Creation Date: 1760/61· Instrumentation: 2 Ob Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 20’ · Created as Symphony #9.
Symphony No. 17 in F major
This three-movement work opens with one of the longest movements in this repertory. (It is admittedly 'neutral' in style.) Its length results from the development section, which is actually longer than the exposition (the only such case in any early Haydn symphony first movement). What is more, this development exhibits a striking 'double cursus'. After a section of more or less normal length and character, it gives clear signs of working its way back to the tonic, with an elaborate descending sequence characteristic of early Haydn retransitions.2 At the very moment of the tonic arrival, however, the music astonishingly moves away into a second developmental section, almost as long as the first, until another and even more 'formal' transition, touching on the minor over a dominant pedal, prepares the recapitulation. The earlier passage is therefore not a false recapitulation, but a 'false retransition'! (Something similar but less 'pointed' happens in Symphony N0.36.)
The Andante ma non troppo is in the tonic minor, with the slightly odd combination of perkiness and pathos characteristic of such movements in early Haydn. The Finale, again, is a 3/8 Allegro molto (not 'Presto', presumably because of the many moving semiquavers); it is a miniature binary movement, with only a tiny prolongation of the dominant between exposition and reprise.