Haydn Symphony no. 5

The fifth in A major has its date between 1760 and 1762. Wikipedia refers to it as a sonata da chiesa and states that this is the reason for its four-movement form, unlike its cousin the third. It also says that because of the very high horn parts, this is some of the most difficult writing for the instrument in Haydn’s oeuvre. And yes, they are high. As a kite.
It’s the most striking thing about the symphony at first listen. In the past, the winds (of any kind) had only gotten much smaller kind of background parts, but this is the first time they’re really showing, and boy do they sing. They’re playing in a range that sounds high for a trumpet. They do sing, but it’s almost unpleasantly high. That aside, this first movement is one of the longest of all the symphonies we’ve discussed so far. Its contrasts of dynamic and mood give it quite some tension that starts to show the kind of drama the symphony as a form would later carry; it’s exciting.
The first of two triple meter movements is just slightly shorter than the first movement. It too has high horns (like, seriously), and some off-beat accents in violins, with some more surprising thunderous moments and stronger rhythms. More and more personality. We even get a very delightful violin solo. Things are looking up.
The third movement is the actual minuet and trio. High horns again. It’s a pretty standard minuet, with horns and oboe featured in the trio, the former still playing way up in the stratosphere. It’s short and sweet, but not as short as the final movement.
It’s a fast, busy affair in cut time, and by far the shortest of the four, at something like half the length of the minuet/trio movement. It’s crisp and busy and there isn’t much to it, but it’s nice.
And thus comes to an end our week-long streak of Haydn symphonies. We have a post tomorrow to review and wrap up, but this last one shows even more promise than the third or fourth. There’s no question or cliffhanger of any kind, though. We know Haydn went on to be like, the father of classical music as everyone knows it. It’s just that perhaps we’re starting to see why.
I am curious, though, why the sudden great prominence of horns throughout this piece. I can see it as a request from Haydn’s employer, a gesture directed at (for better or worse) a performer (or two), or perhaps something entirely different, an experiment. In any case, it is what it is. That’s the fifth.


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