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Creation Date: ca. 1774/75· Instrumentation: 2 Ob 2 Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 29’ · Created as Symphony #68.
Symphony No. 66 in B flat major
This symphony opens with a variant of the beginning of the overture Hob.Ia:7 — that is, Symphony No. 53, finale 'B'; however, the resemblance is only skin-deep, for the movement soon goes its own way. The tone is 'forward' throughout; as so often in Haydn, contrast is embedded in the flow of the music rather than given prominence for its own sake. Thus the second group at first continues loud and four-square; the brief 'second theme' does not allow the energy to slacken; and the only sustained piano is the retransition itself, on an unstable chord that yields to the orthodox dominant only at the last minute.
The Adagio is in 3/4 time, as in No. 61; unlike the latter, its motifs are short-breathed and additive rather than hymn-like, and soon develop into semiquavers then triplet semiquavers. The minuet is based on a short dotted motif, about which the only thing that can be predicted is that it will develop in an unpredictable manner; the return to the main theme is another characteristic joke. The trio begins off the tonic, engendering quiet subtleties of harmony and phrasing.
The rondo finale, Scherzando e presto, is the first in this volume to sound like a late Haydn rondo, with a main theme Tovey would have called 'kittenish', based on five-bar phrases. But counterpoint is hinted at in its middle phrase, and counterpoint erupts for real in the first episode, which combines second-group and developmental functions. After a varied reprise, the next episode pretends to be in the relative minor (the subme-diant), but soon leads to the subdominant and an even more contrapuntal episode. The next reprise is extended by various devices, leading eventually to the final thematic statement. This is less than subtle, with its fortissimo stamping-about, crude hocketing and concluding horse-laugh; it would be difficult to claim here that art triumphs over entertainment.
I. Allegro con brio
II. Adagio
III. Menuetto e Trio
IV. Finale, Scherzando e presto
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