Generally speaking, a symphony is a sonata for orchestra, and while there have been groups of instruments playing together for centuries, the beginning of the modern orchestra is linked to the first symphony of Franz Joseph Haydn or as he was affectionately called, “Papa Haydn.” (1732-1809) You will remember that a few weeks ago you listened to some of Haydn’s sonatas for piano as he was a prolific writer for that instrument as well. Haydn wrote 106 symphonies, though they were not as long as the symphonies written after Haydn by composers such as Beethoven and Brahms.
In this week’s listening assignment you will be hearing one movement from a symphony by Haydn called the “Surprise Symphony” because of the sudden loud chord in a quiet passage. It was reported that the “surprise” shocked the ladies present at the concert! The Classical symphony consists, generally, of four movements: 1.) an opening allegro sometimes with a slow introduction 2.) a slow movement with a beautiful melody 3.) sometimes a minuet and trio 4.) a fast and exciting finale.
This movement is the Andante which is where you will hear the “surprise.” It is a typical Classical era them written in 8 bars in question and answer style. After the theme has been stated, which includes the “shocking” surprise, there is a series of variations on the theme. Listen for how he varies this simple but lovely theme, through ornamentation, changing tonality (major to minor) rhythm, and instrumentation (which instruments play the theme). Does this movement end quietly or loudly? By the end of the week can you play this theme on the piano?