Symphony No.25

Joseph Haydn

Symphony No.25 in C major

Hob. I/25

About this work

Franz Joseph Haydn's musical career began with his first experiences as a choirboy at the tail end of the Baroque period; it ended well into Ludwig van Beethoven's spectacular evolution as a composer. Works such as the Symphony No.25 reflect the great diversity of musical styles to which Haydn was exposed throughout his lifetime: the composer's own language is infused both with Baroque formal and dramatic schemes and the new phrase structures and slower harmonic rhythms of the Classical period.

Works that adopt the Baroque sonata da chiesa form open with a slow movement and continue with a faster one. Many of Haydn's early Symphonies follow such a pattern; the Symphony at hand, however, offers a delightful alternative which eventually became a standard element of symphonic form, as evidenced in works by Mozart, Beethoven, and, with later modifications, in the works of composers as varied as Brahms and Franck.

A lengthy slow introduction begins the first movement, and the listener is led to believe that the movement will continue in the typical sonata da chiesa manner. Instead, however, Haydn charts a course to the movement proper, a lively Allegro molto--a much more Classical solution to the formal problem. A false recapitulation midway through the movement prepares a continuation of the development, surely one of the earlier examples of this favorite "trick"; the real recapitulation appears some forty bars later. Haydn omits the slow movement altogether; the Menuet and Trio thus becomes the Symphony's second movement. The finale is a shortened sonata-allegro form in 2/4 meter, characterized by a canonic theme and no real development (or, at least, a combined development and reprise). Taken as a whole, the Symphony is remarkable for its extreme brevity and the manner in which the four standard movements are collapsed into three (a model later adopted by, among others, Jean Sibelius). Such innovations, which mark the real importance of Haydn's symphonies, reverberated for hundreds of years, influencing, as noted above, generation after generation of symphonists.