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Creation Date: 1782 ?· Instrumentation: Fl 2 Ob 2 Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 20’ · Created as Symphony #78.
HobI:78 Symphony in C Minor
The third and last of the symphonies written in 1782 for the trip to England Haydn (1732-1809) planned but did not take, No. 78 is a C minor symphony. Not only for Beethoven and his successors in the 19th century, but for Haydn, as well, C minor is a special key furnished with the ingredients of extraordinary expressivity. In this regard No. 78 is the middle ground between its two C minor sisters in Haydn’s body of work: No. 52 of 1770, a typical work from Haydn’s so-called Sturm und Drang period, and the inwardly “classically subdued” No. 95 originating during his first stay in London in 1791. There is probably no other symphonic movement from Haydn which is of such excessively driven experimental chromaticism than the opening movement of No. 78. The principal theme, which enters in unison (and which, as Robbins Landon says, may have served as a direct model for the principle theme of the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Minor KV 491 of 1786), is harmonically inconsistent, or “wandering.” In this way it serves as the starting point for bold transitions and modulations; the harmonically more stable secondary theme with the closing group is also characterised at the usual place by an “inconsistent” transitional harmony which “coincidentally” emerges from the parallel chromatic sweep of the string parts. The systematic and continuously recurring developmental features require so much room and energy that only enough space remains for a rudimentary reprise, which in fact consists only of the remainder of the secondary theme with the closing group. As if balancing out the chromatic shift of this opening movement, Haydn remains in the realm of the conventional in the rest of the symphony. For example, the closing movement is a rondo with developmental elements; yet Haydn makes such an obvious effort at harmonic stability that he begins the rondo episode (with the solo oboe) twice in the same key, namely, C major. The second time it also directly transitions into the C major close of the entire work.
I. Vivace
II. Adagio
III. Menuetto e Trio, Allegretto
IV. Finale, Presto
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