Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.6

‘Le Matin’


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

Nicknamed Le Matin, Haydn’s Sixth Symphony was his first work for Prince Paul II Anton Ezterházy back in 1761. Drawing on inspiration from the concerto grosso structure, Haydn’s Sixth showcases a range of soloists in each movement, including some rare soloists such as the double bass and bassoon. It is speculated that the reason for this was to please his new employer by making reference to some popular traditions, but then making them uniquely his own. 

The nickname, which did not originate from the composer, but was happily adopted, comes from the slow introduction of the opening movement which is said to represent a sunrise. Grouped with the Seventh and Eighth symphonies in this ‘series’, the nicknames spread to noon and evening for the rest of the trio. 


Movement I – Adagio: Allegro

After the sunrise-like slow introduction, the Allegro section begins with bags of energy. The flute and oboe are the first to play intricate solos in the symphony, with the horn also taking an important role here. Haydn’s bold use of dynamics creates an awash of sound and excitement within the ensemble. The whirlwind string theme flies up and down between the woodwind interludes which add a new dimension to the music. Resolving back in the home key, the opening movement concludes triumphantly.


Movement II – Adagio 

The slow second movement showcases a solo violin and cello that start and end this movement. Haydn’s rich textures create warmth within this rather solemn, but hopeful movement. The stately theme that comes from the mysterious opening is quintessential Haydn in its set up and delivery as the violins lead. The movement resolves to bring the music to its dignified end.


Movement III – Minuet and Trio

The idea of using the concertante structure is prevalent in the third movement as a solo flute, accompanied by violins, opens the movement. Haydn utilises the woodwind the most in this movement, creating complete passages of solely wind music. The depth of style here is something that Haydn went on to perfect as he wrote his huge catalogue of symphonies. The trio section begins with a solo passage from the double bass, which is perhaps the most daring move in this symphony. During the trio, the double bass is joined by a bassoon and then a viola. After a reprise of the woodwind theme, this movement concludes with a stately feel.


Movement IV – Finale

Starting with an intricate and quick flourish from the solo flute, the violins emulate the passage and begin developing the music. Similarly to the rest of the symphony, the Finale movement relies on the virtuosi soloists such as the flute, violin and cello. Packed with energy and enthusiasm, the finale brings together themes from all movements to create a celebratory final movement. After a short exploration in a slower theme, the coda bursts back into action, bringing this finale to a thrilling close. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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