 19th century. The symphony is in four movements:
I. Allegro - The work opens with a striking theme punctuated by horns, trumpets and timpani. The second theme is in the dominant G major and is more subdued in the beginning but grows agitated further along. Transitional material leads to the repeat of the exposition. The development maintains a feeling of agitation along with leaps between notes in the strings. The recapitulation has the obligatory modulations of secondary material until the ending chords in the home key of C major.
II. Adagio - The adagio is in F major and the violins begin playing quiet music with mutes on,with some comments added by the horns. In the second part of the movement the horns again add interest along with the woodwinds. By the use of subtle and fleeting changes of key Haydn adds an underlying feeling of tension to a movement rich in melody.
III. Menuet: Allegretto & trio - A simple minuet in C major that accents the upbeat in the second phrase with short trills. The second part has echo effects in the first violins, and a section of cross rhythm with eighth-note triplets in the woodwinds and timpani while the strings play 4 sixteenth notes. As contrast, the trio is in C minor with many dynamic changes.
IV. Finale: Allegro - The finale is rapid with chattering violins and a stuttering chromaticism that keeps the music interesting. A finale of typical Haydnesque speed and movement.