Londoner Sinfonien, 1. Folge
Herausgeber: Robert von Zahn und Gernot Gruber; Reihe I, Band 15; G. Henle Verlag München
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.
Analysis of the movements
Due to the unclear time of origin of most of Haydn’s symphonies - and unlike his 13 Italian operas, where we really know the exact dates of premieres and performances - detailed and correct name lists of the orchestral musicians cannot be given. As a rough outline, his symphony works can be divided into three temporal blocks. In the first block, in the service of Count Morzin (1757-1761), in the second block, the one at the court of the Esterházys (1761-1790 but with the last symphony for the Esterház audience in 1781) and the third block, the one after Esterház (1782-1795), i.e. in Paris and London. Just for this middle block at the court of the Esterházys 1761-1781 (the last composed symphony for the Esterház audience) respectively 1790, at the end of his service at the court of Esterház we can choose Haydn’s most important musicians and “long-serving companions” and thereby extract an "all-time - all-stars orchestra".
33 CDs, aufgenommen 1970 bis 1974, herausgegeben 1996 Decca (Universal)