Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.2


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

Haydn’s Second Symphony is one of his shortest, clocking in at around 10 minutes per performance. It is believed to have been composed between 1757-1761. The Second is also one of the only symphonies to not include repeat signs – which perhaps explains the briefness of the symphony. 

Cast into three movements, the Second Symphony is primarily in C major. 


Movement I – Allegro 

The opening movement starts with a unison theme that is answered by a woodwind and upper string melody. This communication builds up to create an effective call and response theme. The central lyrical section keeps the tempo driving, but sees the strings unite for the second theme. The opening unison theme ties together all of the sections of the movement, which creates a familiarity about the music. After a series of descending figures, the music settles into a neat string theme. The opening movement concludes with a reprise of the introduction before the music comes to a triumphant close.


Movement II – Andante

The slow middle movement is set in G major. The violins take the main theme as the violas and celli accompany, playing a simple bass line. The lyricism is the most noticeable in this movement as Hadyn focuses solely on the strings. The slow perpetuum mobile style of the violin part is broken by intricate trills from the top violin. The movement concludes quietly with all strings landing on the final root chord together.


Movement III – Presto

The quick finale represents that of a symphonic rondo. Haydn uses imitation throughout this movement to create a specific effect within the orchestra. Like a domino effect, when one part starts the theme, the rest follow suit. The strings and woodwind play the initial theme in unison, before the upper strings take over the theme whilst the woodwind rests. The bouncy 3/8 time signature aids with the ‘Presto’ marking to create a playful but driven finale. After a quick reprise of the main theme of the finale, the movement comes to a triumphant close.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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