Symphony No.52

Joseph Haydn

Symphony No.52 in C minor

Hob. I/52

About this work

A short period in Austrian music history around years 1768 to 1775 has come to be known as the "Sturm und Drang" period. The name, which means "Storm and Stress" actually originated in a 1776 German novel by that name. Obviously, it was applied retrospectively. What it denotes is a sudden tendency of Austrian musicians to write dramatic, emotion-laden music, often in minor keys. The musicians of the Romantic era particularly admire these works, for they seemed a precursor to their own favored style. This writer believes that the sudden profusion of such works was the result of musicians using dramatic musical ideas from Italian operas in their own instrumental music to break away from a prevailing tendency to gentility and comfortable listening.

At any rate, this symphony was often seen as a precursor to a great line of works in c minor, a key which became associated with noble struggle and either triumph over adversity or a redeeming sort of tragedy. Mozart's K 491 piano concerto, Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto, and Beethoven's Fifth symphony are thus seen as spiritual descendants of this symphony. Whatever the validity of this proposed "evolutionary" line, this is by common consent regarded as Haydn's most dramatic and tragic symphony of the entire period. Its orchestration employs pairs of oboes and horns. The use of the horn crook in C alto enables the player to reach uncommonly high notes, up to G below high C, where the horn takes on a screaming character. This results in a symphony of unusual tension and power.