Friday, October 11, 2013

Haydn: Symphony No. 67 in F major

Congratulations to all you readers that are still with me on this Haydn safari! What I am doing, I just realized, is subjecting you to a graduate seminar in Haydn symphonies. No, really. In undergraduate music courses you rarely (or never) get to delve into any one thing this deeply. But I am in agreement with Donald Francis Tovey's high estimation of Haydn. He said about the Op. 20 string quartets, written in 1772, that  "Every page of the six quartets of op. 20 is of historic and aesthetic importance... there is perhaps no single or sextuple opus in the history of instrumental music which has achieved so much."

So thanks for sticking around and I think spending the time is worth it. I am hoping it is like sitting in with Haydn as he experiments with how to create musical structures and, at the end of the day, comes up with the most perfectly-balanced musical style in history: the Classical style.

The Symphony No. 67 in F major was written by 1779 at the latest. This is another quite experimental symphony that Haydn scholar H. C. Robbins Landon calls "one of the most boldly original symphonies of this period." Or any other, probably. The symphony seems out to break as many "rules" as possible. Remember, at this time there were no "rules" for symphony writing and Haydn was in the process of discovering just what basic kinds of structures worked. So in this piece he turns a lot of the procedures he had been using upside down. Here are the four movements:


  1. Presto, 6/8
  2. Adagio B-flat major, 2/4
  3. Menuetto & Trio, 3/4
  4. Finale: Allegro di molto, 2/2 - Adagio e cantabile, 3/8 - Allegro di molto, 2/2

Already you can see some odd things. The first movement looks more like a last movement. First movements tend to be in a quick duple time and last movements in a quick compound time--at least that is the way the symphony developed. The opening phrase is a compound theme sixteen measures long:


Because the second eight measures have harmonic acceleration and some sequence, it feels rather more like a sentence than a period. After a fermata there is a second theme in C major:



This is pretty much an eight measure period, though both halves end with equally strong cadences. This is followed by some very virtuoso passage work in the violins and a cadence in C major that ends the exposition. The development begins with three chords on the dominant seventh of the dominant of the dominant! That is, with a dominant seventh on D followed by the first theme, now in G minor. Haydn then modulates to B flat, the relative major of G minor, then A, via its diminished seven, and cadences on A major. Then the first theme has an unusual development in which it returns in the original key, with some modulating sequences, but slowly the theme becomes an accompaniment figure under sustained-note motifs:


The recapitulation includes both themes in the tonic, so quite normal.

The second movement is in the subdominant, as was common, but even though it is an adagio there are so many staccato notes and thirty-second notes that it doesn't sound quite slow enough to be a slow movement. Haydn will make up for this later.

The movement is in sonata form and, very unusually, ends with the theme stated one last time col legno dell' arco, meaning that the strings tap it out with the wood of the bow!

Click to enlarge

The minuet and trio are not too unusual. The minuet uses hemiola grouping to turn 3/4 into 2/4. But the trio evokes a bagpipe drone. The bagpipe, now characteristic only of the music of Scotland, used to be found all over Europe. We can find various examples of the use of a drone, even in Bach, to evoke the bagpipe. In the trio Haydn has the second violin tune down the 4th string to F to accompany the first violin. The low F sustains a drone through the whole trio:

Click to enlarge
But Haydn saves his most inventive thoughts for the last movement. It opens with a compound sixteen measure theme. An eight measure period is extended with another eight measures of a sentence-like continuation featuring fragmentation and sequence leading to a cadence on the tonic:

After modulating to C, the dominant, a second theme appears, an eight measure sentence:


Some sequences, then a full cadence on the dominant, end of exposition. But what follows this is completely unprecedented! Instead of a development, we get an entirely new movement, an adagio for two solo violins and a cello.

After a second section for the solo strings, the winds join in and the section turns into a whole slow movement, a lovely hymn-like movement that it seems only Haydn could have written. But the only thing that seems to connect this with the opening allegro molto is a three chord motif that appears towards the end of the adagio:

Apart from that fact that it is on a B flat harmony, this is exactly the same as the three chords that began the movement and that now begins the recapitulation. The only difference is that rests are inserted:


This seems like a pretty slim reed to link the adagio and allegro molto, but the funny thing is that it works.

Now let's listen to the whole symphony. Here is the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt:


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