About this work
Haydn's Symphony No. 81 finds the composer providing further contrast in the trilogy of 79 through 81. The solemnity of its predecessor yields to an at-the-outset athleticism further along nurtured by some travelogue airs. In this regard, No. 81 is possibly the most international of Haydn's symphonies. Commencing with an abrupt forte G major chord and pulsating reiterated G's, the first subject yields to a brief lyrical section, virtually a whim, which effects a transition to an extended concertante which occupies the rest of the movement. The slow movement features the first of the national "excursions," a brooding Magyar tune (recall that patron Esterházy was Hungarian), alternated with a siciliano for flute and strings. The minuet is quite different from any of Haydn's, unmistakably Slavonic, contrasted with an, again, Hungarian-influenced trio. For the sonata finale, Haydn is again the cosmopolitan, with spry rhythms carrying forward beautifully long-spanned themes. All is happy; even in the expanded development there is not even a flirtation with minor keys. Here then is a distinctive and enjoyable symphony which can easily hold its own with the London group.