Creation Date: 1757/59· Instrumentation: 2 Ob Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 9’ · Created as Symphony #4.
Symphony No. 2 in C major
This symphony explodes once and for all the notion that the young Haydn's instrumental works are conventional. The opening Allegro is unique; its 'subject-matter' is a kind of dialogue or confrontation between traditional and modern styles. Although it begins straightforwardly with a vigorous, dotted-rhythmed unison theme and a homophonic continuation, the piano counterstatement suddenly invokes academic counterpoint (in 'mixed' species). Indeed the entire movement is dominated by free alternation between rough-and-ready homophony and contrapuntal passages based on the rising dotted theme. But it is formally unique as well. It is Haydn's only fast symphony first movement lacking internal repeats of its two structural parts (exposition; development + recapitulation).4 Although the exposition form is clear, the putative development soon too soon? leads to what turns out to be the first of three separate returns to the tonic. Why? Because Haydn wants to present the theme thrice more, now in the tonic, each time in a new contrapuntal elaboration. Indeed the last of these ushers in a more or less regular recapitulation of the second group in the tonic except for the one last contrapuntal passage, which repeats, in invertible counterpoint, the beginning of the 'development'.
The Andante is a perpetuum mobile for the two violin parts in unison over a 'walking' bass; although it is in sonata form, it too, like the Allegro, omits the internal repeats. Even the finale, though stylistically a normal 3/8 da capo movement, is formally unique in Haydn's symphonic finales: a five-part rondo form, A-B-A-C-A, with the first episode in the tonic minor and the second in the subdominant.