Symphony No. 59 (Haydn)


Symphony No. 59 (Haydn)

The Symphony No. 59 in A major is a relatively early work by Joseph Haydn that is known popularly as the Fire Symphony. [HC Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5 vols, (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1976-) v. 2, Haydn at Eszterhaza, 1766-1790]

Date of Composition & Scoring

Despite its high number, the symphony is one of several in the Hoboken classification system (Symphony No. 72 is another good example) that is egregiously out of place. It is, in fact, a quite early work, certainly composed before 1769, and possibly a fair bit earlier. By contrast, the Symphony No. 61 was written in 1781.

The work is in standard four movement form and scored for two oboes, two horns, continuo (bassoon, harpsichord) and strings.

The date of its first performance is unknown.

Nickname (Fire)

The symphony has long been popularly known as the Feuer or Fire symphony. As with most other monikers attached to Haydn's symphonies, the name itself did not originate with the composer. For a long time, the attributed title was thought to refer to the fiery nature of the composition, particularly the rather unusually spirited first movement (marked Presto, a tempo indication more typical of final movements) and the brief but energetic last movement, which features prominent horn fanfares and corruscating runs on the strings. However, there is nothing particularly distinguishing about any of the movements that would make it more impassioned than other symphonic compositions by Haydn during this period.

Instead, the nickname almost certainly derives from the use of several movements as accompanying music to a performance of the play "Der Feuersbrunst" by Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Großmann, which was performed at Eszterháza in 1774. [ HC Robbins Landon, Op. cit., 5 vols, (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1976-) v. However, Andrew Porter puts the date at 1778. Andrew Porter, "Haydn and Opera" The Musical Times, Vol. 104, No. 1446. (Aug., 1963), pp. 558-559; 558.] An extant manuscript of the symphony dating from Haydn's lifetime bears the title "Feueur Sinfonia". Earlier claims that the symphony originated first as theatrical music (like the Symphony No. 60 "Il Distratto") are inaccurate. [Cf. Peter Branscombe, "Music in the Viennese Popular Theatre of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 1971 98(1):101-112. ]

Movements

* I. Presto
* II. Andante
* III. Menuet e Trio
* IV Finale: Allegro

ee also

*List of symphonies by name

References


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