Symphonies
icon   SYMPHONY NR.54 IN G-MAJOR   info

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Creation Date: 1. Hälfte 1774 erweit. Fass. 1774/75 od.1776· Instrumentation: 2 Fl (nachträglich) 2 Ob 2 Fg (2. Fg nachträglich) – 2 Hr 2 Trp (nachträglich) Pk (nachträglich) – Str · Duration: 29’ · Created as Symphony #61.
Symphony No. 54 in G major (second version)
As stated in the Historical and Chronological Notes, this is the last, most heavily scored version of this symphony. The Adagio introduction is longer than before, and colours the obligatory 'majesty' topic in a complex manner. The main theme of the opening Presto features the horns and obbligato bassoon over an ostinato motif in the strings. The exposition is brief; the second group in the dominant enters without transition and features a variety of short, active themes. Haydn compensates in the development which, unusually, is longer than the exposition. It is based primarily on the ostinato motif, which is led through a variety of keys, including an unexpectedly radiant E major after a general pause; eventually a fugato leads to the retransition which surprisingly is the climax of the entire development. Towards the end, a 'surprise' deceptive resolution onto a diminished-seventh chord leads to an expanded cadence.
The Adagio assai (an unusually slow tempo for Haydn) may be his longest instrumental movement. Such long, deeply felt, mostly quiet slow movements in sonata form had first become a 'type' for Haydn during his 'Sturm und Drang' period. The triplet figuration, sometimes imitative, sometimes spun out over static harmonies, becomes almost hypnotic: an other-worldly vision that is scarcely ruffled by the ominous repeated unisons at the beginning of the development. In the recapitulation this figure unexpectedly turns to the minor and leads astonishingly to a six-four chord and a written-out cadenza for both violin parts. Following this, the rustic minuet, with its insouciant grace-notes, seems almost raucous; the effect is not really dispelled by the quiet answering phrase, since Haydn reverts to forte for the cadence. By contrast, the trio, scored for strings alone with the bassoon doubling the melody, is all elegance.
The finale, though also marked Presto, is not as fast as the opening movement. Its opening
theme has a fast, syncopated accompaniment and ends oddly with a bump; these features foreshadow the many off-beat accents and longer syncopated passages later on. The movement is in broadly laid-out sonata form, with full transitions and a quiet, contrasting second theme. The retransition is one of Haydn's better jokes: the quiet second theme enters in a foreign key, as if we were still deep within the development, but it is harmonised with a chromatically descending bass that drifts sequentially towards the tonic; five bars later the recapitulation is suddenly in full swing.
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I. Adagio maestoso - Presto
II. Adagio assai
III. Menuet e Trio, Allegretto
IV. Finale, Presto
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33 CDs, aufgenommen 1970 bis 1974, herausgegeben 1996 Decca (Universal)

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33 CDs, aufgenommen 1987 bis 2001, herausgegeben 1996
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10 doppel- und triple-CDs
aufgenommen und herausgegeben 1990 bis 2000
Decca (Universal)

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