Franz Joseph Haydn

Symphony No. 102 in B flat major, H. 1/102

    Description by James Reel

    Rapturously received at its London premiere and still regarded by critics as one of Haydn's finest symphonic works -- perhaps even his best symphony -- this is, curiously, one of the least performed of Haydn's last 20-some symphonies. It lacks a nickname and broad musical jokes, but that's a superficial reason for its neglect. Though it is the Symphony No. 96 that bears the nickname "Miracle," it was actually at the premiere of this work that a chandelier crashed to the floor of the hall -- inspiring shouts of "it's a miracle" when it became clear that no one had been hurt.

    As is almost always the case in Haydn's "Salomon" symphonies, No. 102 begins with a slow introduction. A soft, solemn chord for full orchestra complete with timpani roll announces an equivocal Largo string theme that seems unsure of its direction; the chord is repeated, and then the theme returns at greater length, finally displaced by an exuberant Allegro vivace that is essentially an elaboration of the introduction. Unusually for Haydn during this period, the movement's second subject is completely independent, rather than a variation of the first; though punctuated by two loud chords it is comparatively subdued, and hints at the minor. The development is one of Haydn's most extensive and dramatic, with the two themes trading off quickly and sometimes overlapping. The straightforward recapitulation is topped off with an unusually stormy coda.

    After this, the Adagio brings a long moment of repose. Here appearing in F major, it can also be found in an F sharp transposition in the middle of Haydn's Piano Trio, H. 15/26. With its involuted main theme, which undergoes several metamorphoses, this movement carries a light melancholy that hints at something deeper in its very few brass-reinforced climaxes. The Minuet lightens the mood again, with its insouciant theme speckled with grace notes at the beginning of almost every bar. The trio section, carried mainly by the oboe and bassoon, just barely suggests the wistfulness of the slow movement, but this is swept away by the return of the first section.

    The Presto finale has no room for melancholy. It's built on one of Haydn's typical quick string tunes, here interrupted by little sputters from the woodwinds. The melody enjoys a thorough development through the course of the movement, with strenuous, proto-Beethovenian moments scraping against witty episodes that could have been easily transplanted into any French opera overture written in the next five decades. Commentators, in fact, stress the junctures at which this symphony forecasts the coming of Beethoven: the forceful unisons that stop the motion of the opening movement, the conclusion of the second movement which is unusually muscular for such a gentle movement, the rather rowdy minuet, and the frequent balance between loud and soft statements in the last movement.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Largo - Vivace
    2. Adagio
    3. Menuet. Allegro & Trio
    4. Finale. Presto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 ICA Classics ICAC 5150
    2018 SWR Klassik SWR 19056CD
    2018 Hänssler Classic HC 16001
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796314
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Decca 4789604
    2015 Erato
    2015 Ars Produktion ARS 38064
    2015 Warner Classics 552758
    2014 Orfeo D'Or C 726143D
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Warner Classics 63061
    2013 Naïve NC 40025
    2013 Brilliant Classics 94601
    2013 Linn Records CKD 426
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791046
    2012 Naxos 8501060
    2012 Oehms Classics OC 421
    2012 Haenssler / Haenssler Classics HAEN 98582
    2011 Music & Arts MA 1255
    2011 EMI Classics
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768365
    2010 Warner Classics
    2010 Naïve V 5176
    2010 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO 28420
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099962848
    2010 Erato
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Documents / Fab Four 233022
    2009 Sony Classics 748045
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 002894778117
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic 93252
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Hyperion 44371/4
    2009 Decca 001286502
    2009 Sony Classical / Sony Classical Essential Classics / Sony Music Distribution 88697443312
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921530
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 283692
    2008 Warner Classics 228 3692
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 EMI Classics 5090162
    2008 EMI Classics 09015
    2008 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Warner Classics 63061
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Brilliant 93105
    2007 MDG 9031452
    2007 Brilliant 93178
    2006 EMI Classics 67893
    2006 Edel Classics 2502
    2006 Philips
    2005 Andante 1180
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 55509
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 62976
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 Berlin Classics 0091542
    2004 Elatus 2564606592
    2004 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243585513
    2004 Decca 475551
    2004 Brilliant 92395
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000185402
    2003 Classic Collection 99834
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 474364
    2003 Sony Music Distribution 87984
    2003 Hyperion 55127
    2002 Brilliant 99925
    2002 Teldec 43675
    2001 Philips 4685462
    2001 History 205259
    2000 Tring 042
    2000 Dutton Laboratories 5026
    1999 Pearl 9185
    1999 Intersound 3854
    1998 Intersound 2842
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 64485
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 66249
    1996 RCA Victor 68424
    1996 London 448531
    1996 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 77351
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 569212-2
    1996 Intersound 3080
    1995 Vanguard 14
    1995 Curb 78046
    1994 Naxos 550382
    1994 Philips 442611
    1994 Philips
    1992 Nimbus 5200
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64066
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 437201
    1992 Hyperion 66528
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 4296582
    Deutsche Grammophon 435321
    Brilliant 99925/28-33
    Philips 432139
    EMI Classics 106148
    Chandos 662
    Polygram 435322
    Brilliant Classics 8635/43
    Brilliant 93178/1
    Brilliant 92395/18
    Brilliant 93105/10
    Teldec 18953
    London 414673
    Warner Music
    Tring 042
    EMI Music Distribution 47462
    Deutsche Grammophon 429218
    EMI Music Distribution 62814
    Philips 434077
    Intersound 3084
    London 425935
    Philips 432286
    History 205260
    Sony Music Distribution 47557