Five essential works by Haydn

We choose the best pieces by the master of rhetoric


Symphony No. 103, ‘Drumroll’

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Of his last dozen symphonies written for London visits, the Drumroll is an excellent introduction to Haydn’s playful style – from portentous to ebullient in a heartbeat.

Recommended recording:
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Colin Davis
Philips 442 6112

String Quartets, Op. 33

Recognised as Haydn’s finest set of string quartets, these include one nicknamed ‘The Bird’ for its birdsong-like first violin part and another, ‘The Joke’, so-named for reasons evident in the finale.

Recommended recording:
Festetics Quartet
Arcana A 414

Trumpet Concerto

Haydn’s genius transformed this martial instrument into an eloquent and charming soloist, both in the inspired slow movement and in the sparkling finale.

Recommended recording:
Alison Balsom; German Chamber Philharmonic, Bremen
EMI 216 2130

The Creation

Haydn’s vivid musical portrait of the Biblical creation story up to the creation of Adam and Eve is direct yet charmingly apt.

Recommended recording:
Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
DG Archiv 477 7361

Nelson Mass

The dramatic military-style rhythms which open this Mass reflect the Napoleonic War raging while Haydn composed. Otherwise, it’s charming and upbeat, even if the baleful opening returns in the ‘Benedictus’.

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Recommended recording:
Collegium Musicum 90/Richard Hickox
Chandos CHAN 0640