1784: Haydn: Symphony No. 81 (NO NAME) in G major

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.

21. Symphony No. 81: Haydn is on dynamic and kinetic form here, giving conventional tonality a bit of a slap in the gills with his tricksy little stop-starts and key subversions. Very pleasurable.

So, that’s a rating of 21 for No. 81 out of all 104 symphonies. This is the last of a trio of symphonies written just before the Paris Symphonies. For me no clarinet, trumpet or timpani is a minus, but there are many pluses for this symphony, which appears to be one of Haydn’s best.

Symphony No. 81 (NO NAME) in G major, age 52

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

Charles Mackerras

1st movement

There is no intro, so that’s a bit unusual for Haydn in this period. At this point Mozart was 28, and it’s always important to consider what Mozart was writing at the same age due to the unusual connection between the two composers. By this time Mozart had composed all the Haydn Quartets, although I don’t believe they were published yet, and Haydn knew of the unusual dissonances and explored some of his own. They are subtle and seem pretty tame in 2020, but for their time they were quite unusual. You will hear quite a bit of that in this movement.

2nd movement

It’s a  siciliano theme with three variations. That’s about it, and I did not hear anything terribly unusual in this movement

3rd movement

The sound is either that of a fast minuet or a slow scherzo, somewhat dependent on the choice of the conductor.

4th movement

No surprises. It’s fast, alternating between something light and something with big accents, and it ends with the typical big Haydn finish.

A trio of symphonies

Symphony No. 81 in G major is the last of a trio of symphonies that also included symphonies 79 and 80.These three symphonies were specially written for performance in March 1785.




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