Review Of ' The Heavens Are Telling ' From Franz Joseph Haydn 's The Creation Of A Sonata Form

Review Of ' The Heavens Are Telling ' From Franz Joseph Haydn 's The Creation Of A Sonata Form

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“The Heavens Are Telling” from Franz Joseph Haydn’s The Creation does not appear at first glance to be structured in a sonata form. There are many elements an observant eye will see are missing if it searches for standard clues of a sonata form. However, the connections between the sections convey a modified sonata form, as do Haydn’s choices in regard to text setting. In this paper the deviations from the standard sonata form are illuminated, and the evidence which supports the labeling of this piece as being in a modified sonata form are presented.
Haydn presents a number of his deviations from the standard sonata form in the exposition. Haydn presents the first half of the opening thematic material in the choir in mm. 1-4. The second half of the opening thematic material is presented in mm. 8-12. It is important to note the ascending stepwise motion heard in the soprano from mm. 8-12. This rhythmic and stepwise ascending pattern is the most important thematic material in this piece, and its development is a large part of why this piece can be considered to be in a modified sonata form. For future reference, this thematic material will be called: “the development motif”. Following the presentation of the opening material there is a short interlude by a trio of soloists. The trio interlude is an interesting challenge to label formally. This section features a large texture change with the majority of the orchestra and the entire choir dropping out. The section also features little melodic material, being based mostly on counterpoint and monophonic movement in the trio. These telling pieces of evidence would seem to lead to the conclusion of this section being transitory. However, this section has no modulatory function. The key...

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...ion by the return of the opening text in mm.154.The text, “The heavens are telling the glory of God”, returns for the first time since the development began, and this text is once again stated in C major. Also, the thematic material from mm.143-156 is stated twice in its entirety, this was the case for all of the themes in the exposition. This tonal, textual, and formal repeat supports the idea of this section being a modified recapitulation.
Haydn, like many great composers, experimented with new ideas in the later part of his life. This work is the result of Haydn expanding the boundaries of the sonata form in an attempt to create a compelling and unpredictable piece of music. He leaves clues throughout the work that shows its ties to the basic sonata form, but it is the deviations and unexpected turns that give this piece its uniqueness and long lasting appeal.

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