Symphony No. 82 in C major, “The Bear”

I. Vivace assai II. Allegretto III. Menuetto e Trio IV. Finale. Vivace

 

The set of six “Paris” symphonies, that comprise Nos. 82-87 in Haydn’s vast symphonic oeuvre, owe their existence to a distinguished French aristocrat Count Ogny, otherwise known as Claude- François-Marie Regoley. Regoley was an enthusiastic patron of the celebrated Paris conservatoire, Le Concert de la Loge olympique, which commissioned Haydn to write the symphonies in 1786. Haydn was then still employed at the Eszterházy palace.

 

At that time, Parisian orchestras were significantly larger than the German or Austrian court ensembles, such as Haydn’s own orchestra at Eistenstadt. Concert de la Loge boasted nearly forty violinists and ten double basses. The musicians performed in sky-blue frocks and sported swords by their sides. Their audiences were drawn from the nobility, indeed even Marie Antoinette attended the Haydn concerts. She favoured the symphony in B flat major (No. 85), earning it the nickname “Queen” symphony.

 

The “Paris” symphonies were almost certainly all performed in the 1787 concert season. One of the violinists was the young Luigi Cherubini who later recorded the rapture with which the best musicians of Paris participated in these world premieres. The concerts enchanted both critics and public alike, and the new symphonies were soon successfully received across Europe.

 

The circumstances of the performance, the knowledgeable and sizable musical public as well as immense orchestra (at least by previous standards), all contributed an influence on the style of the works. The principal characteristic of symphonies No. 82 and No. 86 is their orchestration which employs trumpets and drums. Additionally, the presence of the ten double basses also had an effect. Without them, the characteristic growling basses in the finale Vivace movement would have been inconceivable, causing posterity – associating it with bear dances – to christen the symphony with the name “The Bear.”