Work: Symphony no 101 in D major, H 1 no 101 "Clock"
About This Work
After the overwhelming success of his first London trip in 1791-2, Haydn returned to Vienna, where he bought a new house for his family and settled into a comfortable domestic life, while continuing to compose and giving some music lessons (including
a few to the young Beethoven). But the lure of the excitement he had experienced in England was strong, and when Johann Peter Salomon invited him to return to London for some more concerts, Haydn didn't hesitate. He arrived in England in February 1794, and over the next few months presented another series of concerts with Salomon, including the premieres of his Symphonies Nos. 99-101. No. 101 was first performed under Haydn's direction at the Hanover Square Concert Rooms on March 3, 1794.
The first movement's opening is dramatic and hushed. When the tempo speeds to Presto, it is in a lively, rollicking 6/8 meter (very unusual for the first movement of a symphony).
The symphony's nickname comes from the "tick-tock" accompaniment that pervades much of the second movement (Andante). Bassoons and pizzicato strings provide the tick-tock at first, accompanying a graceful, slightly coy tune. There is a stormy interlude at the movement's center; then the tick-tock returns, this time played by the flute and bassoon two octaves apart.
With the third movement, probably the longest and most complex of Haydn's minuet movements, the symphony's nickname becomes doubly appropriate. Back in 1793 in Vienna, Haydn had given his patron Prince Esterházy the gift of an elaborate musical clock, for which he also wrote a set of 12 short pieces; one of those 12 pieces became the basis for this grand, ceremonious movement. The slightly comical trio section seems to evoke a not-very-talented village band, whose "wrong" notes and other quirks were often "corrected" by the symphony's later conductors and publishers. This trio may have provided some inspiration for Beethoven in a similar passage in the third movement of his "Pastoral" Symphony almost 15 years later.
The Finale is based on a lively tune that is subjected to a very complex development, even including a vigorous fugue at one point. As is characteristic of the London symphonies, the string section is called upon to play some extraordinarily difficult passages.
-- Chris Morrison
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