Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 100 in G (“Military”), first movement
Recorded Aug. 15, 2016 at Neocons and Free Radicals concert
Trinity Episcopal Church, Staunton, VA
SMF Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Carsten Schmidt
It’s hard to have a grasp over all 104 symphonies by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Most commentaries select a few highlights from the early and middle numbers, but the final dozen—the so-called “London” Symphonies—offer a more unified set of exemplary quality. Their popular name points to their greatest shared attribute. Haydn wrote the twelve symphonies for two trips to London made between 1791 and 1795. English orchestras and audiences clearly stimulated his creativity, for they doted on Haydn’s ability to blend sublime grandeur with refreshing directness and good humor.
The Symphony No. 100 in G Major reminds us not to put too much emphasis on the poetic subtitles applied by Haydn’s publishers. Such subtitles do help us find the highlights among the 104 symphonies better than mere numbers and keys. This symphony’s slow introduction epitomizes grace and charm—hardly the attributes one would expect from a “military” symphony. The ensuing Allegro theme does not embrace the military ethos any better. Instead, it delightfully contrasts winds and strings, presenting two light, rustic tunes that carry the movement along. During the development seciotn, which opens unexpectedly in B-flat major, some of the chromatic seeds sown earlier by Haydn start bearing fruit. (That aspect will play an even more important role in the finale.) And he cannot resist the chance to dramatically veer off course into E-flat major during the recapitulation of the main theme…
© Jason Stell, 2016