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Music In The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries


CHAPTER 10 Instrumental Music Lifts Off
Richard Taruskin

No less surprising is this symphony’s minuet, marked at an outlandish tempo (allegro molto) that turns it into another dance altogether: a Deutscher (or “Teitsch”), the “German dance” familiar to us from the ballroom scene in Don Giovanni, where it served to accompany the lubberly steps of that unlikeliest of couples, Leporello and Masetto. It comes (or at least begins) in Haydn replete with its traditional oom-pah-pah accompaniment. As danced in the Austrian countryside the Deutscher was known as the Walzer (from wälzen, “to roll”) after its characteristic whirling step. Within a generation this adapted peasant dance, known variously as valse or waltz, would be the main high-society ballroom dance throughout Europe and in all its cultural colonies.

Haydn played an important role in this dissemination. His use of this exotic dance type in his Salomon symphonies was a novelty to the London audience and caused a sensation. Haydn responded to the demand thus created with a set of a dozen Deutsche Tänze set for a typical Viennese dance band (clarinets among the winds, no violas). What is of particular historical significance is the fact that the famous composer of concert music also considered it a part of his job description to furnish ballroom dances for the use of the same social set who attended his concerts. Thus, although the symphony and its performance occasions were becoming increasingly specialized, they were not as yet altogether cut off from more utilitarian genres, and neither was the composer. Haydn’s concert audiences, both at home and abroad, thus heard actual ballroom dances in contemporary use (minuets, contredanses, waltzes) as part of the typical symphony. And thus, ineluctably, they had a different relationship to the genre, and a different attitude toward it, from any that we (for whom all its dances are obsolete “museum pieces”) can have today. Concert music, however monumentalized or rarefied, still enjoyed some semblance of symbiosis with eighteenth-century daily life. The concert hall was not yet a museum.

This holds especially for the finale of the “Surprise” Symphony, which is cast in the meter and tempo of a perfectly recognizable (and danceable) contredanse—or “country dance,” as the Londoners still knew it and danced it.

More Surprises

fig. 10-11 Country Dance, by Hogarth (The Analysis of Beauty, 1753).

More Surprises

ex. 10-9a Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony no. 94 in G (“Surprise”), IV mm. 1–8

More Surprises

ex. 10-9b Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony no. 94 in G (“Surprise”), IV, mm. 138–48

This finale is a remarkable tour de force, one of Haydn’s most accomplished hybrids or syntheses of rondo and “sonata” forms. Its main theme, whose first pair of balanced phrases is given in Ex. 10-9a, is thirty-eight bars long and has a fully articulated and “closed” shape. In its self-sufficiency it contrasts starkly with the terse little phrase that gets the first movement going. Such structural self-sufficiency stamps it immediately as the theme of a rondo, not a “sonata-allegro.” But at its very conclusion the theme is cut off before its time by an elided cadence, dramatized by a sudden tutti attack—the “Big Bang” familiar to us from the first movement, and to Haydn’s London subscribers from just about every first and last movement they heard from his pen. This was the essential “subscription symphony” idea, and immediately stamps the movement as one that will emphasize the tonal trajectory. Unlike a simple rondo, it is to be a thing not of well-shaped themes but of departures, transitions, and arrivals in the manner of the “sonata” form.

That sudden tutti initiates the expected swing to the dominant, where a second theme awaits. In what by now seems a typical gesture, Haydn prolongs the wait with a bar of silence (m. 74) just to get the audience to sit up and beg. And if we may press the canine analogy just a bit farther, Haydn throws a bone to the Kenner und Liebhaber in the house by fashioning the accompaniment to the second theme out of the opening motive from the first theme. At m. 87 another tutti attack on an elided cadence reasserts the momentum of the tonal trajectory. The characteristically heavy insistence on the seventh of the dominant seventh (first presented as a brute unison in m. 100) unmistakably signals a return of the rondo theme in the tonic—something that would be unthinkable in “pure” sonata form. The heaviness of the insistence is a typically surprising yet communicative introversive sign, meant to give the audience a pleasurable jolt.

Note, by the way, that once again a main theme has been constructed with an emphasis on the third degree of the scale (in this case preceded by a two-note pickup, ubiquitous in Haydn finale themes). In fact, the whole formal strategy of the movement is implicit in the way that opening motive highlights the third degree, and might have been predicted. Its reprise halfway through the movement exhibits another typically Haydnesque touch: the doubling of the violins by the bassoon at the lower octave (for precedents within this very symphony, see the coda to the Andante and the trio section of the minuet). Here it is virtually mandated by the unison “middle Cs” in mm. 100–102: only a B in the bassoon register will give the C its proper resolution.

The tutti that next interrupts the rondo theme (m. 112) stands in for the sonata-form “development”—that is, the section that will arrive by dint of sustained thematische Arbeit at the FOP. And here Haydn pulls off a marvelous harmonic pun. The FOP is iii (B minor), the virtually inevitable choice given the way the note B has been spotlit in so much of the symphony’s thematic content. The decisive cadence to B minor is initiated in m. 138 with the cadential harmony that promises a dominant/tonic follow-through. The importance and the finality of the cadential gesture are signaled by the motivic work: an arpeggio in the first violin that rides the opening motive of the main theme through almost two octaves.

And then the engine stalls. After a bit of coughing and knocking, the first violins are left alone with the opening motive, still implicitly harmonized by the cadential of B minor. And then, at the pickup to m. 146, the change of a single note (F♯ to G) allows the transformation of the stalled passage into the main rondo theme, and we’re off and running again (see Ex. 10-9b).

Virtually every late Haydn finale has a passage in which something far out hooks up “unexpectedly” with the pickup to the rondo theme—here too we learn to expect the “unexpected” and wait gleefully for it. But Haydn, knowing this, lets it happen again (at the upbeat to m. 182, made less predictable by modifying the pickup figure) so that he can truly take us by surprise. The version of the rondo theme thus initiated acts like the sonata-form “recapitulation,” bringing the second theme and a “developing” coda in tow, the harmonic surprise of the latter (m. 234) anticipated by another timpani shock to match (and recall) the one in the Andante.

Citation (MLA):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 10 Instrumental Music Lifts Off." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 16 Sep. 2021. <https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume2/actrade-9780195384826-div1-10014.xml>.
Citation (APA):
Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 10 Instrumental Music Lifts Off. In Oxford University Press, Music In The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries. New York, USA. Retrieved 16 Sep. 2021, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume2/actrade-9780195384826-div1-10014.xml
Citation (Chicago):
Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 10 Instrumental Music Lifts Off." In Music In The Seventeenth And Eighteenth Centuries, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 16 Sep. 2021, from https://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume2/actrade-9780195384826-div1-10014.xml