Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.4


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 between c.1757-1761, Haydn’s Fourth Symphony is primarily set in D major. Unlike the Third Symphony, Haydn moves back to the classical-style three-movement symphony structure. 


Movement I – Presto

The energetic opening movement is marked ‘Presto’ and is complemented by a bouncy 6/8 time signature. As the main theme plays out, Haydn uses a sonata form structure to develop the theme rhythmically and harmonically. The driving force of the strings keeps the movement moving along at a timely place as the upper strings carry the melody. Haydn uses the woodwind and brass sparingly, only really using them to accentuate the upper string melody. As it begins, the movement concludes full of energy, resolving into the home key of D major.


Movement II – Andante

The slow second movement is set in D minor. The solemn character of this movement is initiated by the opening. With the lower strings taking the lead at first, the mix of low notes creates a rich texture within the orchestra. There is a syncopated pulse played by the second violins throughout which are off-set by the top violins who play just above it. The melody unfolds and leads to a short exploration of the theme before concluding quietly. 


Movement III – Tempo di menuetto

Unlike traditional minuet movements, the finale of Haydn’s Fourth Symphony is set in 3/8 time. The main theme is led by the upper strings, with the other strings taking an accompaniment role. Although presented like a minuet, the main difference with this movement of music is that there is no central trio section. The dance-like movement is in a quintessential Haydn style for that period of his style. After a final reiteration of the theme, the movement ends, resolved back into the home key of D major. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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