Conducting Haydn Symphony n.104 “London” [analysis]

Last updated Jan 30, 2024 | Published on Nov 5, 2020

Winner of a fellowship at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Mr. Griglio’s conducting has been praised for his “energy” and “fine details”. Mr. Griglio took part in the first world recording of music by composer Irwin Bazelon and conducted several world premieres like "The song of Eddie", by Harold Farberman, a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize. Principal Conductor of International Opera Theater Philadelphia for four years, Mr.Griglio is also active as a composer. His first opera, Camille Claudel, debuted in 2013 to a great success of audience and critics. Mr. Griglio is presently working on an opera on Caravaggio and Music Director of Opera Odyssey.

Table of contents


Referred to as ‘the father of the symphony’ Haydn was the first composer of the great trio of Viennese composers – the other two being Mozart and Beethoven – forming together the heart of the Classical period.

In 1791, the year in which Mozart died aged 35, Haydn was 59: he had just embarked in what would be the most successful decade of his career.
Haydn had spent much of his life as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family: when the old Prince Nikolaus died in the fall of 1790 Haydn became less tied to his duties at court.

Free to travel – as long as he introduced himself as “the Kapellmeister of Esterhàzy” – Haydn made extensive visits to London in 1791-1792 and 1794-1795.
And it was in London that he wrote his final 12 symphonies (nos. 93-104)

Scheherazade by Édouard Frédéric Wilhelm Richter (1844-1913)

Portrait of Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy, 1791

Royal College of Music Museum of Instruments

In London, Haydn was a celebrity: to the point where even the future King George IV (back then the Prince of Wales) had bowed to him.

The King and Queen tried to bribe him with a flat in Windsor in order to convince him to stay in London. Eventually, Haydn refused and went back to the Esterházy in 1795

Haydn Symphony n.104 “London”: an analysis of the 1st movement



In case you don’t have it at hand, here’s a quick link to the score.

The opening of the slow introduction carries a sense of expectation and grandeur. It’s a rhetorical gesture, with a fanfare-like character: tonic to dominant, dominant to tonic. We are clearly in D. But which one? Major or minor?

Haydn Symphony n.104 -Mov.1 - analysis - ex.1

We know that for sure in the 3rd bar, with the F natural. Something similar happened in the opening of Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony, which we talked about in a previous episode. The sense of mystery continues: the dynamic drops to piano; the instrumentation is reduced to the strings and the bassoon; and instead of taking bold and assertive leaps, the music proceeds tentatively in smaller steps. But notice how the exact rhythm of the first 2 bars is repeated in the bass line

Haydn Symphony n.104 -Mov.1 - analysis - ex.2

On bar number 5 we have the first change: the C# becomes a C natural, and the A (in the violas and bassoon) turns into a Bb. We’re moving to F major, the relative key of D minor


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Gianmaria Griglio is an intelligent, exceptional musician. There is no question about his conducting abilities: he has exceptionally clear baton technique that allows him to articulate whatever decisions he has made about the music.

Harold Farberman

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