1782: Haydn: Symphony No. 78 (MINOR) in C minor

MONDAY, November 16, 2020 – 4:23 AM

In everything I write about Haydn’s symphonies I’m going to link to this post HERE and then mention this man’s gut reaction to each symphony, although strangely I don’t even see his name mentioned.

41. Symphony No. 78: Haydn composed no. 78 as the final of three symphonies designed for London audiences, along with 76 and 77. He described them as “very easy, and without too much concertante – for the English gentlemen.” Translation = English people aren’t clever enough for ‘La Passione’.

His rating of 41 for No. 78 – out of all 104 symphonies, puts this towards the middle, just a bit better than average. Supposedly this is the 3rd of a trio of symphonies written with London in mind, but the trip never happened. So it’s like a smaller group of “London Symphonies” that failed. My own rating is much lower. Minor is special to me, and this is the first of two symphonies almost in a row that are in minor, but this one nearly bored me to tears. I would rate this one close to the worst of all 104. He phoned this one in. The next one in minor, No. 80, is one of my favorites.

Symphony No. 78 (MINOR) in C minor, age 50

  • flute, two oboes, two bassoons
  • two horns
  • strings

Antal Dorati

1st movement

It’s in minor, and for me symphonies in minor are special. But this one feels like it’s in minor just because it’s part of a plan, with no particular emotional investment. So this is the 1st of four movements of a symphony that left me utterly bored, and I want to somehow mark this one so I never waste my time on it again.

2nd movement

It moves to Eb major, and it seems to be a standard Haydn slow movement. Nothing remarkable sticks out in my mind. This whole symphony seems like it’s on autopilot, and I’m bored.

3rd movement

He moves to C major, and it’s a polite sounding minuet, nothing terribly new or unusual. There is a move to Eb major, then back to C major. It’s pleasant. What by Haydn is not pleasant? But this is one of his 104 symphonies that just feels more or less copied from somewhere else. I could never remember the themes because there is nothing going on here to pull me in.

4th movement

No surprises here. The symphony is in C minor, so he’s going back to his main key for the final movement. The theme is presented  in a rondo, then it moves to C major. The whole thing feels a bit formulaic, and this whole symphony just feels “phoned in”. I hear nothing that surprises me. It’s still the same orchestration, no trumpet, clarinet or timpani.

Another trio of symphonies meant for a failed trip to London…

The only thing I can say here, which I will repeat for all three symphonies in this group, is that he liked these, and I don’t. The orchestration is limited, and it all sounds to me polite, predictable and safe. Nothing is dared, so there is nothing to be challenged by or be surprised with. If you absolutely love everything Haydn wrote, you will enjoy this whole trio of symphonies.

But if you are on the fence as I am, think that sometimes he was amazing but other times utterly boring, you won’t like this trio of symphonies.




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