Symphony No. 59 (Haydn)
The Symphony No. 59 in A major is a relatively early work by Joseph Haydn that is known popularly as the Fire Symphony. Composed under the auspices of Nikolaus Esterházy, it was written in the middle or late 1760s.
Date of composition
Despite its high number, the symphony is one of several in the Hoboken classification system (Symphony No. 72 is another good example, as it was composed even earlier) that is unsympathetically misplaced. It is, in fact, a moderately early work, certainly composed before 1769, and possibly as early 1765. By contrast, the Symphony No. 62 was written in 1780.
The date of its first performance is unknown, as is the truth with most of Haydn's symphonies.
The symphony has long been popularly known as the Feuer or Fire symphony. As with most other monikers attached to Haydn's symphonies, the name itself did not originate with the composer. For a long time, the attributed title was thought to refer to the fiery nature of the composition, particularly the rather unusually spirited first movement (marked Presto, a tempo indication more typical of final movements) and the brief but energetic last movement, which features prominent horn fanfares and corruscating runs on the strings. However, there is nothing particularly distinguishing about any of the movements that would make it more impassioned than other symphonic compositions by Haydn during this period.
Instead, the nickname almost certainly derives from the use of several movements as accompanying music to a performance of the play Der Feuersbrunst by Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Großmann, which was performed at Eszterháza in either (depending on the source) 1774 or 1778. An extant manuscript of the symphony dating from Haydn's lifetime bears the title Feueur Sinfonia. Earlier claims that the symphony originated first as theatrical music (like the Symphony No. 60 Il Distratto) are inaccurate. 
The opening movement starts off energetically on an upbeat followed by octave drop. Following the initial outburst, the music dramatically relaxes and comes to a full stop. This was a technique he used to an even greater effect in his 48th symphony from about the same time period. The relaxation also appears at the end of the movement giving the listener the quiet curtain raising music that often occurs at the end of an opera overture.
In the slow movement, the winds are silent for most of the movement—leaving the listener to expect that the movement is scored for strings alone. These expectations are quelled when full orchestration enters for the second theme in the recapitulation.
Haydn rarely used the same meter for consecutive movements as he did with the inner two movements in this work. There are melodic links between these movements as well as both start with the same sequence of pitches. The second theme of the slow movement is also alluded to.
The finale begins with a horn call followed by a response in the oboes and at the end of the exposition it is the strings and oboe that have a dialogue. Haydn uses a similar horn call is used to start the finale of his 103rd symphony over twenty-five years later. Following a brief development, the return of the horn call is only hinted at in the strings in the start of the recapitulation which then follows in a relatively straightforward manner. The horn call in its proper instrumentation is saved for the movement coda.
- H. C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5 vols, (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1976-) v. 2, Haydn at Eszterhaza, 1766-1790
- Andrew Porter, "Haydn and Opera", The Musical Times, 104 (1446). (August 1963), pp. 558–59; 558.
- Cf. Peter Branscombe, "Music in the Viennese Popular Theatre of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" Journal of the Royal Musical Association 98 (1) (1971):101-112.
- Elaine Sisman (Summer 1990). "Haydn's Theater Symphonies". Journal of the American Musicological Society. 43 (2): 332. doi:10.1525/jams.1990.43.2.03a00030. JSTOR 831616.
- A. Peter Brown, The Symphonic Repertoire (Volume 2) (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 2002) (ISBN 025333487X), pp. 112–13.