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Creation Date: 1791· Instrumentation: 2 Fl 2 Ob 2 Fg – 2 Hr 2 Trp – Pk – Str · Duration: 20’ · Created as Symphony #96.
Hob.I:96 Symphony in D Major The Miracle
Symphony No. 96 is the “genuine” first of the London Symphonies despite its numbering; it was the first of those initial six symphonies Haydn wrote for the 1791/92 season of the London Salomon Concerts for which violinist and concert organiser Johann Peter Salomon had commissioned Haydn. It is also called The Miracle from an incident which, based on more recent findings, occurred not at one of its performances, but of that of the B Flat Major Symphony No. 102 in 1795: before the start of the performance the audience had crowded toward the orchestra in order to obtain a better view of the famous Joseph Haydn. The seats in the middle of the floor had therefore emptied; at that moment the giant chandelier came crashing down, but without injuring anyone. This was considered a “miracle.” The symphony features all the elements characteristic of Haydn’s late symphonic work and on which Haydn founded his reputation as a “classical composer”: extreme economy and mastery of form coupled with superior individual arrangement of each of the movements. The first movement is “monothematically” organised, that is, only a single theme competes with its variants throughout the development. Haydn added one special effect at the end of the second movement: after a pause solo instruments unexpectedly continue the activity, as if at a solo concert. (Haydn seems to have calculated this effect very specifically for the English public, which loved concerts for several solo instruments or “concertante symphonies” at this time – see also Concertante I:105). The minuet is characterised by an Alpine melody and the finale, a so-called sonata rondo in the style of a kehraus, by an entire series of subtle effects.
I. Adagio-Allegro
II. Andante
III. Menuetto e Trio, Allegretto
IV. Finale, Vivace
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