Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.1


Often known as the ‘Father of the Symphony’, Joseph Haydn’s legacy as a symphonist stays strong today. Haydn composed 104 symphonies over the course of his long and fruitful life, and we at Classicalexburns want to help you discover the stories and music behind all of them. In numerical order we will cover each symphony in the new #Haydn104 project, so look out for new ones by checking the ‘Projects’ page on our website, or by engaging with us on social media. 


The Music

Composed whilst in the service of Count Morzin whilst in Dolní, Lukavice, Haydn’s First Symphony was written in the year 1759. Although credited and published as his first symphony, there have been claims that some later symphonies were actually written before 1759, but were published later. For this project we will abide by the general numbering of the symphonies.

Set into three movements, the First Symphony is set in D major.


Movement I – Presto

The first movement opens with a big crescendo, which contrasts the character of the rest of the symphony. The fast moving strings keep the tempo moving along. Haydn’s melodic writing for this movement forms the basis for the rest of the symphony, with the first theme reprising in the finale. The interplay between the strings and the harpsichord are especially apparent in this movement, with the woodwind taking a decorative approach to their parts. As the theme rumbles with excitement, we see Haydn experiment with dynamics and textures to create the light and shade in the music. The movement concludes with a final flourish from the strings.


Movement II – Andante

The stately middle movement is slow in pace, but highly accentuated in style. The only movement of the three to be in 3/4 time, the second movement acts as the slow stately dance within a symphony from this time. Led by the violins, the melody is sweet and subtle. This middle movement proves to be the needed antidote to the two Presto outer movements.


Movement III – Finale: Presto

The finale is quickly swept away by the strong bassline and memorable theme. The strong unison sound of the strings leads the finale, creating a bold and exciting final movement. Horns and woodwind accentuate the fast-moving strings, whilst the harpsichord keeps the harmonic language reigned in. The finale comes to its conclusion as the orchestra unites for the final flourish.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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