Symphony in E flat major, Hob I:91

No music-lover in the 1780s can have failed to have heard of Joseph Haydn. The most eminent publishers vied with each other for printing his works, and royalties lavished favours on him. His patrons not only included music-loving aristocrats, but also city entrepreneurs in the concert business. In 1784, Count d’Ogny, one of the heads of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, commissioned six symphonies and, encouraged by the immense success of the resulting, instantly popular “Parisian symphonies”, he commissioned three new ones in 1787. The second of the three, Hob I:91 in E-flat major, was written in 1788. Its opening movement begins with a slow, attention-drawing introduction that creates an aura of tranquility. The sonata form of the brisk middle movement is unique in that it arranges simple motifs in a complementing and counterpointing manner. The B-major slow movement was written in variation form, of which the French were particularly fond. The middle (trio) section of the minuet is Ländler-style music, and the sonata-form, energetic finale, too, features folk elements.

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