Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.15


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.1760-63, Haydn’s 15th Symphony is set into the traditional four movement structure.


Movement I

Opening with a light Adagio sequence, Haydn utilises the upper violins and horns, who alternate a lyrical theme. The quiet dynamic paired with the light pizzicato accompaniment creates a quite unusual start to a Haydn symphony. The tempo picks up during the Presto section, with two main themes coming forward. The spritely theme is intricate but still highly lyrical. To close the movement, Haydn brings back a slightly altered version of the opening Adagio.


Movement II 

Unusually, Haydn places the minuet and trio second in line, rather than the slow movement, with his 44th being the only other symphony that does this. Now in G major, the string-led minuet is bold and unwavering. The accompanying trio focuses on a quintet of players, with the top violin and cello taking the melodic lead. One more play through of the opening minuet closes this movement neatly. 


Movement III

The token slow movement opens with a light theme from the strings. One main theme overrides this movement, with several smaller nuggets of melody coming forward too. The lightness of Haydn’s writing makes this an effective movement of music. After another play through the fully-developed main theme, the movement comes to a close.


Movement IV 

The dancing presto finale is full of energy as the music bursts from within. Haydn focuses on the beautiful colours of the orchestra, placing woodwind and horns in effective places, whilst also giving the strings intricate passages. The overall effect is celebratory, with the bright key of D major shining through. Haydn keeps the energy rumbling throughout this short movement, ending with a final rousing chord from the orchestra.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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