Haydn’s London

Franz Joseph Haydn (March 31, 1732–May 31, 1809)

  • Adagio–Allegro
  • Andante
  • Menuetto: Allegro; Trio
  • Finale: Spirituoso


Although Symphony #104 is the only of Haydn’s last twelve symphonies which bears the nickname London, this moniker applies equally to them all. Haydn composed six symphonies for each of his two journeys to London in the 1790s. His tremendous financial and musical successes in England were a source of joy to him, but also made him feel underappreciated in his native Austria.

Also known as Salomon, Haydn’s final symphony was composed in early 1795, and first heard on a concert given for his benefit on May 4, 1795. The first reviewer admired the work “for [its] fullness, richness, and majesty in all its parts,” and thought that it would “surpass all his other compositions.” It is true that Haydn’s last symphonies reflect not only his experience, but originality, profound feeling, and technical mastery.

The first movement, after a foreboding introduction, breaks into a fanfare-like theme for the full orchestra. The portent vanishes with the subsequent cheerful Allegro. The second movement’s soaring melody with free nuances has a pleasant Viennese elegance. The tight energy of the Finale is awesome. Its principle theme is thought to be based on an English street song.

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