Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.11


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 the years of 1760-62, Haydn’s Eleventh Symphony was either written for Prince Esterházy’s palace, or for the orchestra of Count Morzin. Set into four movements, the Eleventh Symphony is similar to the Fifth, with both being set in a Sonata da Chiesa form. 


Movement I – Adagio cantabile

The lilting opening movement is the longest and also the slowest of the four. Using just the strings and horns, this opening movement sets the thematic material up before the second movement ‘Allegro’ takes hold. This opening movement, however, showcases Haydn’s professional handling of the orchestra, ensuring the horns add enough to the texture without interrupting the lyrical themes played by the strings. The movement as a whole is rounded and peaceful, with it concluding with a final recap of the main theme. 


Movement II – Allegro

The exciting pace of the second movement injects excitement into the symphony that has so far been missing from the music. The woodwind and continuo are now part of the orchestrations, with them bringing new textures to the mix. Fast scalic runs paired with bold woodwind and horn melodies plays right into the traditions of the time. Haydn keeps the drive pushing forward which organically creates intensity within the music. A quieter central section plays against this, however the loud material returns to see this movement out with a bang.


Movement III – Minuet and Trio

Set as a traditional minuet and trio, the third movement opens with a stately theme led by the strings and horns. Clean breaks in the music creates an interesting effect within the music, no doubt leaving listeners on their toes. Warm textures in the minuet aid in the portrayal of this style, which Haydn is well-known for. The lilting trio section uses a ‘behind the beat’ effect to create a limping sound across the ensemble. The character here suitably opposes that of the minuet, which keeps the interest within the music high. The movement concludes with a short reprise. 


Movement IV – Presto

Marked ‘Presto’, the finale is full of fizz and excitement as Haydn starts with music marked quietly so that the forte bursts seem even more dramatic. Lots of decoration can be heard from across the orchestra to add to the ever-developing main theme. Haydn’s clean melodic writing is showcased throughout this movement, with the orchestra buzzing between phrases and racing towards the end of the symphony. The symphony closes with the orchestra uniting for the final reinstatement of the main theme. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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