Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.13


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

The Thirteenth Symphony was composed in 1763 for Prince Nikolaus Esterházy’s orchestra in Eisenstadt. This one was one of the first symphonies for a slightly larger orchestra that Haydn composed.

Movement I

With a symphony that explores chamber music sonorities, Haydn utilises the distinct parts of the orchestra to create his desired sounds. The opening figure with the sustained wind note adds to the effect before a fuller string complement ensues. Based largely on scalic runs, the simplicity of the material allows Haydn to experiment with textures and harmonies. The first movement is largely in sonata form, with it starting in D major, modulating to A major, and then returning to the home key for the coda. 


Movement II

Featuring a solo cello, the soft second movement is set in G major. The  rest of the strings play steady chords to accompany the soloist as they explore a sweet melody. This blissful movement does not need the dramatics and thrill of some of the other movements, instead the music plays safe and shows off Haydn’s soft lyrical writing. Similarly to the opening movement, the soloist’s melodies are based on scalic movement. 


Movement III

The menuet and trio sees the wind and brass enter after their break from playing in the second movement. The menuet is well-placed, clean and full of style. The horns play a big part in this movement with their important interjections breaking up the theme. Haydn once more explores texture and the chamber-feel to the music. The trio is once more reduced to a string-only section, only this time they are accompanying a solo flute. After a reprise of the opening theme, this movement ends grandly. 

Movement IV

The finale movement is full of energy, with the lower strings being the engine of the orchestra from the beginning. The fugal stylings of this movement add to the excitement as many lines of music spawn from the central theme. The main theme is based on the same four-note Gregorian Credo theme that Mozart later used in his Jupiter Symphony. The unrelenting energy lasts throughout the entirety of this movement, with the final few chords bursting through. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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