Symphony No. 49 (Haydn)

Symphony No. 49 (Haydn)

The Symphony No. 49 in F minor (Hoboken 1/49) was written by Joseph Haydn. It is popularly known as La passione (the Passion).

Date of composition and scoring

It was written in 1768 during Haydn's Sturm und Drang period.

The four movements follow the what was by then archaic Sonata da chiesa pattern: slow-quick-slow (minuet)-quick. It was the last time Haydn was to follow this scheme in a symphony.

The scoring of the symphony is typical of Haydn in this period: two oboes, bassoon, two horns, strings and continuo.

Nickname (La passione)

As with all the other titles that have become attached to Haydn's symphonies, this did not originate with the composer himself. It was long-believed that the nickname "La passione" or The Passion derived from the nature of the music itself: the slow opening movement of the sinfonia da chiesa, its minor key modality and its association with the Sturm und Drang period of Haydn's symphonic output. Drawing from this traditional reading, H.C. Robbins Landon has described it as "dark-hued, somber - even tragic." [Landon, Haydn Chronicle, vol. 2, 290.]

However, the nickname can be traced back to a single source from a performance given during Holy Week in the Northern German city of Schwerin in 1790, where secular music was banned from performance between 1756 and 1785. This suggests that the name was derived circumstantially and not thematically and that reading the symphony as having a Passion-related motif is post-facto interpretation. As Elaine Sisman has discovered,

The traditional view of this symphony is, however, strikingly at odds with the title transmitted in a Viennese source, now at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde: "Il Quakuo [recte quacquero] di bel'humore" - that is, the good-humored, good-natured, or waggish Quaker. The complete inscription reads: "nel suo antusiasmo [sic] il Quakuo di bel'humore. / questa Sinfonia serve di Compagna a quella / del Philosopho Inglese dell' istesso autore."' [cite journal
last = Sisman
first = Elaine
title = Haydn's Theater Symphonies
journal = Journal of the American Musicological Society
volume = 43
issue = 2
pages = 332
date = Summer 1990
url =
issn =
accessdate = 2008-08-06

This suggests that, far from being a passion-related work, the symphony has, in part at least, a theatrical provenance - a fairly common origin for Haydn's symphonic works (See, e.g. Symphonies No. 59 and 60). There was, in fact, a popular play to which this inscription likely refers. Die Quäker was the title under which Chamfort's 1764 comedy "La jeune indienne" was published in German. It was a popular stage piece in Vienna during the late 1760s and early 1770s. It is possible, therefore, that the "dark hued" reading of the symphony was, in fact, an insouciant characterisation of the earnest Quaker figure from Chamfort. [Sisman, 331-336. See also Symphony No. 34, which Sisman idfentifies on musical grounds as the companion piece referred to.]


* I. Adagio
* II. Allegro di molto
* III. Menuet e Trio
* IV. Presto

All the movements are in F minor, although the trio is in F major, providing a glimpse of brightness in the generally pessimistic scene. The two quick movements are notable for their forward drive and relentless energy.


See also

*List of symphonies by name


*Robbins Landon, H. C. (1963) "Joseph Haydn: Critical Edition of the Complete Symphonies", Universal Edition, Vienna

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