Haydn Symphony No. 19 in D (H. I/19)

Adam Fischer/Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, or below by the Philharmonia Hungarica under Antal Dorati

Bam. Here we are again. More Haydn.

Also, MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. If it’s still the third, come back in twelve hours.

Similar to yesterday’s in ways. Landon says “between 1757 and 1761,” 2 oboes, bassoon, 2 horns, strings, continuo. The symphony is in three movements and is homotonal. Cuz that’s a thing.

The overwhelming detail I noticed from the first movement is baroque. While the other symphonies were indeed classical and clean, and even had some level of complexity, the thing that stands out the most in this work is the level of constant contrapuntal detail in the work, with each string section working more independently than as a collective. It’s not mind-blowing, but it stands out as unique from the rest this week (so far) because of that. Horns also get much greater exposure, punctuating a few important points where strings get out of the way to let the calls be heard.

We’re also back down to a smaller-scale symphony, three movements totaling only ten minutes of music. As with the first movement (and maybe this is just my recording) there’s very obvious contrast in dynamics as well. The first part of this movement makes use of a few of some things we’ve seen before: offbeat eighth notes toward the end of the section, and call-and-answer triplets. I’m not saying these are unique to Haydn, but it’s something we see in these works, and used to good effect. It’s a nice movement, but quite in keeping with some of what we’ve already heard from him this week. But then again, if it ain’t broke….

The third movement really has me questioning a few things. “Didn’t I just listen to this,” and “If this one sounds so much like the ‘laughing music’ from symphony no. 20, then could they actually be in sequence, or is that why they were possibly listed together in the first place?” It sounds like cheerful, jocular laughing music, made so by the accents and trills and some enjoyable interaction between high and low strings.

The first movement was definitely a standout for its greater use of counterpoint, but to be honest, the other two movements, while undoubtedly ‘nice,’ don’t strike me as much new, but I’m open to being proven wrong.

Let me just say this (since my word count shows I’ve just NOW broken 400 words). It may well seem like I’m not doing the works justice or something. I AM in fact looking at the scores, and while doing some more music-theory-type “let’s break down what he’s doing in this symphony” harmonic analysis or whatever might reveal a greater, more interesting level of detail, that’s not really my thing, and …. I’d be inclined to believe that even on that deeper level, there’s some degree of overlap, similarity to these works. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Again, if it ain’t broke.

My picnic comment about no. 20 sort of stands here, and that’s not to undermine the value of these works by any means. It perhaps is even what they were written for. I don’t know, but they are, in some respects, still concert music, not the background elevator music of his op. 1 or anything, but not the caliber (obviously) of his late, great symphonies.

There are only two more left for this week, and we shall see what they hold. Stay tuned.


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