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Symphony No. 1 (B. & H.), in E Flat

Joseph Haydn

1. Adagio. Alegro con spirito.

2. Andante.

3. Minuet.

4. Finale. Presto.

The Symphony in E flat was composed in 1795, and is the eighth in the set written for Solomon, and the first of the Breitkopf and Härtel edition. It opens with an Adagio, introduced by a roll on the kettle-drum, with the following theme:

[Music excerpt]

This broad and sombre melody gives the key to the whole work. It ends in a unison phrase in C minor, in a half-mysterious way on G, the fifth of the chord. Then enters the Allegro con spirito, with the following theme:

[Music excerpt]

The half-step in the first group, forced in the repetition by an accidental, keeps the otherwise humorous theme within bounds. The second part is worked up in strict compliance with the sonata form, and displays Haydn's mastery in counterpoint. After a hold, the basses take up the melody of the opening Adagio, pressed into the new mould of the 6/8 tempo. This middle movement is again interrupted by a hold, followed by the working-out of the second theme and closing on the dominant seventh chord and a grand pause, after which the first part is repeated. At the half-cadence the opening Adagio unexpectedly enters with its solemn roll of the drum and deep toned melody, followed by a short Coda, Allegro.

The Andante, in C minor, opens with the following melody:

[Music excerpt]

The first bar has a vein of inexpressibly sad loveliness, which also prevades the whole song, as it may be called. In the third part it is interesting to see how simply the composer accomplishes his purpose by enlivening the rhythm.

The first and third parts are then repeated in the form of variations, exquisitely worked out. The third variation, in C minor, is scored for full orchestra, and is one of the many examples we find in Haydn which show that the minor mood or minor key was for him rather the expression of the grand and heroic than of sadness or sorrow. The Coda in its simplicity, however, shows the sad encurrent of his thought while writing this lovely Andante, although the close is in the major key.

The Minuet, with the following theme --

[Music excerpt]

reaches far higher than the dance form, and its working-up in the second part is unusually rich in harmonic treatment. The trio contains the flowing legato figures which Haydn so often used to offset the broken rhythm and skipping melody of the Minuet proper.

The Finale, in E flat, is founded on the following theme, with underlying figure for horns as marked :

[Music excerpt]

The whole movement is symphonic in character, and shows little of the playfulness we are wont to look for in Haydn's composition.

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See also:
Middle Ages Music
Renaissance Music
Baroque Era Music
Classical Era Music
Romantic Era Music
Nationalist Era Music
Turn of Century Music

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