1765: Haydn: Symphony No. 39 in G minor (STORM AT SEA), age 33, GA (4 horns)

Giovanni Antonini/Il Giardino Armonico

  1. Allegro assai 5:30 (0:08-5:38)
  2. Andante, in Eb major 3:39 (5:46-9:25)
  3. Menuet & Trio 2:34 (9:34 12:08-)
  4. Finale: Allegro di molto 4:26 (12:08-16:34)

Total time: 16:09

Adam Fischer

  1. Allegro assai 5:29
  2. Andante, in Eb major 3:30
  3. Menuet & Trio 2:41
  4. Finale: Allegro di molto 5:13

Total time: 16:53

This is the earliest of Haydn’s minor key symphonies associated with his Sturm und Drang period works (such as the Symphony No. 45). The key is important because G minor inspired two Mozart symphonies in this key, both very famous.


  • two oboes
  • four horns (two in Bb alto and two in G)
  • strings

The nickname:

It’s no wonder that this symphony, written in 1767 around the time Haydn became Kapellmeister for Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, earned the poetic nickname, “Tempesta di mare,” or “storm at sea.”

Again, amazing horns:

At the Esterházy court, Haydn had four horns at his disposal (in this case, two B-flat alto and two G). This was double what was standard for a classical symphony. In Symphony No. 39, the use of four horns transforms the sound. We should remember that in Haydn’s time all of the horns were “natural,” or valveless. This meant that the available pitches that could be produced were limited by the overtone series. By using four horns in this configuration, Haydn could outline full chords. Additionally, a pair of horns were available for modulations to B-flat, the relative major.

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