1788: Haydn: Symphony No. 90 (FAKE ENDING) in C major

THURSDAY, November 12, 2020 – 2:37 PM

(Note: I don’t like things that are incomplete, so I want some version of each symphony, but I’m not pleased with this recording and will try to find a better one. The recording itself seems OK, but there was a mistake in ripping the CD. At the end of each movement part of the last chord repeats.)

Symphony No. 90 in C major (FAKE ENDING), age 56

Symphony No. 90 in C major,was written in 1788 as part of a three-symphony commission by Count d’Ogny for the Concert de la Loge Olympique. It is occasionally referred to as “The Letter R” – referring to an older method of cataloguing Haydn’s symphonic output. This triptych also includes Haydn’s own Symphony No. 91 and Symphony No. 92.

I love nicknames, but this symphony doesn’t have one. It should. It has a totally fake ending. You get past the development section of the last movement and it ends. Except it doesn’t. It’s a huge fake, and Haydn comes back in Db major. Did it fool the audience? It fooled me, and not just once, because Haydn repeats the whole section so you get fooled twice!


  • flute, two oboes, two bassoons
  • two horns, two trumpets
  • timpani
  • continuo (harpsichord)
  • strings

Christopher Hogwood

The second movement is in double variation form with a corresponding theme in F minor and consisting of instrument solos for each variation of the first theme.

The finale contains one of Haydn’s more famous jokes. Soon after the recapitulation starts, the music arrives at a rousing and unexpected “ending” in C major followed by four measures of silence which leads the audience to believe the symphony may have actually finished. Instead, the first theme quietly resumes in the remote key of Db major.

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