Symphony No. 49 "La Passione" in F minor

SYMPHONY No. 49 was created in 1768, when Haydn had already been court Kapellmeister at the castle of the Princes of Esterhazy for seven years. He would remain in this post for a full 30 years, and as painful as his almost complete isolation from the world was, it was actually a very fruitful time for him. Prince Paul Anton and his successor Nikolaus Esterhazy were music lovers, highly appreciated Haydn, had an orchestra of good instrumentalists at his disposal with whom he worked daily and produced magnificent works in a variety of genres, each with a very individual character. With its dramatic, dark colouring, the Passion Symphony is typical of the period in Haydn’s oeuvre that bore the influence of the Sturm und Drang movement in German-language literature between the 1760s and 1780s, a kind of precursor to Romanticism. The title La Passione, as with his other symphonies, is not Haydn’s; it originated after the symphony’s performance during Holy Week in 1790 in the northern German town of Schwerin, perhaps because its atmosphere recalls traditional Passions. All four movements are built in the melancholic F minor tonality and follow the structure of the old baroque church sonata, the Sonata da chiesa (slow-fast-slow-fast movement). After the mournful opening Adagio, reminiscent of a funeral procession, the dramatic Allegro rushes in with shearing dynamic contrasts wide melodic leaps, the following Menuet does not have the usual vital danceability, but rather a subdued anxiety that flows into the energetic movement of the final tragic Presto.

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