1792: Haydn: Symphony No. 98 (GOD SAVE THE KING) in Bb major, age 60 LONDON ONE

WEDNESDAY, November 4, 2020 – 2:02 AM

Haydn: Symphony (GOD SAVE THE KING) No. 98 in Bb major, age 60

The Symphony No. 98 in B♭ major is the sixth of the twelve London symphonies (numbers 93–104)  and  was completed in 1792 as part of the set of symphonies composed on his first trip to London. It was first performed at the Hanover Square Rooms in London on 2 March 1792. You will hear the beginning of what sounds like “My Country Tis of Thee”, which is the same as “God Save the King”. In fact, Clementi wrote a whole symphony based on this idea.


  • one flute, two oboes, two bassoons
  • two horns, two trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings
  • harpsichord or fortepiano

Ton Koopman

This is essentially a “student orchestra”, but these are not ordinary students. I see and hear nothing here that is not absolutely first-rate.

1st movement

This is yet another example of a very serious, slow intro that leads into sonata form. It’s almost like fake drama, since once the intro is over it turns jaunty, light and optimistic. I don’t think Haydn was very good at being depressed, moody or dark. In fact the best thing about Haydn may be the essential “upness” of his music.

2nd movement

Immediately you hear part of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, and you are not going crazy. Just remember it used to be “God Save the King” first. And you might want to check out Clementi, because he wrote a whole symphony HERE with this tune. The strings introduce a theme that is almost identical to the Agnus Dei in Mozart’s Coronation Mass. there is a transition section into the development. It is in this transition that a quotation from Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (“Jupiter”) appears. So this is also partially a tribute to Mozart, but it’s hard to narrow down any one symphony as being important in this way because Haydn and Mozart were such close friends.

3rd movement

This is surprisingly fast, almost a scherzo, way before Beethoven started writing scherzos in his symphonies. This is lighter than most of Beethoven’s scherzos, but it has that kind of high energy

4th movement

This is typical Haydn finale, lots of energy and it never lets down.


Age 60…

Haydn composed this symphony in early 1792, so he was right around 60 years old, so it’s always good to remember which composers lived for a long time and had time to fully develop creatively.

The death of Mozart

Mozart died in 1891, and when Haydn used his themes in this and other compositions, it was always a tribute. He was around 24 years older than Mozart, and he was shocked at his early death.

The London years…

He was in the middle of the first of his two visits to London, under contract to perform a series of new symphonies with an orchestra led by Johann Peter Salomon as concertmaster. Haydn directing the orchestra from the keyboard.

He was composing fast…

The premiere came two weeks after that of the Symphony No. 93, and one week before that of his Sinfonia Concertante. That immediately brings up the question, how did he jump from no. 93 to no. 98?

3 thoughts on “1792: Haydn: Symphony No. 98 (GOD SAVE THE KING) in Bb major, age 60 LONDON ONE”

  1. The first section is what I listened to. A lot of parts were enjoyable, but there were some that were ok. The rapid changes in both instrument and key kept me on toes, but sometimes I couldn’t keep up. Overall, a really good first section.

  2. Seeing and hearing the talented students in this orchestra was very entertaining. I listened carefully and was able to hear the snippet of “My Country tis of Thee.”

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