1784: Haydn: Symphony No. 80 (MINOR) in D 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.

64. Symphony No. 80: Along with 79 and 81, a loose trilogy is formed with this symphony, which seems to revel in a bit more musical freedom than Haydn was used to. Perhaps, with his advancing years and with dozens of symphonies under his belt, he was finally comfortable with his work? It’s not a genre-buster, but it has a wonderful feel.

He missed the boat this time. This is one of his best symphonies for too many reasons to even try to explain.

His rating of 64 for No. 80 – out of all 104 symphonies, is just wrong, so he must have been tired and cranky when he listened to this one.

This is the second of a trio of symphonies written just before the Paris Symphonies. For me no clarinet, trumpet or timpani is a minus, but this symphony is incredibly good. In fact for just a moment I thought I was listening to the opening of “Die Walküre” by Wagner, and that was a total surprise.

Symphony No. 80 (MINOR) in D minor, age 52

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

Antal Dorati

1st movement

First of all, it’s in minor, and that’s unusual. It doesn’t stay that way, or more correctly it does not end there. it ends in D major, and that’s a surprise. The total mood change from minor to major is unusual for Haydn. There is a total stop after the expo which stopped me in my tracks, leading to a really fine development section. All of a sudden there is another stop, then something else unexpected. This movement is full of surprises.

2nd movement

He starts in Bb major, and that may not sound different or unusual, but it’s a double morph, which is not at all common for a key change at that time. Something about this whole thing is a surprise, so I want to come back to this. I’ll probably tag it with “minor”. Although it is not the only symphony to be set pretty obviously in minor, at least at first, it’s one of a very few. This is surprisingly long slow movement – as well as unexpectedly complex – and I assume from what I’m hearing that he was fully engaged. For me much of it has a very “pastoral” feeling, very different from Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony”, but I hear similarities, and always connections to the best writing of Mozart. I’m sure he was very inspired when writing this.

3rd movement

Back to D minor. It’s not a strong minor feeling, because it’s ambiguous about whether it wants to be in D minor of F major, but by the end of the A section, before the trio, it settles strongly into D minor. The trio moves to D major, then the A section – the minuet section – returns to D minor. But even in the trio there is a bit of moodiness, and by the time this was written he knew Mozart’s Haydn Quartets. So there is something very much like Mozart in parts of this. The cross pollination between these two composers was in effect, to the benefit of both them.

4th movement

Back to D minor, and it starts lightly, almost in a sneaky way, then heats up. There is more of Mozart here in  way that is hard to describe. And instead of being a rondo, or something lighter, the form here is true sonata form, including a really fine development section with lots of totally unexpected touches. He definitely did not phone this one in.

A trio of symphonies

Symphony No. 80 in D minor is the 2nd of a trio of symphonies that also included symphonies 79 and 81.These three symphonies were specially written for performance in March 1785.




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