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Creation Date: 1780· Instrumentation: Fl 2 Ob 2 Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 25’ · Created as Symphony #76.
Symphony No. 74 in E flat major
In this work, the generally approachable aspects of style characteristic of this period are mixed with chromaticism, deliberate artifice and expressive warmth. The opening Vivace assai is built on the contrast between three loud 'hammerstrokes' (plus related ideas later on), and a quiet motive with the rhythm: long-long-short-short-short (the long notes descend by step, the short ones simply repeat). The latter motive gives rise to remarkable ruminative passages in the development, and again late in the recapitulation, until Haydn laughingly brings the movement to a brilliant close.
The main theme of the slow movement exhibits the sprightly profundity characteristic of many Haydn slow movements. In form it is a simple rondo, A-B-A1-B1—A2-coda, with the first B in the dominant and the second (shortened) one in the subdominant; each return of the long A theme is richly varied in both melodic detail and instrumentation. The wonderful coda brings a briefer, varied statement for winds alone and then two for the strings, all three richly contrapuntal and expressive, before the cadential wind up.
The minuet features 'Scotch snap' rhythm, while in the trio a solo bassoon doubles the violin melody, with irregular five-bar phrases at each cadence. The sonata-form finale, in 6/8, begins with a quiet, playful, melodically intricate theme (reminiscent of the finale theme in Mozart's String Quartet, K589, in the same key and metre): the first and second violins begin alone, in unison; in the next bar the lower strings answer in pseudo-imitation. The theme soon halts on the dominant, with an odd melodic trailing off; suddenly the melody bursts out loudly in the bass, the violins answer with a new rushing counter-melody, and we are off to the races. The promise of genuinely imitative treatment is not fulfilled; instead, witty jokes follow in profusion. The best of these comes at the reprise: the second violins state the theme alone — whereupon the firsts, annoyed at being upstaged, break in one bar'too soon', leading directly to the rushing passage and the remainder of the recapitulation — including one brief passage of actual imitation!
I. Vivace assai
II. Adagio cantabile
III. Menuetto e Trio, Allegretto
IV. Finale, Allegro assai
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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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