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Creation Date: 2. Hälfte 1771· Instrumentation: 2 Ob Fg 2 Hr – Str · Duration: 23’ · Created as Symphony #52.
Symphony No. 52 in C minor
The expressive intensity of Symphony No. 52 at times rivals that of the 'Farewell'. The Allegro assai con brio opens with a savage unison theme, irregular both topically and structurally. The long, bewilderingly varied second group contains six paragraphs, of which the third and fifth, uniquely in Haydn, present the 'second theme' twice (much extended on its second appearance); the remainder is as stormy and unstable as the opening. In the development, the contrasts at first function on a much smaller scale; eventually, a longer forte passage leads to a 'false recapitulation' in the subdominant F minor. This soon deviates to a long, ruminating passage based on the second theme, until suddenly a forte retransition in the tonic leads to the recapitulation. This is more or less regular (by Haydn's standards), except that the second appearance of the second theme is further extended, dying away in almost unbearable tension, until the vigorous close.
The sonata-form Andante may at first seem unrelated to its context: it is a lilting 3/8 in C major, whose leisurely main theme even indulges in the trick of ending with its opening phrase. But the transitional paragraph abruptly enters forte, and continues with a series of unexpected and in part destabilizing contrasts. The long second group remains outwardly demure, but the attentive listener will notice subtle chromaticism and irregular phrasings. The development falls into two parts, the first forte and modulating, the second again demure and centring around the relative, A minor. An oddly indirect transition leads to a complete recapitulation.
Now follows an excellent example of the 'exotic' air that Haydn often adopts in minor-mode minuet and trio movements; despite the prevailing piano dynamic, it is uneasily compelling. The trio may seem to function primarily as a contrast, owing to the major mode; but it is based on exactly the
same motive as the minuet, with which it also shares the low tessitura and a certain irregularity of phrasing.
The Presto finale reverts to the instability of the first movement, but in a different manner. It begins with a spare, contrapuntal theme, whose piano dynamic is maintained not only through the counterstatement and transition, but the long initial paragraph of the second group as well. Thus when a forte finally erupts, it ruthlessly drives the remainder of the second group towards the final cadence. The second half is a stunning example of 'conflated' development and recapitulation. It too begins with a long piano paragraph (based on the second theme); the ensuing brief contrapuntal forte leads to the reprise of the piano opening theme — much too soon, so that it quickly reverts to the contrapuntal music, now functioning as a 'secondary development'.6 This leads astonishingly to the final, forte paragraph from the exposition; only after an extension and pause on a dissonant chord does the long-lost second theme return in the tonic. It too cannot cadence; only an abrupt series of syncopated chords, which culminate in a shocking 'silent' measure, bring about the forceful conclusion.
I. Allegro assai con brio
II. Andante
III. Menuetto e Trio, Allegretto
IV. Finale, Presto
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Joseph Haydn
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