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Creation Date: ca. 1774/75· Instrumentation: 2 Ob 2 Fg – 2 Hr 2 Trp – Pk – Str · Duration: 25’ · Created as Symphony #67.
Symphony No. 69 in C major ('Laudon')
More than any other in this volume, this symphony epitomises the 'easy listening' aspect of Haydn's art in this period. The nickname is that of a famous Austrian Field Marshal; it was not Haydn's idea to attach it to this work, but that of his publisher Artaria, for an arrangement for solo keyboard. But Haydn did, rather cynically, approve it:
The last or fourth movement ... is not practicable for the keyboard, nor do I find it necessary to include it; the word 'Laudon' will aid the sale more than any ten finales.
The work is in the major mode throughout, instantly accessible and lightly textured; it moves within familiar styles and conventions and includes few moments of expressive intensity; the large sections, thematic groups, transitions, and so on, are crystal clear. The opening of the first movement resembles that of the better-known Symphony No. 48, 'Maria Theresia' (c.1768), in the same key, but its course is, again, easier to follow; even the development adumbrates no remote keys and does not so much as hint at contrapuntal complexity.
The slow movement, while equally straightforward, is by contrast decidedly eccentric. Its rising triadic theme in repeated notes immediately dissolves into meandering semiquavers, which however prove unable to leave the tonic. Only when the bass takes them over does a crude modulation to the dominant follow; the second group at least includes a bow to the minor mode and an attractively pert hocketing theme in hemiola.
The development is uneventful, and only Tovey's 'counsel for the defense' could make the joking retransition seem more than routine.
Admittedly, even when Haydn seems not to be concentrating on the business at hand, he cannot help writing 'a really new minuet'; note, for example, the triplet figure's surprising reversal of accent in the middle. The attractive sonata-rondo finale seems more engaged and is certainly more engaging. The contour of the tune is other than what we expect; the second group in the dominant sparkles with tremolos, surprise remote chords, vigorous syncopated rhythms, and more. The middle episode, minore, exhibits real fire, although the transition, on a characteristic rhythmic motif over mysterious, slow-changing harmonies, lasts longer than we would wish. An imitative coda-like extension precedes the wind-up, in which 'entertainment' again has the last word.
I. Vivace
II. Un poco adagio piu tosto andante
III. Menuetto e Trio
IV. Finale, Presto
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Joseph Haydn
The Symphonies

Philharmonia Hungarica
Antal Dorati

33 CDs, aufgenommen 1970 bis 1974, herausgegeben 1996 Decca (Universal)

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Symphonies complete

Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra
Adam Fischer

33 CDs, aufgenommen 1987 bis 2001, herausgegeben 1996
Brilliant Classics

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Academy of Ancient Music
Christopher Hogwood

10 doppel- und triple-CDs
aufgenommen und herausgegeben 1990 bis 2000
Decca (Universal)

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