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Creation Date: Sept.-Dez. 1771· Instrumentation: 2 Ob 2 Fg col basso 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 29’ · Created as Symphony #53.
Symphony No. 42 in D major
Symphony No. 42 dates from the same year (1771) as the String Quartets, op. 17 and the C minor Piano Sonata, Hob.XVI:20 (Landon 33). The opening movement bears the unusual tempo-marking 'Moderato e maestoso', which when taken seriously produces one of the longest movements Haydn ever composed. This is not merely a matter of clock-time; for example, the second group in the dominant includes, uniquely in Haydn, two 'second themes', each worked out at considerable length, with an even longer forte passage in between. The development includes not one but two 'false recapitulations', one in the tonic early on, another in the subdominant halfway through; and the recapitulation soon breaks off for a remarkable 'secondary development'2 based on motives from the first theme.
The slow movement bears the equally unusual tempo-marking 'Andantino e cantabile.' Heinrich Christoph Koch, the most important eighteenth-century theorist of musical form, used it as his 'demonstration' example of what we call sonata form. In the same key and meter as the slow movement of the 'Farewell' Symphony, its reflective mood is also similar, and it is even more eccentric in phrasing. (At one point Haydn went too far: in the autograph he cancelled a rhythmically obscure passage, commenting selfconsciously: Dies war vor gar zu gelehrte Ohren ('This was for much too learned ears'). It has been speculated that it was Prince Esterházy himself who was not amused. But the cancelled passage appears in no surviving sets of parts; most likely neither the Prince nor anyone else ever heard the version ante correcturam.
The spirited minuet is again of more than average length; the trio is an exquisite bit of refined play for the strings alone. The Finale brings yet another unusual tempo-marking, 'Scherzando e presto'. It is a set of free variations, 'excellent fooling à la Beethoven' (to quote Tovey).3 But it includes ravishing contrasts of instrumentation, as well as a somewhat extended minor-mode variation in the middle, and it concludes with a joking coda — but whether its humour is 'high' or 'low', only the listener can decide.
I. Moderato e maestoso
II. Andantino e cantabile
III. Menuet eTrio, Allegretto
IV. Finale, Scherzando e presto
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