A number of Haydn’s minuet movements from the 1760s and 1770s contain sparsely scored trio sections in which a single musical idea is repeated continuously, even obsessively. In these trios — of which the most distinctive are in Symphonies Nos. 21, 28, 29, 30, 43, 46, and 58 — Haydn developed and cultivated an aesthetic of the minimal. While they conjure a range of moods, these trios share several features that mark them as a distinct type. These include circular harmonic motion, schematic melodies, and the use of certain characteristic intervals. Although modern critics consistently ascribe ‘Balkan’, ‘Gypsy’, ‘Slavonic’, or ‘Eastern European’ qualities to these trios, the evidence for these claims is scanty. The exotic quality of the trios is best viewed in light of Haydn’s minimization of particular compositional parameters, such as dynamics, scoring, and motivic and textural variance. At the same time, it is precisely the minimal quality of these trios that allows Haydn to explore in dramatic fashion the mechanics of contrast in the
form. While Haydn’s minimal style appears most consistently in trios of the 1760s and 1770s, it also informs his later trio writing.