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Creation Date: 1782 ?· Instrumentation: Fl 2 Ob 2 Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 20’ · Created as Symphony #79.
Hob.I:77 Symphony in B-Flat Major
The second of the symphonies 76-78 composed for a trip to England that never came to fruition, the B-flat major symphony is undoubtedly the most compositionally distinguished of the triptych. The common characteristic of three of its four movements are the contrapuntal imitations Haydn uses as his working principle. The two themes of the first movement are derived from the same fundamental rhythm. The development begins with the working of the principal theme; the modulating sequences are based on a longer contrapuntal pattern in which the “primary motif” is overlapped “with itself” in a stretto. An identical figure beginning with the secondary theme is broken off prematurely in order to make room for the reprise. The interrupted development is then resumed in the reprise at the appropriate place and continued. In the second movement, an intimate piece with a muted string sound and contrasting developmental episodes, imitative passages are found at the locations of the returning principal theme. As is generally the case with Haydn, the minuet is a particular treasure, a musical miniature in the middle of a splendid symphony. By playing with accents - first on the loud, then on the soft part of the bar – Haydn suspends the laws of “gravity” of ¾ time with the greatest of ease and performs the awkward dance of a small marionette before an amused audience. Though in the character of a rondo-kehraus (a “sweep out dance” concluding the end of a season), the final movement is arranged in the form of a sonata movement. To this extent it resumes the cadences of the opening movement (thus bringing it full circle), as here, as well, the development over considerable stretches is organised on the basis of a fugato over the primary motif.
I. Vivace
II. Andante Sostenuto
III. Menuetto
IV. Finale, Allegro Spiritoso
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