Symphonies
icon   SYMPHONY 'LA PASSIONE' NR.49 IN F-MINOR   info

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Creation Date: 1768· Instrumentation: 2 Ob Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 25’ · Created as Symphony #45.
Symphony No. 49 in F minor ('La passione')
The familiar nickname for this work, 'La passione', is not authentic; nor is there any evidence that it had anything to do with Easter or liturgical practice. Indeed a strikingly different nickname, 'The Good-humored Quaker', appears more often in eighteenth-century sources (though even these are inauthentic). Moralizing Quakers were a common theme in mid-century European drama; it has been speculated that this symphony, like others of Haydn's from this period, may have been performed, or even have originated, as incidental music to a play.9 Certainly its intensity and eccentricity suggest some kind of extra-musical association.
This work is the last of the six early Haydn symphonies that employ a variant of the usual four-movement symphonic form, in which the slow movement opens the work; it is followed by a fast movement, the minuet, and a fast finale. These opening slow movements are longer and slower than those in the usual second position, while the fast movements in second position tend to be shorter and more concentrated than opening fast movements. In addition, again in contrast to the usual procedure, all four movements are in the same key. These features seem to have induced Haydn to strike an especially serious tone and to strive for great tonal and rhetorical continuity.
Indeed this symphony is arguably the most strongly integrated Haydn had composed up to this time. Not only are all four movements in the tonic minor (relieved only in the trio of the minuet) and serious in tone, but all three sonata-form movements willfully cultivate discontinuity — of rhetorical topics, harmonic progressions, dynamics, uses of the winds, and much else. Within his F minor tonic, Haydn consistently 'over-emphasizes' the dominant C. All five movements (counting the trio) begin on this pitch, and elaborate it with variants of the double-neighbour motive, C—D flat—B flat-C, heard unadorned at the very beginning of the work. In all three sonata-form movements the development, unusually, centres around the dominant minor key (C minor), and the return to the tonic for the recapitulation is harmonically and gesturally unstable. The most astonishing of these returns is that in the opening Adagio: an ungrammatical, rhetorically elliptical progression across a tritone (B natural to F). The dominant C is problematized by its absence, precisely where musical structure and convention most strongly demand it. And although the final climax of the movement duly brings a strong cadential dominant, it is only a dissonant six-four chord; the ensuing resolution into the final cadence drops back to piano, and the winds fall silent. Whatever Haydn meant by all this — the entire symphony seems to stand under the shadow of this extraordinary movement — it must have had extra-musical associations.
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I. Adagio
II. Allegro di molto
III. Menuet e Trio
IV. Finale, Presto
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