On his first trip to the British Isles in 1829 Mendelssohn paid a visit to Scotland, which made a deep impression on him and inspired several future compositions. In 1842, he completed his “Scottish” Symphony (his last symphony) and dedicated it to the young Queen Victoria.
While not programmatic, the symphony is atmospheric and contains many original elements. One of its most striking features is that it is meant to be played continuously – with no break between movements – which was unusual for the time. The first movement opens with a slow introduction in the winds and violas followed by an agitated allegro based upon the opening theme. A recapitulation of the slow opening serves as a transition to the sprightly scherzo, with its alternating dance themes in the winds and strings.
The following adagio is in the style of a “song without words,” with a lyrical theme alternating with a stern foreboding one.
The last movement opens with an agitated, onrushing series of passages before transitioning to a fugue-like section and a quiet transition featuring a clarinet-bassoon duo. The movement closes with a majestic rolling theme, in the major key, full of joy and hope.
In 1790, just two months after the death of Haydn’s employer, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy (for whom Haydn served for more than 40 years, with only brief interruptions), the violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon arrived in Vienna to convince Haydn to travel with him to London.
Haydn, now without permanent work and living as a freelance artist, agreed and made the first of two visits to London, composing six symphonies for this event. He paid a second visit for the 1794/1795 season, and again the principal event was a series of concerts with six new symphonies.
In contrast to his small orchestra at the Esterházy estate, the London orchestra of Salomon was a full-sized orchestra, providing Haydn with new possibilities. As a result, he composed the 12 symphonies (nos. 93-104) that count among the best he had ever written: The London Symphonies.
When Haydn finally returned to Vienna, in 1795, it was as a financially and artistically successful composer.
First performed in 1794, Symphony No. 101 is part of these famous London Symphonies, composed for his second stay in London. The second movement is responsible for the symphony’s nickname, “The Clock”: you can hear the clock-like tick-tack, introduced by the bassoons and string pizzicato, throughout the movement.
Arriaga, who lived from 1806 to 1826, showed an early talent for a musical career. Known as “the Spanish Mozart,” he was born in Bilbao in northern Spain, and composed his only opera (Los Esclavos Felices) at the age of 14.
Arriaga’s talent so impressed Bilbao’s notables that they sent him to study in Paris in 1821, where he composed three string quartets and this symphony before his untimely death from tuberculosis at age 19.
Arriaga wrote his Symphony in D Major in 1824-5. It is a work with decided influences reminiscent of Schubert and Mozart, especially in its use of keys and harmonies. The opening adagio intersperses solo wind passages with brooding string motifs; this segues into an impassioned allegro, dramatically in the minor key. The andante is conventionally classical in form, but shows an inventive use of woodwinds and unusual string passagework. A minuetto and trio follows, the latter with solo flute and guitar-like string pizzicato effects.
The last movement opens again in the minor key, with an Italianate violin theme. A delightful second theme follows (again in the violins). A return to the major key heralds the triumphant finale.