Joseph Haydn: Symphony No.17


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 1757-63, Haydn’s Seventeenth Symphony is one of his lesser-known symphonies. Similarly to the previous symphony, No.17 is also in the three movement structure.


Movement I

The opening movement is marked ‘Allegro’ and its central theme is a pulsating sweet theme primarily played in the upper violins. Between the driving lower strings and the peppy upper strings, Haydn places horns in the gaps to create a warm timbre between the ensemble. In classic Haydn style, the movement is set in sonata form, and shows off Haydn’s flair for melodic writing. 


Movement II 

By far the longest movement of the three, the slow second movement has shifted into a sultry F minor tonality. A slowly creeping melody opens this movement, with Haydn focusing on a quartet of string instruments. The movement is slowly layered, with different voices entering the mix at a slow pace. No horns or wind are heard at all in this movement, with Haydn completely focusing on the structured movements of the string players. 


Movement III

A dance-like finale set in 3/8 time closes this interesting symphony. Once again the main theme is primarily heard in the upper strings, however Haydn does utilise the lower strings as melodic instruments during phases of the finale. The shift between major and minor sets this movement apart from the first movement as Haydn experiments the very different offerings of timbre between major and minor. After a final play through of the main theme, the symphony ends with a perfect resolution. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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