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Symphony No. 6 (B. & H.), in G Major ("Surprise")

Joseph Haydn
(1732-1809)



1. Adagio. Vivace assai.

2. Andante.

3. Minuet.

4. Finale. Allegro molto.

The Symphony in G major, popularly known as "The Surprise" -- No. 6, Breitkopf and Härtel -- was written in 1791. It has a short introductory Adagio, in which an unusual number of chromatics are employed, leading at once into the main Vivace assai, with the following for the first theme:

[Music excerpt]

Daintily as it steps, it soon develops into the full rush of life.

The Andante, in C major, the movement which gave the name of "Surprise" to the symphony, is based on this exceedingly simple melody, moving through the intervals of the chord:

[Music excerpt]

It opens piano, is a repeated pianissimo, and closes with an unexpected crash of the whole orchestra. Here we have the genial "Papa Haydn," who enjoyed a joke, and when in the humor for it did not think it to beneath his dignity "to score" the joke; for to a friend, who was visiting him when writing the Andante, he remarked: "That's sure to make the ladies jump"; and his waggish purpose has been secured to this day. The theme is carried out in his favorite form of variations, and the movement closes with a pedal point giving the opening phrase and dying away in a pianissimo.





The Minuet seems the natural sequence of this extremely simple Andante. The sweep of the violins in the last two measures of the first part is made the motive for the second part, which is used in canon form between the violins and bases and connected with the Trio, written in the usual manner.

The last movement, Allegro molto, in G major, has this happy theme for its foundation:

[Music excerpt]

The piquancy of its phrasing is in the master's happiest vein, and although worked out with less display of science than some of his other finales, it gathers a new interest by the rushing violin figures that are used quite lavishly and fully sustain its joyful character.





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