Symphony in C minor, Hob. I:95

Joseph Haydn composed his Symphony No. 95 during his first trip to England in the spring of 1791. The last of the ‘London Symphonies’ is the only work in the minor key. The usual characters associated with the C minor key (tragic, passionate, serious, strict, etc.), however, are barely present. The middle sections of the slow movement and the minuet are (as was customary in the age) in the major key. Moreover, the end of the first movement, as well as the entire finale, are in C major. One other peculiarity is the fact that it is the only London Symphony whose opening movement does not begin with a slow introduction. The reason why there is no need for an attention-grabbing introduction is because the movement starts in an unusual way, with a five-note, extremely firm motif, followed by an unexpectedly long pause… The five-note motif assumes a crucial role throughout the entire movement. Typically, answer – after all, we have already heard it so many times…

Composed in variation form, the E-flat-major slow movement is cunningly simple. The main players of the first variation are the solo cello and solo violin. The second variation, which becomes gloomier as it shifts to E-flat minor, brims with surprises, including unexpected pauses and ‘frightening’ fortissimo tutti chords. In the middle C-major section of the C-minor minuet again the cello has the main part in a technically challenging solo. Typically for the London Symphonies, the work is rounded off in a grandiose, brilliant fourth movement in a folk-like character and, like Mozart’s (similarly C-major) Jupiter Symphony, with polyphonic, counterpointing sections.

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