Symphony No.93

Joseph Haydn

Symphony No.93 in D major

Hob. I/93

About this work

The London-based concert promoter Johann Peter Salomon (1745-1815) was in Cologne when he heard of the death of Nikolaus Esterházy I, in September 1790; he immediately went to Vienna to secure an arrangement with Haydn, whom he had tried unsuccessfully to engage several times during the 1780s. Now freed from his commitments to the Esterházy family for the first time in 30 years, Haydn was finally prepared to seize this very lucrative and exciting opportunity. The first of Haydn's two subsequent excursions to London began in December of 1790 and was, by all accounts, a great success; he remained in London for two concert seasons, returning to Vienna in July 1792. The composer wrote six new symphonies for the concert series; these are now numbered 93-98, the first six of the so-called "London" symphonies.

The third of these, the Symphony No. 93 in D major, was most likely completed during the fall and winter of 1791; it was first performed on February 17, 1792 as part of Salomon's 1792 concert season. It is scored for two each of flute, oboe, bassoon, horn, and trumpet, with timpani and strings.

The introduction to the sonata-form first movement invokes a martial atmosphere that seems add odds with the waltz-like rhythm of the first main theme. This more quaint rhythmic quality wins out, however, and it also pervades the second theme. The highly modified recapitulation features solo passages for the bassoon.

The pastoral tone of the slow movement stems from the falling fifths in the opening violin melody and the relatively high tessitura of the solo bassoon part. In G major, the movement is marked Largo cantabile.

An aggressive minuet returns to D major with a forceful unison opening. Again, the bassoons have a prominent role. The Trio contrasts melodically static woodwind outbursts with a subdued theme in the strings.

Fits and starts pepper the Presto ma non troppo Finale; the second half of the theme halts abruptly before a minor mode presentation of the opening measures. Haydn's humor is at its best in this high-spirited movement: at the moment just before the reprise of the beginning of the movement, a fortissimo passage in which the full orchestra hammers away at the opening motive comes to an abrupt stop. A solo cello twice plays the same motive, piano, before being pushed aside by another fortissimo outburst from the full orchestra.