Haydn Symphony no. 4

The fourth in D major takes us back perhaps to 1757 up to 1761, as well as back to a three-movement form.

  1. Presto, 6/8
  2. Andante in D minor, 2/4
  3. Tempo di Menuetto, 3/8
The finale is marked as a minuet, but in 3/8 not 3/4 and lacks the typical trio section.
The first movement sounds somewhat like the contrapuntal passages that stood out in the third symphony, even if this one may have been written earlier. It’s what jumped out about the first movement. It has a darker second subject, but it’s still all relatively crisp and delightful, but there is really nothing that especially attracts my attention or strikes my interest.
The second movement opens quite gloomily and quietly, but violins introduce a sweetly lyrical line over what begins to feel quite funereal. Second violins play on the upbeats, and the movement never really gets too far away from the manner in which it opened. This is like, Barber’s Adagio if it were written 150 years earlier. For such a small-three movement symphony, this very melancholy, sorrowful middle movement is a significant part of the symphony, and then it ends. Quite a statement. I am impressed. Greatly.
The third movement is a minuet minus trio. Only minuet here. With an opening fast movement, a (very) slow middle movement, and a minuet as the third movement, it feels like it’s missing a fourth movement as the finale, a rondo or sonata-form thing, but not here. We end with the triple-meter movement. That’s okay, though. This would be a really solid symphony if it had a nice, meaty fourth movement after the minuet, especially after such a moving slow movement, but we only get three here. It’s a bit repetitive, but nice.
I wonder what kinds of things would have been considered ‘controversial’ or inappropriate in Haydn’s day, and in what ways he pushed the boundaries and how his relationship with his customers in the aristocracy affected his artistic decisions. I’m sure I could do some reading on it, but I’d rather do some listening on it eventually.
We will get to a point where we begin to hear the mature, more personalized, individual Haydn, and I think even here, it’s starting to peek through. It’s not that a somber, slow movement or a three-movement symphony with equally long movements is anything daring, but even here, it starts to feel different from the earliest of the things we opened with this week. That’s all for now. I really did like that second movement. A lot.
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