Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.16


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

Most likely composed between 1757-61, Haydn’s Sixteenth Symphony is set in Bb major. Reverting back to the three movement structure, the symphony sits firmly in Haydn’s new traditional set up. 


Movement I

Opening with a sweet, growing theme in the upper strings, the first movement is set in 3/4 time. Big orchestral interjections raise the dynamic of the piece to create light and darkness throughout the movement. The quick tempo, with the parts marked ‘Allegro’, are light and chirpy, with a lot of the music really honing in on Haydn’s classic style. 


Movement II 

 Featuring a muted solo cello, the slow second movement is rich in harmony and texture as Haydn writes a sweet solo theme. Decorated trills and frills from the upper strings creates an air to this movement that is not as present in other movements. The stately feel to the movement is interesting and the repetitive nature of the structure means that when the solo muted cello plays in unison with the violins, it feels like a bigger shift in the music. After a final repeat of the theme, this movement ends quietly. 

Movement III

The quick finale is geared with energy from the first note with the strings rushing off. The lower strings and harpsichord add intermittent stabs before joining in with the fast movement later on. The shortest movement of the three, the finale is the push of energy and excitement we needed after the more sultry second movement. The intricate string part requires much precision from the violins in particular, with the fast tempo adding to the difficulty of the part. A quieter central section adds a new dimension to the movement before the music rushes off again towards the end of the piece. The symphony finishes with the orchestra coming together for the final chords back in the home key of Bb major. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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