“London” Symphony

By Franz Joseph Haydn

It is clear from the title that Joseph Haydn was a very prolific composer, and all of his symphonies are mature, brilliant and well-crafted works.

Haydn wrote this masterpiece in 1795 during his second triumphal visit to London. This symphony — his last — was one of twelve written for concerts given in London between 1791 and 1795. It is one of the great masterworks of the symphonic literature.

The first movement begins with a grand, dramatic introduction, played in unison, and intended to have the audience take notice. The graceful Allegro that follows is a complete contrast in mood. It starts very simply but soon builds tremendous momentum and excitement.

The second movement Andante is a series of contrasting variations, full of grace and wit. The singing Minuet and lilting Trio are typical of Haydn at his very best.

The final Spiritoso movement is based on a Croatian folk-dance, and builds to a rousing finale. The “London” symphony is a fitting climax to Haydn’s lifetime of symphonic achievement.

With works like this Haydn set the course of Austro-German symphonic tradition which would continue through Mozart and Beethoven to Brahms, Mahler and beyond.