About this work
In his Symphony No. 34, Haydn employs a device that would later be adopted, in a number of guises, by major symphonists such as Beethoven and Mahler: beginning a symphony in a minor key and ending in the parallel major. No. 34 is further notable as only the second instance in which the composer based a symphony upon a minor key; the symphony's primary purpose to that point--as a diverting entertainment--had largely precluded the use of the minor keys, with their connotations of darkness, gravity, and ill temper.
The opening Adagio (for this work, Haydn adopts the slow-fast-slow-fast movement plan of the Baroque sonata da chiesa) tells a desolate tale; yearning violins and dark, sustained tones from the horn section underscore the somber mood. After this remarkable movement the sun emerges, so to speak: the remainder of the work is in the major mode. The Allegro second movement is full of passion and drama, a herald of the just-emerging Sturm und Drang aesthetic: the wide melodic leaps in the principal idea and fiery accompaniment seem a far cry from the restrained tones of earlier Classical instrumental works. The Trio of the Minuet and Trio is really a kind of waltz characterized by a relaxed tempo and lilting accompaniment. The Symphony finishes in a Presto assai flurry of activity. This final movement is divided into three large sections, the middle of which offers a final echo of the minor modality of the first movement.