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Creation Date: London 23. März 1792· Instrumentation: 2 Fl 2 Ob 2 Fg – 2 Hr 2 Trp – Pk – Str · Duration: 24’ · Created as Symphony #98.
Hob.I:94 Symphony in G Major Surprise
Together with No. 100 (see Military Symphony) composed in 1794 during Haydn’s second stay in London, the G Minor Symphony No. 94, which was written in 1791 for the first season of the Salomon Concerts in London, is one of Haydn’s greatest English works and in the course of Haydn’s reception history achieved a degree of popularity that was ruinous for a deeper understanding of the work: the “Timpani” symphony occupies approximately the same position in the current Haydn repertoire as Eine kleine Nachtmusik in the Mozart repertoire – or the Symphony of Destiny in the Beethoven repertoire. It owes its popularity and name to the well-known part at the beginning of the second movement, where in the middle of a childlike melody a sudden fortissimo of the orchestra shocks the audience. In Haydn’s lifetime numerous anecdotes circulated suggesting that with the shock effect (which evidently caused several London society ladies of more delicate constitution to swoon) Haydn wanted to frighten awake listeners at the Salomon Concerts who had nodded off as a result of a sumptuous dinner beforehand. When subsequently asked, Haydn told his first biographer Georg August Griesinger that the motive behind the effect was the musical competition under which the Salomon Concerts would have suffered: “I asked him [ = Haydn] in jest if it was true he had composed the andante with the pounding of the timpani in order wake the sleeping Englishmen. ‘No,’ he answered, ‘but it was my wish to surprise the public with something new, and to make a debut in a brilliant manner in order not to be outdone by my pupil Pleyel, who was employed with an orchestra in London at that time and whose concerts opened eight days before mine...” (After they were unable to win over Haydn another concert enterprise, the Professional Concerts, obtained his pupil Ignaz Pleyel in 1792). The surprise effect can easily lead one to overlook the other qualities of the andante movement: it is a movement of variation and lives from the diversity and contrast of the metamorphoses which govern the simple theme of the children’s song. The surprise moment in the second movement also casts a literal shadow over the remaining movements of the symphony: the superior first movement, which owes its much more subtle “surprises” to the fact that the principal theme does not begin in the tonic, but only ends up there during the development; the third movement, the minuet, which is an entirely Alpine dance; and the finale, which continues the subtle humour of the main theme and brings the symphony to an end with an exhilarating kehraus.
I. Adagio - Cantabile - Vivace assai
II. Andante
III. Menuetto. Allegro molto
IV. Finale. Allegro di molto
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