1792: Haydn: Symphony No. 97 (CHIRP CHIRP) in C major

THURSDAY, October 22, 2020 – 9:00 AM

(For a complete list of all the London Symphonies click HERE.)

Symphony No. 97 in C major (CHIRP CHIRP), age 60

To find out where I got this nickname from, just click on the 2nd movement. Then you too will be saying “chirp chirp”. This young group is not yet fully professional, so there are little things that go wrong, and the conductor insists on grunting and call out things – bad – but the performance is good, and it’s fun to  watch. Sometimes it’s also fun to see what goes wrong live, because some spectacular things can also go very right.


  • two flutes, two oboes, two bassoons
  • two horns, two trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings

Andris Nelsons

1st movement

It’s another slow intro, and not a very long one, about a minute long.Then it goes to typical sonata form. I really like this movement. It starts on a C major chord , one note at a time going down, so that’s my first link to this symphony. There is nothing else I can remember that is unique, so far, and that makes it harder for me to remember the symphony and it’s themes.

2nd movement

The one thing that stands out for me in this symphony is the continuous answer of the winds at the end of countless phrases that simple goes “one two three four one chirp chirp four repeat”. The second movement is a set of F major variations with a variation in F minor and a coda.

3rd movement

For the final eight bars of the Trio of the minuet, Haydn instructs the concertmaster (“Salomon Solo” in the score) to play an octave above the rest of the first violins. All of its repeats are written out because the scoring changes with each repeat.

4th movement

“Assai” is a tricky little Italian word that means “much” or “a lot”. Basically when someone says “fast and a LOT”, that’s sort of what “presto assai” means. Hold on to your seatbelts, because what’s coming is going to be a wild ride. Much as the first movement started off with a C arpeggio, right after the intro, this starts off almost immediately with a downward C major scale, like this: C B A G F E D C B A D G. That’s what I’m tagging this symphony to, what the first and last movement does with C major, and how the 2nd movement always goes “chirp chirp”.

The 5th…

Supposedly this is the fifth of the twelve London symphonies. The exact order of composition is not clear because Haydn wrote so many in just a couple years. We do know that the numbering is not always accurate.

Beethoven liked this one, enough to play to base a symphony on it…

It was used as a model for a symphony in C major he never completed. This confirms my guess that Beethoven was familiar with a lot of these late Haydn symphonies and was impressed by them, as he should have been.

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