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Encyclopedia > Symphony No. 94 (Haydn)

Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 94 in G major was composed in 1791. It is usually called by its nickname, the Surprise Symphony. Franz Joseph Haydn[1] (March 31 or April 1, 1732 – May 31, 1809) was one of the most prominent composers of the Classical period, called the Father of the Symphony and Father of the String Quartet. A life-long resident of Austria, Haydn spent most of his career as a...

Haydn was well known for including jokes in his music, and the 'Surprise' Symphony includes what is probably the most famous one: a jolting chord sounds near the beginning of the second movement after a relatively tranquil opening. The chord "disappears" as quickly as it arrives, and the music immediately returns to its original dynamic, as if nothing had happened. In music, dynamics refers to the volume or loudness of the sound or note, in particular to the range from soft (quiet) to loud. ...

The work is among the most popular of Haydn's symphonies and is frequently performed and recorded.


Composition and premiere

Haydn wrote the symphony in London for a concert series he gave during the first of his two visits to England (1791-1792). The premiere took place on March 27, 1792, with Haydn leading the orchestra seated at a fortepiano. March 27 is the 86th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (87th in leap years). ... 1792 was a leap year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... Fortepiano designates the early version of the piano, as it existed from its invention by Cristofori around 1700 up to the early 19th century. ...

As with Haydn's England visits in general, the premiere was greatly successful. One reviewer wrote that the symphony was "equal to the happiest of this great Master's conceptions." In his feeble old age Haydn remembered the premiere with nostalgia, recounting to his biographer Griesinger:

...it was my wish to surprise the public with something new, and to make a debut in a brilliant manner, in order not to be outdone by my pupil Pleyel [who was leading a rival series of concerts] ...the first Allegro of my Symphony was received with countless bravos, but the enthusiasm reached its highest point in the Andante with the kettledrum stroke. Ancora, ancora! sounded from every throat, and even Pleyel complimented me on my idea.

Toward the end of his active career Haydn wove the theme of the second movement into an aria of his oratorio The Seasons (1801), in which the bass soloist depicts a plowman whistling Haydn's tune as he works. Ignaz Pleyel (June 18, 1757–November 14, 1831) was an Austrian composer of the Classical music era. ... In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ... This article is about tempo in music. ... This article is about the musical term aria. ... An oratorio is a large musical composition for orchestra, vocal soloists and chorus. ... The Seasons (German: Die Jahreszeiten) is an oratorio by Joseph Haydn. ...


The Surprise Symphony is scored for a Classical-era orchestra consisting of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and the usual string section consisting of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ... The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... A Fox Products bassoon. ... The horn is a brass instrument that consists of tubing wrapped into a coiled form. ... Trumpets in the Bible According to Eastons Bible Dictionary, trumpets in the Bible were of a great variety of forms and were made of various materials. ... A timpanist in the United States Air Forces in Europe Band. ... This article does not cite its references or sources. ... The viola (in French, alto; in German Bratsche) is a string instrument played with a bow which serves as the middle voice of the violin family, between the upper lines played by the violin and the lower lines played by the cello and double bass. ... A cello The violoncello, almost always abbreviated to cello (the c is pronounced as the ch in cheese), is a stringed instrument and a member of the violin family. ... Side and front views of a modern double bass with a French bow. ...

In recent decades performances of the work on historical instruments have become popular. The authentic performance movement is an effort on the part of musicians and scholars to perform works of classical music in ways similar to how they were performed when they were originally written. ...

A typical performance of the Surprise Symphony lasts about 23 minutes.


Like all of Haydn's "London" symphonies, the work is in four movements, marked as follows:

Adagio - vivace assai

A lyrical 3/4 introduction precedes a highly rhythmic main section in 6/8 time. As with much of Haydn's work, the first movement is written in so-called "monothematic" sonata form; that is, the movement to the dominant key in the exposition is not marked by a "second theme". In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ... Sonata form is a musical form that has been used widely since the early Classical period. ... In music, the dominant is the fifth degree of the scale. ... An exposition may be one of the following: In music an exposition is the first of the sections in sonata allegro form. ...


This is the surprise movement, a theme and variations in 2/4 time and the subdominant key of C major. The theme is in two eight-bar sections, each repeated. Haydn sets up the surprise, which occurs at the end of the repeat of the first section, by making the repeat pianissimo with pizzicato in the lower strings. This article is about tempo in music. ... In music, variation is a formal technique where material is altered during repetition; reiteration with changes. ... In music, the subdominant is the technical name for the fourth tonal degree of the diatonic scale. ... A one octave music scale in C major. ... Pizzicato is a method of playing a bowed string instrument by plucking the strings with the fingers, rather than using the bow. ...

Four variations of the theme follow, starting with embellishment in sixteenth notes by the first violins, moving to a stormy variation in C minor with trumpets and timpani, then solos for the first oboist and flutist, and concluding with a forte lyrical repeat in triplets. C minor (abreviated Cm) is a minor scale based on C, consisting of the pitches C, D, E-flat, F, G, A-flat, B and C (harmonic minor scale). ... The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. ... The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view. ...

In the coda section, the opening notes are stated once more, this time reharmonized with gently dissonant diminished seventh chords over a tonic pedal. A seventh chord is a chord or triad which has a note the seventh above the tonic in it. ... In tonal music, a pedal point (also pedal tone, organ point, or just pedal) is a sustained tone, typically in the bass, during which at least one foreign, i. ...

Listen to the "Surprise" Movement

Menuetto: Allegro molto

A minuet and trio, in ternary form. The key returns to G major. The tempo marking marks the historical shift away from the old minuet and toward the scherzo; by the time of his last quartets Haydn had started to mark his minuets presto. In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ... A minuet, sometimes spelled menuet, is a social dance of French origin for two persons, usually in 3/4 time. ... Trio is generally used in any of the following ways: Three musicians playing the same or different musical instrument. ... Ternary form is a structuring mechanism of a piece of music. ... G major is a major scale based on G, consisting of the pitches G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G. Its key signature consists of one sharp. ... A scherzo (plural scherzi) is a name given to a piece of music or a movement from a larger piece such as a symphony. ... In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ...

Finale: Allegro molto

A characteristically rhythmically propulsive Haydn finale. Formally, the movement is an example of sonata rondo form, the opening bars appearing both at the beginning and in the middle of the development section. The stirring coda emphasizes the timpani. In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time) is the speed or pace of a given piece. ... Sonata rondo form was a form of musical organization often used during the Classical music era. ... A timpanist in the United States Air Forces in Europe Band. ...



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