Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.7
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.
Grouped together with the other symphonies (6&8) in ‘The Day’ trilogy, Haydn’s Seventh Symphony is nicknamed Le Midi (‘The Noon’). Composed in the summer of 1761 under the patronage of Prince Paull II Anton Esterházy, the Seventh Symphony is one of Haydn’s more complicated early symphonic works.
Movement I – Adagio: Allegro
Opening with a ceremonial march led by the strings, the marked ‘Adagio’ opening of the Seventh Symphony creates a stately character for the opening movement. The stately march is set largely in C major, which is a central key for the whole symphony. When the tempo changes to ‘Allegro’, the harmony shifts into D major. All principal string players have devilishly difficult solo parts throughout this symphony, with the solo violins exercising this soon into this movement. Intricate woodwind parts decorate the bold strings as Haydn experiments with texture.
After a lengthy development section, the final minute of the opening movement is full of energy. The orchestra revisit the opening ceremonial march theme, before the strings drive the music to its rousing conclusion.
Movement II – Recitativo
The longest movement of the four, the recitativo-style second movement is set in the key of C minor. As with the opening movement, Haydn uses soloists within the orchestra to create separate melodies, and the solo violin is the main focus throughout the movement. After a short reciativo section, the music moves on to a more dramatic theme. Once the music modulates to G major, Haydn uses the solo violin and cello as the basis for the melodic content. The two intertwine in musical conversation, as the orchestra takes a back seat. The movement ends with a cadenza for the two soloists that leads into a small orchestral conclusion.
Movement III – Minuet and Trio
Similarly to the orchestration of the Sixth Symphony (and in turn the Eighth), the Minuet and Trio movement opens with two themes presented by the strings and horns. The trio section also features important solo passages for the double bass. The trio is stately, and the low timbre of the double bass creates a unique texture against the arpeggio theme from the French horns. After a reinstatement of the opening minuet theme, the movement concludes with a typical classical resolution.
Movement IV – Finale
The fiery finale movement sees Haydn take on more soloists within the orchestra and oppose them with intricate exchanges between the orchestra. The woodwind in particular are used for one-bar exchanges which are quick and very intense. Most parts are given solo passages in this movement, with lots of voices entering the mix by the end of the finale. Bold tutti passages are powerful and reaffirm Haydn’s purposeful harmonic language. As the music heads towards the final few bars, the horns start a fanfare theme. Opposed with intricate solo flute lines and tutti strings, the fanfare becomes interchangeable. The symphony concludes with a thrilling unison passage led by the horns.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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