The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart

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A very small proportion of eighteenth-century symphonies are in minor keys, yet they include some of the most dramatic and best-known works of the symphonic repertoire, such as Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony and Mozart’s Symphony in G minor, K. 550. In Vienna and the Habsburg territories over 50 minor-key symphonies by at least 11 composers were written in the late eighteenth century. Their distinctive stormy character, nervous energy and intense pathos make them a unique phenomenon of eighteenth-century instrumental music. This book combines historical perspectives with recent developments in music analysis to shed new light on the Viennese minor-key symphony, placing the works of the two great masters alongside lesser-known works by composers such as Georg Christoph Wagenseil, Florian Leopold Gassmann, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Karl von Ordonez, Johann Baptist Vaňhal, Franz Anton Hoffmeister, Leopold Koželuch, and Paul Wranitzky. The repertory is treated as a subgenre, and its conventions and characteristic vocabulary are reconstructed. There is special focus on the contrapuntal minuet; the “stormy finale;” the lyrical and tragic symphonies of Vaňhal; the somber Lenten associations of Haydn’s early minor-key symphonies and the comedy of his later works; the “characteristic” minor-key symphonies of Wranitzky; the surprising versatility of Mozart in the minor-key subgenre; and the extraordinary qualities of Mozart K. 550.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages284
ISBN (Electronic)978019349685
ISBN (Print)9780199349678
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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