About this Piece
Orchestration: flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: February 21, 1992, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting
Haydn composed his Symphony No. 80 at Eszterháza, probably in 1784. The work was part of a trio he sent to publishers in Vienna, London, Paris, and maybe even Lyon, proof of his spreading fame. Mozart programmed it at one of his concerts in Vienna in 1785, on the first half of a bill that also featured his cantata Davidde penitente, the first version of the Great Mass in C minor.
Haydn's Symphony No. 80 had the unfortunate fate of being left to posterity with no nickname, and it was unlucky enough not to come from either its creator's Sturm und Drang period or from his sets of Paris or London Symphonies. Thus its revival as part of this Mozart Festival offers an opportunity to enjoy a symphonic gem by a master of the genre, one heard less often than its 50-odd nicknamed siblings and the justly famous works Haydn created for the French and English capitals.
The Symphony opens with a dramatic, Sturm und Drangish gesture. The movement's second theme, a light-hearted dance tune played by flutes and violins over a pizzicato accompaniment, presents a shocking contrast, just the kind of thing that has gained Haydn a reputation as one of music's great humorists. Haydn focuses on this second theme in the movement's development, giving the movement an entirely different feeling than its opening portended.
The adagio continues in this sunnier vein, while the stern minuet returns the listener to the mood of the first movement's stormy opening. In the graceful trio, the winds intone a Gregorian chant over a gently rocking accompaniment in the strings. The finale, in D major, is not a pre-figuring of Beethoven's move from turbulent minor to triumphant major in his Fifth Symphony; rather, it is Haydn having a good old time with a main theme constructed from syncopation (giving it a sort of lurching, drunken character), letting comedy have the last word.
— John Mangum is a Ph.D. candidate in history at UCLA. His research looks at the political, social, and cultural importance of opera in Berlin between 1740 and 1806.