Hello reader, and welcome to the In this article you will find some extraordinary insights about the first movement of the Symphony No. 45 by Joseph Haydn. I will be talking about its form and harmony, but most importantly, I will talk about its musical style. Musical style will give us the complete explanation for some very interesting procedures in the harmony and the form, which otherwise would be understood as a mere exceptions to the classicism norms. And they are often understood as mere exceptions, because people tend to neglect the importance of the musical style. Now…it is time to uncover the inner dynamics of the first movement of Symphony No. 45 by Joseph Haydn.

Sturm und Drang storms the Europe

At the beginning of the 1760’s a new movement started to form its shape in Germany. Its final name will descend from one of the drama works by Klinger. Yet, at its beginning, while the exact name was not determined, artists of all kinds wanted to express the same emotion. That emotion was mainly dissatisfaction turned toward the political ideal of absolutism. There were a lot of anger and hatred too. The true strength of that dissatisfaction erupted in France in the 1789 and the whole Europe was “surprised”. Well, who with that level of negligence would not be surprised…

For the last 25-30 years citizens of Europe were extremely dissatisfied with the rules, discipline, rigidness and norms their governments demanded. Art of all kinds were merely the vehicle for its intellectual presentation. Ironically, as it usually happens, the top figures couldn’t understand its meaning, even though they liked the new sound, the literature and the paintings.

While in Music...

In music, the Sturm und Drang movement was expressed through dramatization of the gallant style. Under the Classical era, Sturm und Drang movement represents its mature, full-fledged phase. Practically, it will be a bridge between the Classical and Romantic eras. Depiction of the rebellion was its main goal. Since the Sturm and Drang was a Proto-Romantic movement, the idea of genius – high level of individuality, uniqueness and almost deity-like artist presentation started to form its shape. Later, Romantic era will extend this idea even more. Drama was the main powerhouse of the movement. That being said, the following traits were imposed as the most significant:

  • Use of minor keys
  • The structures were extended – the borders were less clear
  • The form was unstable – it becomes an important question
  •  Modulations were frequent and distant – chromatic and enharmonic especially
  • Chord fond was extended
  • Tonality was blurred
  • Diminished seventh chords sequences
  • Sudden changes of tempo, dynamics and character of the piece
  • Mutation, pedals, tremolo in strings, syncopations
  • Chromaticism


Symphony No. 45 by Haydn– Storm All The Way

There are many interesting aspects of the musical flow of this movement of the Symphony. However, perhaps the most interesting is form. You see, the form here raises a question. It is the matter of the style. Although it could be designated as a sonata form, there are many aspects that will show you that it is far from a standard sonata form. And if you don’t understand why those differences occur, then your comprehension of this piece of music will be incomplete, at best. For the sake of clarity, I will show you the formal scheme in the following example (Example 1). However, after that I will analyze it part by part because some of the elements of it are very questionable. After the whole process, I believe that this movement of the Symphony No. 45 by Joseph Haydn will be much clearer to you

Example 1 Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 45 – I movement formal scheme

Haydn Symphony No 45 Formal Scheme
Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 45 I mvt - formal scheme


The most interesting part of the exposition certainly is the subordinate theme. Its appearance is very questionable since it lacks all the necessary things that one subordinate in classicism should have. Firstly, thematic material is completely the same as it was in the main theme. However, that procedure is not new. Haydn used it a lot in his early piano sonatas. What makes that lack of thematic contrast so important is that the subordinate theme also lacks the real tonal contrast in comparison to the main theme.

The main theme is in F-sharp minor, which is the direct signal that Sturm und Drang is present. The subordinate theme is in A minor. You see, in classicism, minor key means dissonance. Even though the regular tonal plan between two themes (Major to Major) creates a dissonance, minor to minor creates even greater one. That is why the minor key is one of the most prominent traits of Sturm and Drang, which need such a dissonance for its development. And that dissonance of the main theme should have been “slightly resolved” with the appearance of the subordinate theme in Major key.

Yet, it is not the case here. On top of that, its structure, the sentence is not rounded by a strong cadence. Heck, it is not even rounded by one tonal center (key). It starts in A minor, then it modulates to C-sharp minor and in its final measures it modulates back into F-sharp minor (because of the repetition) or A Major (because of the development).

There's more though

Its beginning is also unclear. It is quite an abstract one, since the transition between the themes does not have any cadence on its end. Transition’s end is opened and the only parameter that could tell us that it might be the subordinate theme is that exactly the same material appears with different context before its beginning in the recapitulation later (Example 2). Besides that, listening to the music one could not tell “oh, there’s the subordinate theme”. Having that said, the autonomy of the subordinate theme is in dire straits.


Example 2 Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 45 – I movement the subordinate theme

On the other hand, there are some interesting things in the main theme and in the tonal plan of the whole exposition. The main theme in measures 1-16 offers a lot of characteristics distinctive to Sturm und Drang. First of all, as I already mentioned, there’s the F-sharp minor key. Moreover, note the pedal in the first four measures that will evolve in some sort of ostinato that will last until the end of 12th measure. Furthermore, syncopations in the second violins part are also important trait of the Sturm und Drang (Example 3). They give the musical flow an extra-dramatic connotation, since they distort the standard beat of the time signature. Speaking of time signature, that ¾ in context like this perfectly depicts the syntagm “dramatization of the gallant style”, since ¾ time signature is one of the core characteristics of the gallant style itself.


Example 3 Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 45 – I movement the main theme

Haydn Symphony No 45 The Main Theme
Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 45 I mvt - the main theme

At the very end of the main theme in measures 13-16 there’s one interesting chord progression – N6-V-i in F-sharp minor. Now, the appearance of that Neapolitan chord is very important. Firstly, at the moment of its entrance, the sudden tremolo arises in the first and second violins. Remember, tremolo is also a trait of the Sturm und Drang. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly is this – Neapolitan chord with its Phrygian descent is a strong representative of drama and even tragedy. Used widely in the laments throughout musical history, it has a strong reference to the idea of the death. Hence, its appearance always contributes to the drama and tragedy.

Pretty much every of the stated characteristics recur in the subordinate theme as well, so I won’t repeat it in the text. That is up to you to find and write it in your score. However, there is one more thing that permeates the whole musical flow of the exposition. Pay attention to the global tonal plan of the exposition. There are F-sharp minor, A Major/minor and C-sharp minor. Now, tonics (1st degrees) of all these keys create the tonic chord of the F-sharp minor – F#-A-C#. Isn’t that magnificent? Even though there is no obvious rounding, on a more abstract level there is one, perhaps new one back in the day. Innovative and abstract, but also full of bunt against the rules, discipline, rigidness and norms of the early classicism.

Development – The Storm meets the Calm

Certainly the most significant part of the development in this piece is the appearance of the episode theme, which will take the role of the real subordinate theme. Lyrical in character, and in Major key (D Major), completely purified from the tremolos, ostinatos, fast-paces eights in strings and with period structure, this segment of the musical flow acts like a desert island where the sailor finally has found a place to rest after the sea storm has broken his ship (Example 4).

Try to do a short harmonic analysis in measures 108-131 and you will see how diatonic this segment is. However, it does not last for too long. In the measure 132 musical flow start a retransition based on the thematic material from the episode theme. It really is a picturesque depiction of a sailor that is leaving his resting place so he could find his true home. He would have to go through the storms again though, and the introduction of vii6/5 in measures 138-140, as well as a general pause in measure 141 suggests that the new battle will begin in no time.

Example 4 Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 45 – I movement the episode theme

Haydn Symphony No 45 The Episode Theme
Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 45 I mvt - the episode theme

Recapitulation – Resolution of tension? What Haydn decided?

Since the beginning of the Classical era and establishment of sonata form, recapitulation had one specific function. That function implied the tonal armistice between the two themes. However, when it comes to the Sturm und Drang it is hardly the case. You see, in the late classicism, one interesting thing occurs. Tension created in the exposition and the development very often does not resolve in the recapitulation of the first movement, but in the last movement of the cycle. Shifting the emphasis from the first to the last movement creates more potential for dramatic depictions and for the better inter-movement connections.

In terms of work by Haydn such a change in the recapitulation affects the musical flow in the very specific way. The borders between the segments of the musical flow are even less clear. The main theme and the transition are merged. Tonal plan of the main theme in the recapitulation is quite unstable. Musical flow modulates to G-sharp minor, C-sharp minor, D minor and B minor before it finally infuse into the subordinate theme. That being said, the main theme now gets development-like shape and character, which means the tension instead of being resolute is even more intensified.


The final words

All these things I have pointed out in this article found their places in Haydn’s music only because of the musical style composer used in it. Sturm und Drang’s mission was to stir the obedience and stiffness of the early classicism by disrupting the common forms and ways of creating art, which, on the other hand represented the general idea of the zeitgeist of that period. Also, I find this symphony very intriguing, so I wanted to show you something important and to gain new insights myself if possible.

If you like this post, please share it with your friends, colleagues or students. If you would like to know how Sibelius musically painted The Far North, click here. Until the next reading, stay safe and enjoy the music.



  • Caplin, E. William. Analyzing Classical Form – An Approach for the Classroom, Oxford University Press, New York, 2013
  • Rosen, Charles. The Classical Style – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1998

Subscribe to receive new posts once per month. It is completely free!

Leave a Reply

18 − four =