Creation Date: Juni-Dez. 1761· Instrumentation: 2 Ob Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 19’ · Created as Symphony #16.
Symphony No. 15 in D major1
This work begins with what is arguably Haydn's most unusual opening symphony movement. It is an ABA, Adagio-Presto-Adagio (the A sections featuring concertante horns); but the first Adagio section is not a slow introduction, nor is the movement as a whole an example of 'French overture form' (as has sometimes been said). The initial Adagio section has a closed, self-sufficient ending with a perfect cadence (plus a transitional preparation for the Presto). Because it is thus rounded off, it is not an 'introduction'; more important, again unlike an introduction, it can bear repetition at the end. The Presto begins with a rising, pseudo-imitative passage that is no theme, but pure musical process. It is also unique in form: it prescribes no repetition of its two structural parts, and indeed the point at which the exposition ends and the development begins cannot be determined. These odd features must be consequences of its unique function: an opening symphonic allegro which is 'framed' by an Adagio on either side. Might this unique form have been associated with extra-musical content?
However, the cyclic form of Symphony No. 15 is somewhat familiar: four movements with 'reversed' interior movements: slow/fast/slow-minuet-slow-finale. Indeed all three remaining movements are of conventional types and observe the generic principle of contrast. The minuet, of the galant type, frames a sweeter, legato trio, in which the two violin parts alternate with the viola and cello. The Andante, as usual, is sprightly rather than solemn (thus offering the greatest possible contrast with the first-movement Adagio). And the Finale is a da capo structure with an elaborate minore section in the middle.