Symphony No. 104
Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Duration: About 30 Minutes
Time of Creation: 1795
World Premiere: 04 May 1795 (London)
Table of Contents
Haydn's Symphony No. 104 in 5 Sentences
Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 belongs to the famous “London Symphonies”. Haydn created the total of 12 London symphonies as commissioned works for the concert promoter Johann Peter Salomon; they were premiered in London in two “installments” (1791 and 1792). This enterprise was successful for Haydn in three ways: first, in terms of finances (see the quotation below), second, in terms of prestige (see the “Questions and Answers” below), and third, privately (the already somewhat aged, but mentally and physically fit Haydn may, it is assumed, have had several love affairs in London). Symphony No. 104 forms the conclusion of the London symphonies and is considered by many musicologists to be the crowning achievement of Haydn’s symphonic oeuvre or even the crowning achievement of the classical symphony in general.
Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.
4 Highlights from Haydn's Symphony No. 104
Highlight 1: first movement – fanfares and a chant-like theme
The first movement from Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 is very varied. It begins with massive fanfares, which is followed by a brisk but simple and chant-like main theme:
Highlight 2: second movement – theme with variations
In the second movement Haydn shows all his variation skills. A theme marked by typical Haydn humor (it seems to “hop” along) is varied in every conceivable way:
Highlight 3: third movement – fast dancing
Highlight 4: fourth movement – folklore!
In the last movement, we are once again confronted with “Papa Haydn’s” great humor. With a lot of wink he processes a theme that comes from folklore:
3 Questions and Answers about Haydn's Symphony No. 104
Question 1: What is the nickname of Haydn's 104th Symphony?
Haydn’s 104th Symphony is sometimes referred to as “London” (after the place of its premiere), “Salomon” (after the concert organizer), and “with the bagpipes” (because of the folklore elements in the last movement).
Question 2: When did Haydn first perform his Symphony No. 104 in Vienna?
The first Viennese performance of Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 was on December 18, 1795.
Question 3: Was the first performance of Haydn's 104th Symphony successful?
The first performance was very successful. Haydn was extremely popular in London. Newspaper reviews were full of praise: there was talk of “fullness, richness, and majesty”; it was even prophesied that there would probably be no better composer than Haydn in the next 50 years.
2 Recommended Recordings of Haydn's Symphony No. 104
Recording 1: Sinfonietta Riga, Alexei Ogrintchouk (live, 2022)
Recording 2: NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt (live, 2019)
There is also a live recording from a famous German concert hall, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg: