(b Rohrau, Lower Austria, 31 March 1732; d Vienna, 31 May 1809). Austrian composer, brother of Michael Haydn. Neither he nor his contemporaries used the name Franz, and there is no reason to do so today. He began his career in the traditional patronage system of the late Austrian Baroque, and ended as a ‘free’ artist within the burgeoning Romanticism of the early 19th century. Famous as early as the mid-1760s, by the 1780s he had become the most celebrated composer of his time, and from the 1790s until his death was a culture-hero throughout Europe. Since the early 19th century he has been venerated as the first of the three ‘Viennese Classics’ (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven). He excelled in every musical genre; during the first half of his career his vocal works were as famous as his instrumental ones, although after his death the reception of his music focussed on the latter (except for The Creation). He is familiarly known as the ‘father of the symphony’ and could with greater justice be thus regarded for the string quartet; no other composer approaches his combination of productivity, quality and historical importance in these genres. In the 20th century he was understood primarily as an ‘absolute’ musician (exhibiting wit, originality of form, motivic saturation and a ‘modernist’ tendency to problematize music rather than merely to compose it), but earnestness, depth of feeling and referential tendencies are equally important to his art.
Documentary information on Haydn’s life and musical activity before his employ by the Esterházy court in 1761 is scanty. The primary sources comprise an autobiographical letter of 1776 and brief biographies published just after his death by (in order of general reliability) Georg August Griesinger, Albert Christoph Dies, Giuseppe Carpani and Nicolas Etienne Framery, supplemented by parish registers, musical archives, dated autographs and the like. Haydn was born into a family of primarily south German stock, albeit in an area of considerable ethnic diversity in which Croats and Hungarians were also prominent. His immediate ancestors were not peasants (as legend has it), but artisans and tradespeople. His grandfather and his father, Mathias (1699–1763), were master wheelwrights; Mathias also functioned as Marktrichter (magistrate) of the ‘market village’ (as Haydn called it) Rohrau, near Bruck an der Leitha. Rohrau was a possession of Count Karl Anton Harrach (1692–1758); his grandson Karl Leonhard (1765–1831) erected a monument to Haydn in the castle garden in 1793. Haydn’s mother, Anna Maria Koller (1707–54), had before her marriage in 1728 been a cook at the Harrach castle.
Mathias Haydn was ‘a great lover of music by nature’ (this phrase in Haydn’s laconic account is ordinarily taken as applying to Harrach, but it must be his father who was meant), who ‘played the harp without reading a note of music’; his mother sang the melodies. Indeed all three of their surviving male children became professional musicians, two of them famous composers. (The third, Johann Evangelist, 1743–1805, was a tenor in a church choir and later at the Esterházy court.) Dies says of Haydn’s father that ‘all the children had to join in his concerts, to learn the songs, and to develop their singing voice’, adding that he also organized concerts among the neighbours.
Haydn’s talent became evident early on. ‘As a boy of five I sang all [my father's] simple easy pieces correctly’; according to Griesinger he still remembered these melodies in old age. ‘Almighty God … granted me so much facility, especially in music, that when I was only six I boldly sang masses down from the choirloft, and could also get around on the harpsichord and violin.’ In 1737 or 1738 Johann Mathias Franck, a cousin of Mathias Haydn’s by marriage and a school principal in the nearby town of Hainburg (Mathias’s birthplace), heard Haydn sing in the family circle; Griesinger and Dies also have him pretending to be playing a violin by scraping a stick against his arm. Franck was so impressed by Haydn’s voice and musical accuracy that he suggested that he come to live with him, ‘so that there I could learn the rudiments of music along with other juvenile necessities’. It being clear that his abilities could not be developed in Rohrau, his parents agreed, whether in the hope that he might amount to something as a musician or the belief that musical and educational accomplishments might be useful in what they (especially his mother) imagined as his true calling, that of a priest.
Franck was not only a school principal but the choir director of a Hainburg church; presumably he oversaw Haydn’s education personally. The latter was scarcely an autodidact, as myth used to have it. Griesinger writes:
He received instruction in reading and writing, in the catechism, in singing, and on almost all the string and wind instruments, and even on the timpani: ‘I will be grateful to this man even in the grave’, Haydn often said, ‘that he taught me so much, even though in the process I received more beatings than food’.
Such exaggerations aside, he doubtless made rapid progress; his account of mass singing and harpsichord and violin studies ‘in my sixth year’ implies that these took place in Hainburg. As Griesinger says, his schooling was not musical alone; this was also the case when he was a choirboy in Vienna, where his non-musical studies, though ‘scanty’, included Latin, religion, arithmetic and writing.
In 1739 or 1740 (‘in my 7th year’; Griesinger and Dies: in his eighth year) Haydn was recruited to serve as choirboy at the Stephansdom in Vienna: ‘Kapellmeister Reutter, on a trip through Hainburg, heard my thin but pleasant voice from a distance, and at once accepted me into the Capell Hauss’ (choir school). Georg Reutter the younger, Kapellmeister at the Stephansdom since 1738 (later Hofkapellmeister), was travelling through the provinces in search of new talent; in Hainburg the parish priest, an old friend, suggested that Haydn might be a suitable candidate. According to several accounts Haydn did not know how to trill but, after Reutter demonstrated, triumphantly got it right on his third attempt, thus sealing his acceptance. For the next ten years, ‘I sang soprano both at St Stephan’s and at court to great applause’. At the choir school, ‘I was taught the art of singing, the harpsichord and the violin by very good masters’; in singing these included Adam Gegenbauer and the tenor Ignaz Finsterbusch (both d 1753). To be sure, there was apparently little formal training in theory or composition, although the singing included solfeggio and the harpsichord instruction probably entailed figured bass. But in their enthusiasm for the notion that Haydn’s development amounted to ‘making something out of nothing’ (Dies, allegedly quoting Haydn), most accounts again exaggerate this supposed lack of instruction. ‘Haydn recalled having had only two lessons [in theory] from the worthy Reutter’, writes Griesinger, but if he could recall two, he might have had more. In any case, ‘Reutter encouraged him to make whatever variations he liked on the motets and Salves that he had to sing in church, and this discipline soon led him to ideas of his own, which Reutter corrected’; this scarcely implies outright neglect.
It was surely not on Haydn’s own that ‘he also came to know Mattheson’s Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739) and Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (1725). With tireless exertion Haydn sought to understand Fux’s theory; he worked his way through the entire treatise’. However, although both Griesinger and Dies mention Fux in the context of the choir school, Haydn’s study of him would more plausibly have taken place during the 1750s. In any case, his copy of Gradus is heavily annotated (in Latin); he made it the basis of his own teaching of composition, as did Mozart. Another activity entrusted to competent older choirboys was the instruction of their younger colleagues in musical fundamentals; among those whom Haydn taught was his brother Michael, who joined him there about 1745. Most important, for ten full years, at a highly impressionable age, Haydn rehearsed and sang in performances of the greatest art-music then being produced in Catholic Europe, amid the pomp and splendour of the cathedral and court of an imperial capital. This experience will have fundamentally shaped his musical intellect even without formal training in composition.
But this life could not last; his voice broke. A characteristic anecdote adds insult to injury by relating that after one performance Maria Theresa said that he sang ‘like a crow’, while rewarding Michael for his beautiful singing. Griesinger states that Reutter had earlier suggested that Haydn might become a castrato, but his father refused permission (although this seems potentially inconsistent with his parents’ original hope that he become a priest). Be this as it may, soon after his voice broke he was dismissed from the choir school. Haydn wrote that he remained there ‘until into my 18th year’ (i.e. April 1749 to March 1750); Griesinger’s estimate, ‘in his sixteenth year’, is generally thought to be too early. Carl Ferdinand Pohl, who had access to many documents now lost but gives no source in this instance, writes: ‘We find Haydn on the street; it was a damp November evening in 1749’. Pathos aside (the date and atmosphere derive from Framery), the date is consistent with Haydn’s statement.
2. Vienna, c1750–61.
Haydn’s account of his freelance 1750s narrates a classic ‘rags to riches’ story:
When my voice finally broke, for eight whole years I was forced to eke out a wretched existence by teaching young people. Many geniuses are ruined by this miserable [need to earn their] daily bread, because they lack time to study. This could well have happened to me; I would never have achieved what little I have done, had I not carried on with my zeal for composition during the night. I composed diligently, but not quite correctly, until I finally had the good fortune to learn the true fundamentals of composition from the famous Porpora (who was in Vienna at the time). Finally, owing to a recommendation from the late [Baron] von Fürnberg (who was especially generous to me), I was appointed as director with Count Morzin, and from there as Kapellmeister with his highness Prince [Esterházy].
This period comprises three stages, of which the first two overlap without clear division. (1) During the ‘lean years’, about 1749 to the mid-1750s, Haydn was a freelance musician, teacher and budding composer. Even then, however, he was reaping professional and social advantage from contact with figures such as Porpora and Metastasio. (2) Beginning around 1753, and increasingly after 1755, his compositional activity expanded, as his reputation and access to patronage grew. (3) His first regular appointment, as director of music for Count Morzin, began probably in 1757 and lasted until winter 1760–61 or spring 1761.
Haydn’s first lodgings (according to Framery) were offered by Johann Michael Spangler, a tenor (later regens chori) at the Michaelerkirche, in a garret with Spangler’s wife and infant son (b February 1749). This situation obviously could be no more than temporary, especially as Spangler’s wife was soon pregnant with their second child, Maddelena (b 4 September 1750); these birthdates are consistent with Haydn’s having moved there in November 1749 and with Framery’s account. (In 1768 Haydn engaged Maddelena Spangler as a soprano at the Esterházy court, where among other roles she created Vespina in L’infedeltà delusa and Rezia in L’incontro improvviso; she was also the first Sara in Il ritorno di Tobia.) Another good deed was done him by Johann Wilhelm Buchholz, a lacemaker, whose granddaughter was remembered in Haydn’s will ‘because her grandfather lent me 150 gulden without interest in my youth and great need’; the amount was close to a year’s salary for an ordinary musician at a minor court. It was perhaps in the following spring (1750) that he journeyed to the huge Benedictine pilgrimage church in Mariazell (Styria). Griesinger relates that he took with him ‘several motets which he had composed and asked the regens chori there for permission to put out the parts in the church and sing them’, and continues with an anecdote according to which Haydn the next day got his way by trickery. If ‘motet’ means a liturgical work other than a mass, it can only have been his first Lauda Sion hymns, hXXIIIc:5; another possibility is the Missa brevis in F. In any case this pilgrimage was important to Haydn; later he composed both the Missa Cellensis and the ‘Mariazellermesse’ with Mariazell in mind.
According to Pohl, it was in the spring or summer of 1750 that Haydn occupied his most frequently described early lodgings: a ‘miserable little garret without a stove’ (Griesinger) in the so-called Michaelerhaus, attached to the Michaelerkirche. At this time ‘his entire life was devoted to giving lessons, the study of his art, and performing. He played in serenades and in orchestras for pay, and devoted himself diligently to composition, for “when I sat at my old, worm-eaten clavier, I envied no king his good fortune”’. Here occurred the first of many strokes of luck through which, in addition to his genius and unremitting labour, he gradually improved his professional lot. Griesinger writes:
In the same house … lived as well the famous poet Metastasio. He was raising one Fräulein Martinez; Haydn was engaged to give her lessons in singing and on the clavier, in return for which he received free board for three years. At Metastasio’s he also made the acquaintance of the aging Kapellmeister Porpora. Porpora was teaching singing to the mistress of the Venetian ambassador, Correr; however, because he was too proper and too fond of his ease to accompany at the piano himself, he delegated this task to our Giuseppe. ‘There was no lack of Ass, Blockhead, Rascal and pokes in the ribs, but I willingly put up with it all, for I profited immensely from Porpora in singing, composition and Italian.’ In the summer Correr travelled with the lady to the popular bathing resort Mannersdorf …; Porpora went as well … and took Haydn with him. For three months Haydn served there as Porpora’s valet; he ate at Correr’s officers’ table, and was paid six ducats [c25 gulden] a month. From time to time he was required to accompany Porpora on the clavier at one Prince von Hildburghausen’s, in the presence of Gluck, Wagenseil and other famous masters; the approval of these connoisseurs was especially encouraging to him.
Access to such personages – whose overlapping relations were as much social as artistic – was essential for an aspiring young musician. ‘Fräulein Martinez’ was the composer and singer Marianne von Martínez. At the court of Joseph Friedrich, Prince of Sachsen-Hildburghausen (1702–87), Haydn could also have encountered Dittersdorf (whom he certainly knew by the mid-1750s) and Giuseppe Bonno, later Hofkapellmeister.
All these events took place during the first half of the 1750s. Haydn’s instruction of Martínez began in 1751 or 1752; presumably his three years with Metastasio were from 1751 to 1754. Porpora arrived in Vienna from Dresden in late 1752 or early 1753; Haydn might well have met him in March 1753, when Metastasio was considering him as composer of his new opera L’isola disabitata (which in the event he assigned to Bonno; Haydn himself set this libretto in 1779). Given the mastery of Haydn’s music by 1755–6, 1753 or 1754 are the latest plausible dates for his having ‘learnt the true fundamentals of composition’ from Porpora, whose expert knowledge of singing and Italian – ‘singing’ in this context implies Italian opera and oratorio – was also of great importance; Haydn became fluent in Italian and the italianate singing style. In addition, it may well have been at Porpora’s instigation that he systematically worked through Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (the only work mentioned by any source that offers ‘true fundamentals’). Another important musical encounter was Haydn’s discovery of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, but this is unlikely to have taken place as early as about 1750, as the biographers claim. Dies portrays Haydn asking for ‘a good theoretical textbook’; this can refer only to the second volume of Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen. However, it appeared far too late (1762) to serve the function Dies attributes to it; even Bach’s first volume (1753) was apparently not sold in Vienna until the 1760s. Moreover, unlike Fux or Mattheson, neither volume figures in Haydn’s library catalogue (1804) or his estate. Indeed Griesinger speaks more plausibly of compositions:
About this time [his move to the Michaelerhaus] Haydn came upon the first six sonatas of Emanuel Bach; ‘I did not leave my clavier until I had played them through, and whoever knows me thoroughly must discover that I owe a great deal to Emanuel Bach, that I understood him and studied him with diligence. Emanuel Bach once paid me a compliment on that score himself’.
Although it is unclear which of Bach’s sonatas Griesinger meant by ‘the first six’, there is no doubt of his influence on Haydn as a composer. Again, however, Haydn’s style does not reflect that influence until the 1760s.
An important early personal contact was with Joseph Felix von Kurz, a well-known comic actor (under the stage-name Bernardon) and minor impresario active at the Kärntnertortheater, for whom Haydn supplied music to Der krumme Teufel, a comedy of the Hanswurst type. It was apparently given its première in the 1751–2 season and revived in May 1753, with considerable success. Neither libretto nor music of this, his earliest stage work, survives; a libretto does survive for a later version of 1759, often called Der neue krumme Teufel, but, again, there is no music. It has been speculated that many anonymous numbers in contemporary Viennese collections of theatrical songs stem from this work or others that Haydn might have composed, although documentation is lacking.
Haydn’s lot improved substantially in the mid-1750s, as Griesinger describes:
At first Haydn received only two gulden a month for giving lessons, but gradually the price rose to five gulden, so that he was able to look about for more suitable quarters. While he was living in the Seilerstätte, all his few possessions were stolen … Haydn soon saw his loss made good by the generosity of good friends … [he] recovered through a stay of two months with Baron Fürnberg, which cost him nothing.
A 150% increase in fees implies a rise not only in Haydn’s economic status but his professional reputation – and therefore increased access to patronage. The most important figure was Baron Carl Joseph Fürnberg (1720–67), who employed him as music master to his children (he lived near the Seilerstätte), commissioned his first string quartets and eventually recommended him to Morzin. Important as well was the elder Countess Maria Christine Thun, who (according to Framery) took singing and keyboard lessons from Haydn.
His freelance activities continued apace. Griesinger writes:
In this period Haydn was also leader of the orchestra in the convent of the Barmherzige Brüder … at 60 gulden a year. Here he had to be in the church at eight o’clock in the morning on Sundays and feast days, at ten o’clock he played the organ in what was then the chapel of Count Haugwitz, and at eleven o’clock he sang at St Stephan’s. He was paid 17 kreutzer for each service. In the evenings Haydn often went ‘gassatim’ with his musical comrades, when one of his compositions was usually performed, and he recalled having composed a quintet [possibly hII:2] for that purpose in 1753.
(Both Griesinger and Dies supply the obligatory comic anecdotes involving Haydn and Dittersdorf.) Griesinger’s account conflates several church jobs: from 1754 to 1756 Haydn performed as a singer in the Hofkapelle during Lent (1 gulden per service, not 17 kreuzer), and in 1755 and 1756 as an orchestral violinist for balls during carnival (4 gulden per evening). In the Hofkapelle he sang both concerted and a cappella works, including Palestrina’s Stabat mater and the Allegri Miserere. His Sunday job at Count Haugwitz’s newly consecrated chapel near the Piaristenkirche began in mid-1759; he was responsible for the entire concerted music. According to an account by a Prussian prisoner of war, he participated in chamber-music parties arranged by Count Harrach at Rohrau. Of Haydn’s many students during these years, Martínez has already been mentioned; another of more than marginal importance was Robert Kimmerling, later regens chori at Melk.
Although a sizable number of Haydn’s works originated during the 1750s, documented dates are few. Both the very early Missa brevis in F and the first Lauda Sion exhibit technical faults, implying that he composed them before learning the ‘true fundamentals’ (i.e. before c1753–4); such faults are found in no other surviving genuine works. Griesinger writes: ‘In addition to performing and teaching, Haydn was indefatigable in composing. Many of his easy clavier sonatas, trios and so on belong to this period, and he generally took into consideration the needs and capacities of his pupils’. Numerous tiny keyboard sonatas and ‘concertinos’ indeed survive, although some authorities argue that the smallest sonatas are not necessarily the earliest or least accomplished, and the concertinos appear to date from about 1760; possibly some keyboard trios antedate 1755 as well, although none is so short or simple. In any case Haydn’s compositional activity increased exponentially in the mid-1750s. The quintet-divertimento hII:2 survives in a later source dated 1754, and many of his ensemble divertimentos probably date from before 1761. Of the ten or so pre-1780 keyboard trios and the 21 or so string trios, the earliest also may date from the mid-1750s, although others are from the early 1760s. Late in life Haydn dated the autographs of the Organ Concerto in C (hXVIII:1) and the Salve regina in E (hXXIIIb:1) ‘1756’ (fig.2).
The precise dates of the final two stages of Haydn’s early ‘progress’ – Fürnberg and Morzin – also remain uncertain. Griesinger writes:
The following, purely coincidental circumstance led him to try his hand at the composition of quartets. A certain Baron Fürnberg had an estate in Weinzierl, several stages from Vienna; from time to time he invited his parish priest, his estate manager, and Albrechtsberger (a brother of the well-known contrapuntist) in order to have a little music. Fürnberg asked Haydn to compose something that could be played by these four friends of the art. Haydn, who was then 18, accepted the proposal, and so originated his first quartet [incipit of hIII:1], which, immediately upon its appearance, received such uncommon applause as to encourage him to continue in this genre.
Griesinger’s statement that Haydn composed his first quartet at 18, although roughly supported by Dies and Carpani, is far too early. All the circumstantial details, as well as the sheer mastery of Haydn’s early quartets, suggest rather the Seilerstätte period, i.e. about 1755–7. Whether hIII:1 was actually Haydn’s first quartet, or whether he (or Griesinger) named it simply because it occupied first position in Pleyel’s famous edition (1801) and therefore in his own thematic catalogue, cannot be determined. In any case Haydn had not yet adopted the ‘opus’ format; there are, simply, ten early quartets, of which hIII:1–4, 6 (op.1 nos.1–4, 6) and hII:6 (‘op.0’) are probably the earliest, hIII:10, 12 (op.2 nos.4, 6) perhaps in the middle, and hIII:7–8 (op.2 nos.1–2) probably the latest, perhaps even 1759–60.
Regarding Haydn’s employ by Count Karl Joseph Franz Morzin (1717–83), Griesinger states:
In the year 1759 Haydn was engaged as music director to Count Morzin in Vienna at a salary of 200 gulden, free lodging and board at the officers’ table. Here he was finally able to enjoy the happiness of a carefree existence; he was quite contented. The winters were spent in Vienna, the summers in Bohemia [at Dolní Lukavice, usually referred to as Lukavec]…. As music director in the service of Count Morzin Haydn composed his first symphony [incipit of no.1].
Although Dies agrees regarding the date (‘about 27’), Haydn’s earliest symphony cannot be as late as 1759: a manuscript source for no.37 is dated 1758 (Carpani’s date), implying a date of composition in that year or, more likely, at least a year earlier. Moreover, Haydn himself in old age organized a list of his symphonies according to ten-year periods: 1757–67, 1767–77 etc.; ‘1757’ is so precise that he must have believed that it was the actual year of his first symphony – or, perhaps, of his appointment with Morzin. (The list also appears to confirm Griesinger’s identification of the symphony we know as ‘no.1’ as the earliest.) Finally, if one accepts 1749 as the date of Haydn’s dismissal from the Stephansdom and takes literally his ‘eight whole years’ of ‘wretched existence’, 1757 is implied as end-point; but the most likely marker of the latter, again, was his appointment with Morzin. Be all this as it may, the free-spending Count Morzin soon had to dissolve his little musical establishment. Although the early biographers again disagree as to the date, Haydn’s marriage certificate (26 November 1760) refers to him as ‘Music Director with Count v. Morzin’, so he probably moved from Morzin to Esterházy without meaningful interruption. Haydn’s compositions during the Morzin years include about 15 symphonies; keyboard sonatas (including hXVI:6, probably not later than 1760), trios, divertimentos (including hXIV:11, 1760) and concertos; string trios; partitas for wind band (including hII:15, 1760) and possibly the quartets op.2 nos.1–2.
On 26 November 1760 Haydn was married to Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia Keller (bap. 9 Feb 1729; d 20 March 1800); the marriage contract, in which he pledged 1000 gulden as a matching sum to her dowry (a common custom), is dated 9 November. The bride was the daughter of the wigmaker Johann Peter Keller, who is said variously to have assisted him in his years of poverty or employed him as a music teacher. The early biographers relate that in the mid-1750s Haydn had fallen in love with her younger sister Therese (b 1733), who however was compelled by her devout parents to enter a nunnery in 1755, taking her formal vows in 1756. It has been speculated that he composed the Salve regina in E and perhaps the Organ Concerto in C on the latter occasion. Whether (the speculation continues) out of continuing gratitude to the Kellers or owing to a psychological displacement of his own affections, he married the elder sister four years later. The marriage was an unhappy one (we have only his side of the story) and led to infidelities on both sides; as he said to Griesinger (somewhat illogically): ‘My wife was incapable of bearing children, and thus I was less indifferent to the charms of other women’.
3. Esterházy court, 1761–90.
With Haydn’s move to the Esterházy court, evidence regarding his activities increases a hundredfold. However, its scope is uneven: although the archives are informative regarding theatrical activities, entertainments for noble visitors, personnel, payments for services, petitions etc., they tell us little about day-to-day musical activities, especially in the realm of instrumental music. Many documents and musical sources were destroyed in a fire at Eszterháza castle in 1779, and little correspondence of Haydn’s survives until the upswing in his commercial activity beginning in 1780.
(i) Vice-Kapellmeister, 1761–5.
The Esterházy family, the richest and most influential among the Hungarian nobility, had long been important patrons of culture and the arts; Prince Paul Anton was a music lover and capable performer. Haydn’s predecessor as Kapellmeister, Gregor Joseph Werner, had been appointed in 1728; he was a solid professional who composed church music in the first instance, but also symphonies, trio sonatas and other instrumental works including an entertaining ‘Musical Calendar’ (1748); in 1804 Haydn honoured his predecessor by publishing six introductions and fugues from his oratorios, arranged for string quartet. Paul, who from 1750 to 1752 was ambassador in Naples and travelled widely elsewhere, collected a large quantity of vocal and instrumental music (he had a catalogue made during the period 1759–62; it lists one symphony by Haydn, acquired in 1760). By about 1760 Werner was becoming infirm and his musical orientation increasingly conservative; Paul set about modernizing and enlarging the establishment, appointing several new musicians before recruiting Haydn and others in 1761.
Haydn’s appointment was in the first instance as vice-Kapellmeister; the first and last clauses of his contract address this somewhat delicate situation, while illustrating the Esterházys’ concern for the welfare of valued employees:
1mo a Kapellmeister at Eisenstadt named Gregorius Werner has devoted many years of true and faithful service to the princely house, but now, on account of his great age and the resulting infirmities … is not always capable of performing his duties, therefore said Gregorius Werner, in consideration of his long service, shall continue to serve, as Ober-Kapellmeister. On the other hand the said Joseph Haydn, as vice-Kapellmeister, shall be subordinate to … said Gregorio Werner, quà Ober-Kapellmeister, in regard to the choral music [Chor-Musique] in Eisenstadt; but in all other circumstances where any sort of music is to be made, everything pertaining to the music, in general and in particular, is the responsibility of said vice-Kapellmeister.
14mo His Highness not only undertakes to retain the said Joseph Haydn in service during this period [three years, renewable], but, should he provide complete satisfaction, he shall also have expectations of the position of Oberkapellmeister.
Although the contract is dated 1 May 1761, Haydn may have begun working for the court earlier that year. Griesinger states that he began on 19 March 1760; this cannot be correct, unless it was an error for 1761 (Dies also names 1760), and the specific date ‘19’ is suspect (the surviving contracts begin on the first of the month). But the Prince was in Vienna in March 1761 (music was performed at the Esterházy palace several times that month); indeed he may have remained there much of the time until his death in March 1762. Moreover, the contracts with several musicians appointed 1 April 1761 include a clause requiring them to obey not only the Kapellmeister but the vice-Kapellmeister, but the latter position did not exist until Haydn’s appointment. Hence he may well have selected most or all of the musicians hired from April on, and so helped to shape the newly constituted orchestra himself.
Haydn’s contract, once thought to be demeaning, is now understood as a standard document of its type; its terms were favourable to a young man of 29 with only one previous position to his credit. He was no servant, but a professional employee or ‘house officer’; he received 400 gulden a year, plus various considerations in kind including uniforms and board at the officers’ table. He was in charge of the ‘Camer-Musique’, which comprised not only all instrumental music but secular vocal and stage music as well. He had full authority over the musicians, both professionally and in terms of their behaviour; but he was close to many of them personally as well, often serving as godfather to their children. His duties included responsibility for the musical archives and instruments (including purchase, upkeep and repair), instruction in singing, performing both as leader and as soloist (‘because [he] is competent on various instruments’) – and, of course, composition:
4to Whenever His Princely Highness commands, the vice-Kapellmeister is obligated to compose such works of music as His Highness may demand; further not to communicate [such] new compositions to anyone, still less allow them to be copied [for others], but to reserve them entirely and exclusively for His Highness; most of all to compose nothing for any other person without prior knowledge and gracious consent.
Despite the immense labour and considerable tribulation this position entailed, Haydn must have known that it was the opportunity of a lifetime. One can well understand the joy and satisfaction conveyed by Griesinger’s remark: ‘It was still granted to Haydn’s father [d 1763] to see his son in the blue and gold uniform of the court, and to hear the prince’s many praises of his son’s talent’.
Paul Anton, already in uncertain health in 1761, declined rapidly in early 1762 and died on 18 March. Childless, he was succeeded by his brother Nicolaus, an even more enthusiastic musician, who harboured even grander designs for the physical and artistic development of the court. Goethe coined the phrase ‘das Esterházysche Feenreich’ to describe his display at the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor in Frankfurt in 1764, which has passed into the literature; in his own day he was called ‘der Prachtliebende’ (‘the Magnificent’). His treatment of Haydn was generous: he raised his salary to 600 gulden, regularly dispensed gold ducats as thanks for the submission of baryton trios and after successful opera productions and, following fires that destroyed Haydn’s house in Eisenstadt in 1768 and 1776, paid to have it rebuilt. As a matter of course his musical taste decisively influenced what genres Haydn cultivated at court; whether it affected Haydn’s style as well cannot be determined (except in cases like the works for baryton).
The musical ensemble was at first very small, normally comprising 13 to 15 players (of whom many performed on more than one instrument): strings (approximately 6 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 1 bass), 2 oboes, 2 horns and a bassoon (plus a flute in certain works or movements). Haydn led from the violin; no keyboard continuo was employed except in the theatre. Beginning in the 1770s, the ensemble was gradually enlarged, owing primarily to the increasing importance of the court opera; at its height in the 1780s it counted 22–4 members. Especially at first, it was manned largely by virtuosos (including Luigi Tomasini, violin, Joseph Weigl and later Anton Kraft, cello, Carl Franz, horn and baryton), some of whom remained at the court for decades. This situation is reflected in many difficult and exposed passages in Haydn’s symphonies, as well as numerous concertos from the 1760s. Indeed symphonies nos.6–8, Le matin, Le midi and Le soir (1761) – among his first compositions in his new position; Dies states that the ‘times of day’ topic was suggested by the prince – were expressly calculated to show off the new ensemble, both as a whole and in terms of the individual players, all of whom receive solos. But Haydn was also demonstrating his own prowess: although the topics were traditional, the works have no precedent, either generally or in his own output.
During the first half of the 1760s Haydn composed chiefly instrumental music, as far as we know exclusively for performance at court. His most productive genre was the symphony, with about 25 works; in addition to nos.6–8 they include nos.22 (‘The Philosopher’) and 30 and 31 (‘Alleluja’, ‘Hornsignal’). The concertos include two or three for violin, the Cello Concerto in C, a concerto for violone (the first ever composed, as far as is known), two horn concertos and one for two horns, one for flute and perhaps one for bassoon; many of them are lost. Only a few keyboard works are known, primarily trios and quartet divertimentos; there are also a few ensemble divertimentos as well as minuets and other dances. In addition, there were a few large-scale vocal works, usually intended as celebrations of particular occasions: the festa teatrale Acide (1762, first performed in January 1763, for the marriage of Anton, the prince’s eldest son) and the somewhat mysterious commedia Marchese (La marchesa Nespola, 1762–3; only fragments survive, and three similar works are lost), as well as several cantatas honouring Nicolaus himself, whether on his nameday (Destatevi o miei fidi, 1763; Qual dubbio ormai, 1764), his return from distant journeys (Da qual gioia improvvisa, 1764, from Frankfurt; Al tuo arrivo felice, 1767, from Paris) or his convalescence from illness (Dei clementi, undated). The only sacred vocal work of consequence is the first of Haydn’s two Te Deum settings (hXXIIIc:1).
We know little of Haydn’s daily routine or that of the musical establishment during these years, or of noteworthy events in his life. His contract required him to appear every morning and afternoon to see if music was desired, although a later document specified that academies were to be given regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 1762 to 1765 Nicolaus lived primarily in Eisenstadt, with frequent shorter stays at other properties. Haydn and his wife lived in an apartment in the same building as the other musicians, next to the ‘Bergkirche’, just up the hill from the castle. He was seriously ill in the winter of 1764–5; the following year his brother Johann was engaged, nominally as a tenor but de factocharitably supported by Haydn.
(ii) Kapellmeister, 1766–90.
In late 1765 and early 1766 Haydn’s status and activities at the Esterházy court changed radically. First came a series of crises in his relations with the prince. In September 1765 the flautist Franz Sigl accidentally burnt down a house; the chief court administrator, Ludwig Peter Rahier (with whom Haydn often clashed), recommended that Sigl be imprisoned, and Haydn was reprimanded by the prince. Haydn however eloquently defended himself and succeeded in having Sigl’s punishment reduced to simple dismissal (indeed he was later rehired). In October, Werner, having just signed his last will, wrote a vituperative letter to the prince in which he accused Haydn of neglecting the instruments and musical archives and the supervision of the singers. In late November or early December Nicolaus again sent Haydn a reprimand (perhaps drafted by Rahier), instructing him to see to these matters and to prepare a catalogue of the archives and instruments of the Chor-Musique. At the end stood the following postscript: ‘Kapellmeister Haydn is urgently enjoined to apply himself to composition more zealously than heretofore, and especially to compose more pieces that one can play on the [baryton]’. The baryton was a member of the viol family, on which the performer could ‘accompany himself’ by plucking a series of sympathetically vibrating strings while also playing normally with the bow; the prince was an accomplished performer. Haydn, though doubtless angry and dismayed, at once began to compose baryton trios in quantity. On 4 January 1766 he submitted three new ones (Nicolaus pronounced himself satisfied and awarded him 12 ducats, while immediately ordering six more), and completed a ‘book’ of 24 (they were elegantly bound in sets) that autumn; two additional books followed by July 1768. Thereafter production dropped off somewhat, though remaining steady into the mid-1770s, for a total of 126 trios plus sundry other works.
A different kind of response (so it is assumed) was Haydn’s decision to begin a thematic catalogue of his own compositions, and thereby to refute the prince’s charge of non-productivity. This document, misleadingly called the Entwurf-Katalog (‘draft catalogue’, fig.3), is of capital importance for our knowledge of Haydn’s output from the pre-Esterházy days up to the late 1770s, as well as its chronology. It was laid out in about 1765–6 by Joseph Elssler, the most important music copyist at the court, doubtless according to Haydn’s plan; Haydn made additional entries more or less regularly until the late 1770s.
On 3 March 1766 Werner died; Haydn was now Kapellmeister, responsible for the church music as well as everything else. It was presumably this higher status (his salary did not change) that induced him in May to purchase a house in Eisenstadt (now a Haydn museum). A more important change was signalled later that year: a portion of the court, including Haydn and some musicians, spent the summer at Nicolaus’s splendid new castle, Eszterháza, then beginning to rise in reclaimed swampland east of Lake Neusiedl (present-day Hungary). Over time, the prince became increasingly attached to it, and ‘summer’ eventually expanded to ten months. Such an extension occasioned the ‘Farewell’ Symphony (no.45, autumn 1772), in which the pantomime of the departing musicians brought home to the prince the need to return to Eisenstadt.
As a result of these new circumstances, Haydn’s compositional activity changed substantially. In addition to the upsurge in baryton music, in 1766 he began to compose large-scale vocal works, both sacred and secular. In the former domain he at once produced two works on the largest scale, with an astonishing assurance of style and technique for someone who had composed no church music for a decade. The first was the Missa Cellensis in honorem BVM of 1766 (possibly completed later), apparently intended for Mariazell (where earlier Esterházys had erected a chapel) or a Viennese church associated with that shrine. More masses followed: in 1768 the Missa ‘Sunt bona mixta malis’, about 1768–9 theMissa in honorem BVM (‘Great Organ Mass’; Haydn presumably performed the obbligato organ part), in 1772 the Missa Sancti Nicolai (the title implies a celebration of the prince’s nameday, 6 December) and about 1775–8 a missa brevis (‘Little Organ Mass’). His other ‘inaugural’ liturgical masterpiece was the Stabat mater of 1767. Its original purpose is unknown; Haydn was confident enough to send it to Hasse, earning a letter of praise that he much valued, and he performed it in Vienna in March 1768. There followed aSalve regina (hXXIIIb:2; 1771) for four solo voices, string orchestra and obbligato organ (again performed by Haydn). It was presumably this work, not (as he later claimed) theStabat mater, that resulted from his vow to compose a work of thanksgiving to the Virgin if he were cured of a serious illness; he suffered from a ‘raging fever’ (Griesinger) about 1770–71, so threatening that his brother applied for leave from Salzburg to visit him. The celebratory cantata Applausus (1768) was commissioned in honour of the abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Zwettl; because Haydn was unable to be present, he accompanied the work with a long and informative letter on performing practice. Haydn composed the Italian oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia (1774–5) for the annual Lenten concert of the Tonkünstler-Societät in Vienna, a charitable organization for musicians’ widows and children founded by Hofkapellmeister Gassmann in 1771. He conducted the premières on 2 and 4 April 1775; most of the roles were sung by members of his own Kapelle. The work was a notable success; a review praised the choruses in particular and referred to his growing international reputation.
Beginning in 1766, the prince began to require operatic productions at the new castle; eventually opera would become the focus of the entire musical establishment (see §(iii) below). For the time being, however, Haydn’s primary task was to compose operas to be produced during the festivities celebrating visits by high personages. Three comic operas date from the late 1760s: La canterina (1766) apparently had its première in the summer during a visit of the imperial court to Eisenstadt (in a makeshift theatre) and was afterwards produced in Pressburg (Bratislava). Lo speziale (1768) and Le pescatrici (1769–70) are both based on librettos by Goldoni; the former inaugurated the new opera house at Eszterháza probably during the last week of September 1768, on the visit of the Hungarian regent, Duke Albert of Saxe-Techsen, while the latter had its première on 16 September 1770 during the wedding celebrations of Countess Lamberg, the prince’s niece. After a pause, operatic composition resumed in 1773 with L’infedeltà delusa, given on 26 July (the nameday of the dowager Princess Maria Anna, Paul Anton’s widow), and Philemon und Baucis, a German marionette opera, given on 2 September during the festivities in honour of a ‘state’ visit by Empress Maria Theresa to Eszterháza. (Hexenschabbas, another marionette opera from about this time, is lost.) L’infedeltà delusa was also given for the empress; the performance occasioned her famous remark (if it is genuine) that in order to see a good opera she had to go to the country. Haydn’s last opera during this phase wasL’incontro improvviso, first given on 29 August 1775, during a visit by Archduke Ferdinand and his court.
During the late 1760s and early 1770s Haydn continued to compose instrumental works, albeit at a slower rate than before (except during the operatic hiatus of 1770–72). But they became longer, more passionate and more daring. The symphonies comprise nos.26, 35, 38, 41–9, 52, 58–9, 65; many of these are among his best-known before the London period, as is evident from their nicknames, which include ‘Lamentatione’, ‘Maria Theresa’, ‘La passione’, ‘Mourning’, ‘Farewell’ and ‘The Schoolmaster’. He also took up the string quartet, not cultivated since the 1750s, producing three increasingly imposing opera in rapid succession: op.9 (c1769–70), op.17 (1771) and op.20 (1772). The reason is unknown: there is no documentation of quartet performances at the Esterházy court, and it has been speculated that he composed them for Viennese patrons (Burney described the audience’s transports at a performance of Haydn quartets in Vienna in September 1772). He also composed numerous keyboard sonatas for connoisseurs: hXVI:45 (1766), 19 (1767), 46 (late 1760s), 20 (in C minor, 1771), as well as seven lost works and one that survives only as a fragment (hXVI:2a–g, XIV:5) which, to judge from the incipits, were on the same scale. A few concertos date from this period as well. Many of these works are so bold and expressive that in the 20th century they became subsumed under the appellationSturm und Drang. The term has been criticized: taken from the title of a play of 1776 by Maximilian Klinger, it properly pertains to a literary movement of the middle and late 1770s rather than a musical one of about 1768–72, and early proponents of this interpretation assumed implausibly and without evidence that these works expressed a ‘romantic crisis’ in Haydn’s life. Nevertheless, his style during these years was distinctive; furthermore, similar traits are found in the contemporary music of many other Austrian composers, including the young Mozart’s G minor Symphony k183/173dB and D minor String Quartet k173.
In Haydn’s case this development may have been related to his turn to vocal music beginning in 1766: perhaps the demand for expressive depth in sacred works and dramatic effectiveness in opera, as well as the tendency towards through-composition in both genres, stimulated this expansion of his instrumental music. In 1769 Nicolaus began engaging a theatrical troupe each summer season; in the seasons 1772–7 it was the famous one directed by Carl Wahr, which played primarily comedies and other entertainments, although Shakespeare’s tragedies were also mounted. It has been speculated that Haydn supplied incidental music for these productions (including even Hamlet and King Lear) and that some Sturm und Drang symphonies recycle this music, although the only documented example is Symphony no.60 (‘Il distratto’, 1774), from a very un-Shakespearean French comedy. In any case, from about 1773 Haydn’s instrumental music became generally lighter in style – the reason (if any) is again unknown; there is no evidence of princely intervention – and was again addressed to amateurs as well as connoisseurs. The string quartet was abandoned. Both the symphonies of 1773–5 (nos.50–51, 54–7, 60, 64, 66–9) and two contemporaneous sets of keyboard sonatas, hXVI:21–6 (1773) and especially 27–32 (1774–6), exemplify this mixed orientation; the former was published in Vienna in 1774 (the first authorized publication of Haydn’s music) with a dedication to the prince, who presumably paid the costs. A third set (nos.35–9 and 20), again mixed in style, was published in 1780.
(iii) Opera impresario, 1776–90.
In 1778 Haydn sold his house in Eisenstadt; the court now stayed at Eszterháza at least ten months every year, and he increasingly spent the short winter season in Vienna (see §3(iv)). The very long stays at Eszterháza were linked to Nicolaus’s reorganization of the theatrical entertainment there in 1776. Now there was a regular ‘season’ each year, comprising opera, stage plays and marionette operas (in a separate small theatre); in principle there was theatrical entertainment every evening the prince was in residence. At first, stage plays predominated (184 evenings in 1778, as opposed to only 50 operas – and only two musical academies; four others took place during the day, in the ‘apartments’), but the number of opera evenings increased steadily, reaching a high of 124 or 125 in 1786. New productions were henceforth not grand, ‘occasional’ events, but a regular occurrence; in 1776 there were five, and in the banner year 1786 there were eight, together with nine revivals. Under these conditions Haydn could not compose more than a small fraction of what was needed, nor were new works commissioned from other composers. Instead, operas were acquired from Vienna, where there were many productions and a lively trade in copying; it is not known how many were selected by the prince or Haydn during their brief winter sojourns. Some were acquired by agents (e.g. Nunziato Porta, the librettist ofOrlando paladino), others supplied by newly arrived singers etc., and still others purchased from archives and estates (Dittersdorf sold the court several of his own operas in 1776). The up-to-date repertory centred on opera buffa: the composer represented by the greatest number of productions from 1776 to 1790 was Cimarosa (13), followed in order by Anfossi, Paisiello, Sarti and Haydn (seven), and 24 other composers with fewer.
Once it was decided to produce a given opera, Haydn was responsible for any musical alterations that might be required, supervising the copying of parts, rehearsing the singers and orchestra, and conducting all the performances – for no fewer than 88 productions in the 15 years from 1776 to 1790. This was by any reckoning a full-time job, even if one does not count his own new stage works, of which six originated between 1777 and 1783, or almost one per year. First came a dramma giocoso by Goldoni, Il mondo della luna (given on 3 August 1777, on the marriage of Nicolaus’s younger son). La vera costanza (1778–9) is the subject of implausible and conflicting anecdotes in Griesinger and Dies, according to which it was originally commissioned for the Burgtheater in Vienna but scuttled by intrigue (neither Joseph II nor his musicians were well-disposed towards Haydn); in fact it had its première at Eszterháza, on 25 April 1779. It was lost in the fire that largely destroyed the Eszterháza opera theatre on 18 November 1779; the surviving version represents Haydn’s reconstruction of the work from 1785. It is a measure of the prince’s commitment (or obsession) that an opera was given just three days after the fire, in the marionette theatre, which had been hastily adapted for staged opera (yet another noble marriage was to be celebrated). Haydn’s L’isola disabitata to a libretto by Metastasio also had its première on schedule on 6 December (the prince’s nameday). Next came La fedeltà premiata (1780; given on 25 February 1781, on the inauguration of the rebuilt opera house). In 1783 Haydn took the unusual step of publishing the great scena for Celia in Act 2, ‘Ah, come il core … Ombra del caro bene’, in full score; it received a detailed and laudatory review by C.F. Cramer in his Magazin der Musik. Haydn’s last two Eszterháza operas were Orlando paladino (1782, for the prince’s nameday) and Armida (1783; given 26 February 1784). The later 1770s saw three German marionette operas, also all lost in the 1779 fire: Dido (1776), Vom abgebrannten Haus (date uncertain) and Die bestrafte Rachbegierde (1779; its production can be inferred only from the printed libretto); the occasionally seen Die Feuersbrunst is either spurious or represents an arrangement of Vom abgebrannten Haus.
After 1783 Haydn composed no more operas for the court. It is not known why he abandoned the genre, which he had cultivated intensively since 1766 and in which he was proud of his achievements (see §6 below), or how he persuaded the prince to consent at a time when the number of productions was still rising. Perhaps he was increasingly drawn to his new career as composer of instrumental music for publication (see §(iv) below). In any case all his other duties for the court theatre remained in force; in particular he still revised the operas in production to suit his provincial stage and limited personnel. Haydn made many cuts, both of entire numbers and within them, re-orchestrated (often adding winds), changed tempos (usually speeding them up) and ‘tailored’ arias to ‘fit’ his singers, as Mozart would have said. He composed about 20 substitute (‘insertion’) arias (hXXIVb) as well as long passages within numbers not rejected as a whole.
The majority of the insertion arias and simplifications were composed for Luigia Polzelli, a young Italian mezzo-soprano who joined the troupe in March 1779 along with her much older husband, a violinist. Both proved inadequate and were dismissed in December 1780 – but promptly rehired: Luigia and Haydn had become lovers, a relationship that, like so many in that milieu, was probably an open secret. (Haydn told Griesinger that the painter Ludwig Guttenbrunn had been his wife’s lover during his stay at the court in 1770–72.) While at Eszterháza Luigia gave birth to her second son, Antonio, in 1783. He and his mother believed that Haydn was the father (there is no evidence of such a belief on Haydn’s part); he became a professional musician and was appointed to the Esterházy orchestra in 1803. Haydn was well disposed towards him, and even more towards his elder brother Pietro (b1777); he taught them both music and maintained contact with them throughout his life. As for Luigia, following the dissolution of the Kapelle in 1790 Haydn attempted to procure engagements for her in Italy; however, he would not have her with him in London, even though her sister was engaged there as a singer (see §4 below). Although there are no letters from the 1780s by which we might assess the nature of their feelings, he wrote to her often (in Italian) during his first London visit. Those up to early spring 1792 are ardent: ‘Perhaps I shall never regain the good humour that I used to have with you; you are always in my heart, and I shall never, never forget you … Think from time to time about your Haydn, who esteems you and loves you tenderly, and will always be faithful to you’ (14 January). But those from May and June are notably cooler – he had entered a new relationship – and none survives from his second London visit. He acceded to Polzelli’s requests for money, but not always immediately or in the demanded amount, while complaining (misleadingly) how little he had, as well as (accurately) how hard he had to work.
The vastly increased operatic and theatrical activity at the Esterházy court from 1776 on led to an equally drastic reduction in the performance of instrumental music. As noted above, only six ‘academies’ were listed for the entire year 1778 (all in January and February). Presumably the prince simply lost interest; even Haydn’s stream of baryton works began to dry up after 1773 and ceased entirely about 1775, following the octets hX:1–6. The symphony, from the late 1750s to 1775 the one constant in Haydn’s output, declined as well; only nine were completed in the six years 1776–81 (nos.53, 61–3, 70–71, 73–5), none at all in 1777 or the first half of 1778. Even these few symphonies often include adaptations of stage music. No.63 in C begins with the overture to Il mondo della luna, and the slow movement (‘La Roxelane’) is based on a theme from a stage play; the slow movement of no.73, ‘La chasse’, uses his own lied Gegenliebe and the finale recycles the overture to La fedeltà premiata. He even recycled the overture hIa:7 twice, in the finale of one version of no.53 (‘Imperial’) and the opening movement of no.62. From this time on, the Esterházy court was no longer the primary destination for Haydn’s instrumental music.
(iv) Independence, 1779–90.
Nevertheless, Haydn was able to continue his career as an instrumental composer. In contrast to London, Paris and elsewhere, where unauthorized editions of his music had been appearing steadily since 1764, there was no music publishing industry to speak of in the Habsburg realm; most music circulated in manuscript copies. This situation changed in 1778, when Artaria & Co., hitherto primarily art dealers and mapmakers, expanded into music printing; other firms soon followed. Artaria and Haydn must have made contact in 1779 (it is not known who took the initiative); their first publication was a set of six keyboard sonatas, hXVI:35–9, 20 (delivered in winter 1779–80, published in April 1780), dedicated to the virtuoso sisters Katharina and Marianna von Auenbrugger. Dozens of Viennese publications of Haydn’s music followed over the next decade. This would not have been possible on the terms of his 1761 contract, which forbade him from selling music on his own or composing for anyone else without permission. However, he signed a new contract on New Year’s Day 1779, in which these prohibitions were omitted; the conjunction with Artaria’s founding in 1778 and Haydn’s publication of music with them beginning in 1779–80 cannot be coincidental. The prince was losing interest in instrumental music; Haydn must have persuaded him to strike a compromise, whereby he remained in residence at court, continued in charge of the opera and drew his full salary, but was granted compositional independence in other respects, including the income from sales of his music. In addition, he began to market his music in other countries: in England beginning in 1781 with Forster, to whom he sold more music than to anyone except Artaria; in France beginning in 1783, selling Symphonies nos.76–8 (composed 1782) to Boyer and offering nos.79–81 (1783–4) to Naderman. (To be sure, certain works not composed for the court – for example, the ‘Paris’ Symphonies – were still performed, or at any rate tried out, there before being sent into the world, and others, such as the piano sonatas hXVI:40–42, were dedicated to members of the princely family.)
Haydn soon learnt to maximize his income by selling a given work in several countries, accepting a separate fee for each. Except in Vienna and London he often worked through a middleman. These activities were in many respects unregulated (modern copyright law being in its infancy); unauthorized ‘double copying’ was a constant danger, and everyone attempted to maximize his advantage – including Haydn, whose tactics were often unscrupulous, to say the least. He often earned his ‘little extra’ by selling manuscript copies of new works to private individuals; such ‘subscription’ copies still carried a certain prestige. An example is offered by his famous letters offering the string quartets op.33, composed in summer and autumn 1781 and sold to Artaria by prior arrangement. On 3 December he wrote to between ten and 20 noble and well-to-do music lovers, including the Swiss intellectual Johann Caspar Lavater:
I love and happily read your works … Since I know that in Zürich and Winterthur there are many gentlemen amateurs and great connoisseurs and patrons of music, I cannot conceal from you the fact that I am issuing a work consisting of 6 Quartets for two violins, viola and violoncello concertante, by subscription for the price of six ducats; they are of a new and entirely special kind, for I haven’t written any for ten years … Subscribers who live abroad will receive them before I issue the works here …
However, Artaria (who presumably knew nothing of these activities) announced the forthcoming publication of the quartets on 29 December at a price of 4 gulden (6 ducats equalled approximately 25 gulden). Haydn was furious:
It was with astonishment that I read … that you intend to publish my quartets in four weeks … Such a proceeding places me in a most dishonourable position and is very damaging; it is a most extortionate step on your part … Mr Hummel [the publisher] also wanted to be a subscriber, but I did not want to behave so shabbily, and I did not send them to Berlin solely out of regard for our friendship and further transactions; by God! you owe me more than 50 ducats, since I have not yet satisfied many of the subscribers, and cannot possibly send copies to those living abroad; this step must cause the cessation of further transactions between us.
In fact, it did not come to a rupture: Artaria delayed publication until April, and Haydn apparently sold the quartets to Hummel after all; both parties now better understood the ground rules (‘the next time’, wrote Haydn later, ‘we shall both be more prudent’). A loss of 50 ducats implies about eight unsold copies; in 1784 Haydn claimed to Artaria that he had ‘always received more than 100 ducats through subscriptions to my quartets’. Even as his publications increased, Haydn continued to market manuscript copies, especially in genres that were not ordinarily published (such as sacred vocal music), and to sell all sorts of music in places where there was still no music publishing industry, notably Spain. These were hardly ever new works. To be sure, he wrote to Artaria in 1784: ‘The quartets I’m working on just now … are very small and with only three movements; they are destined for Spain’, but no trace of such works survives, unless it be the small-scale (but four-movement) single quartet op.42 (1785), which, however, appears to have been composed for a periodical series published by Hoffmeister.
Another risk arose from the circumstance that many publishers sold works from their own catalogues to business partners in other markets. Forster naturally assumed he had exclusive rights in England to the works Haydn had sold him. However, when Artaria sold some of the same works to Longman & Broderip, two ostensibly authorized editions were suddenly in direct competition. To make matters worse, among the works Haydn sold Forster was a set of piano trios hXV:3–5, the first two of which were almost certainly compositions of his former pupil Pleyel. Later, Pleyel sold them to Longman & Broderip; when the latter edition appeared, Forster embarked on a lawsuit with Longman, in which Haydn became entangled when he went to England; it was settled out of court. Despite such difficulties, his methods of exploiting multiple markets became a model for the next two generations of composers; he ‘taught’ it to Beethoven (who learnt his lesson well, including the unscrupulous aspects), and it was still used by Mendelssohn and Chopin. He was also adept at ‘marketing’. He described Symphonies nos.76–8 as ‘beautiful, impressive and above all not very long symphonies … and in particular everything very easy’, and his first authorized Viennese publication of orchestral music (late 1782) was devoted, not to symphonies, but to the ‘easier’ genre of the overture.
For all these reasons Haydn’s compositional activity underwent a radical change in the 1780s. His music, which been well known and much praised since the mid-1760s, was now genuinely popular: he could scarcely keep up with the demand. He concentrated on what was salable: instrumental works that would appeal to both amateurs and connoisseurs, opera excerpts and lieder. As long as his works had been destined for the court or published without his participation, he had had little need to follow the ‘opus’ principle; now he adopted it for almost all his publications. Even the string quartet was subject to another pause of six years (and the example of Mozart’s quartets dedicated to him) before he composed three sets in rapid succession during 1787–90: op.50 (Artaria; dedicated to the King of Prussia), op.54/55 (a single set of six, sold to Johann Tost, formerly a violinist at court, who resold them to various publishers) and op.64. The English publisher John Bland visited him at Eszterháza in November 1789, when Haydn promised him a new quartet in return for a new razor (Haydn thanked him for the razors in April 1790). However, a ‘new’ quartet could not have been the one now known as the ‘Razor’ (op.55 no.2, composed in 1788 and never published by Bland); it is more likely that the story has to do with op.64 (1790), which Bland did publish in an authorized edition.
A genre that Haydn had not cultivated since the mid-1760s but which now again became important was the piano trio, with 13 works in the 1780s. hXV:5 (1784) and 9–10 (1785) were sold to Forster; nos.6–8 (1784–5) and 11–13 (1788–9) to Artaria, as was no.14 (1789–90). Nos.15–17 (1790) were composed for Bland; they specify a flute rather than a violin as the melody instrument (no.17: flute or violin). The piano sonatas nos.33, 34 and 43 were assembled post facto and published in 1783; by contrast, nos.40–42 are an ‘opus’ (published 1784; dedicated to Marie Hermenegild, wife of the later Prince Nicolaus II). Two important single sonatas date from 1789–90: hXVI:48 in C, composed for Breitkopf in Leipzig, and hXVI:49 in E, for Maria Anna von Genzinger; the Capriccio hXVII:4, composed ‘in a launige hour’ in 1789, is equally fine. Another genre made newly popular through publication was the lied; Haydn composed 24 in 1781–4 (hXXVIa:1–24) and published them with Artaria in two sets of 12.
Even in the early 1780s Haydn was no mere ‘entertainer’. But a newly serious orientation was instigated by his receipt in about 1784–5 of two prestigious commissions from abroad, both executed in 1785–6. Six symphonies were commissioned by Count d’Ogny for performance in Paris by the Concert de la Loge Olympique (a masonic organization); the fee was later reported to have been 25 louis d’or for each symphony (Mozart had been paid only 5 for the Paris Symphony k297/300a) and Haydn received also 5 louis d’or from Imbault for the publication rights. The Concert employed a much larger orchestra than any for which he had composed symphonies; whether for this reason or simply owing to the notion of ‘Paris’, they are the grandest he had yet written. They were immensely popular; Marie Antoinette supposedly preferred no.85 in B, whence its nickname ‘La reine’; compare ‘L’ours’ (no.82) and ‘La poule’ (no.83). Their success led to additional symphonies: Haydn sold nos.88–9 (1787) to Tost, who resold them in Paris and elsewhere, and d’Ogny commissioned nos.90–92 (1788–9).
The other commission was a highly unusual one from Cádiz, for a series of orchestral pieces on the last words of Christ, to be performed in a darkened church as a kind of Passion during Holy Week, presumably on Good Friday. Haydn described them to Forster as
purely instrumental music divided into seven Sonatas, each Sonata lasting seven or eight minutes, together with an opening Introduction and concluding with aTerremoto or Earthquake. These Sonatas are composed on, and appropriate to, the Words that Christ our Saviour spoke on the Cross. …
Each Sonata, or rather each setting of the text, is expressed only by instrumental music, but in such a way that it creates the most profound impression on even the most inexperienced listener.
Griesinger commented: ‘Haydn often stated that this work was one of his most successful’. It was widely performed and favourably received, not least owing to its avoidance of what were taken to be the chief dangers of tone-painting, excessive literalness and triviality. Haydn also sold the Seven Last Words in arrangements, one for string quartet and one for keyboard.
A distinctly lighter series of commissions came from King Ferdinando IV of Naples. Like Prince Esterházy, he had become proficient on an out-of-the-way instrument: the lira organizzata, a sort of grown-up hurdy-gurdy. He commissioned concertos and ‘notturnos’ for two lire organizzate from various composers; Haydn supplied five or six concertos (hVIIh, 1786–7) and eight notturnos (hII:25–32, 1789–90).
Haydn’s stays in Vienna were still restricted to one or two months each winter and occasional brief visits during Lent. He increasingly valued the imperial capital’s artistic and intellectual life, which was flourishing under Joseph II, and chafed at having to spend so much time in the ‘wasteland’ (Einöde) of Eszterháza. He acquired many friends and patrons, including Baron Gottfried van Swieten (whom he had met in 1775), Councillor Franz Sales von Greiner (1730–98; father of the later Caroline Pichler), who presided over Vienna’s leading literary salon and supplied Haydn with lieder texts, Anton Liebe von Kreutzner, who in 1781–2 commissioned the Mariazellermesse and to whose daughter Haydn dedicated his lieder published in 1781, Councillor Franz Bernhard von Keess, who held regular concerts of orchestral music and made the first systematic attempt to collect all of Haydn’s symphonies, and Michael Puchberg (Mozart’s patron). Their orientation, reflecting that of the emperor, was enlightened-conservative: they were interested in literature, philosophy and education and largely rejected dogmatism, yet retained a traditional and Catholic outlook – all traits that Haydn shared. The majority were freemasons; Nicolaus himself was Master of Ceremonies at one Viennese lodge, and it was most probably he or others in this circle who induced Haydn to apply for membership in the order. Haydn did so on 29 December 1784 and was inducted into the lodge ‘Zur wahren Eintracht’ on 11 February 1785; however, there are no further records of his participation, and (despite one further letter) it appears that freemasonry was of no particular significance to him.
Haydn’s visits to Vienna offered many opportunities for performances of his music. The string quartets op.33 are still sometimes called the ‘Russian’ quartets, owing to a dedication on a late edition that reflects a performance given on Christmas Day 1781 for Grand Duke Paul of Russia (later Tsar Paul I) and his music-loving consort. Regarding his lieder, Haydn told Artaria: ‘I will sing them myself, in the best houses. A master must see to his rights by his presence and by correct performance’. In February 1779 the Tonkünstler-Societät had invited Haydn to join, but attached conditions not to his liking; he gruffly refused. In March 1784, however, he produced Il ritorno di Tobia for them in a revised version. The ‘tightness’ of the Viennese performing scene is evident from the fact that among the five soloists were four who had taken part (or would do so) in Mozart opera premières: Anna: Nancy Storace (Figaro, Susanna) Raffaelle: Catarina Cavalieri (Entführung, Konstanze) Tobia: Valentin Adamberger (Entführung, Belmonte) Tobit: Stefano Mandini (Figaro, Count Almaviva)Haydn and Storace became warm friends; he later composed a cantata ‘for the voice of my dear Storace’ (possibly Miseri noi, hXXIVa:7). In January 1787 three of the ‘Paris’ symphonies were performed, and in March the Seven Last Words at the Palais Auersperg; both were unpublished novelties at the time.
The friendship between Haydn and Mozart also developed in Vienna. It is believed that they first met in 1783–4, at a performance such as that of Tobia just described, one of Mozart’s ‘academies’, or at a quartet party: Michael Kelly’s (late and perhaps untrustworthy) reminiscence of Stephen Storace’s quartet comprising Haydn, Dittersdorf, Mozart and Vanhal is set in 1784 (Kelly later visited Haydn at the Esterházy court). Mozart performed his six new quartets for ‘my dear friend Haydn and other good friends’ on 15 January 1785, and the last three again on 12 February; the latter occasioned Haydn’s famous remark to Leopold Mozart that Wolfgang was the greatest composer he knew, ‘either by name or reputation’. And Mozart’s dedicatory letter in Artaria’s edition of the quartets (September 1785) is headed: ‘To my dear friend Haydn’. In the winter of 1789–90 he invited Haydn to rehearsals of Così fan tutte, and Haydn organized a quartet party in which Mozart’s participation can be inferred.
The nature of their relationship has been much discussed. Many writers have romanticized it, beginning with Griesinger’s and Dies’s sentimental accounts of their tearful farewell in December 1790 on Haydn’s departure for London (including Haydn’s alleged comment, ‘My language is understood in the entire world’). Others are sceptical, noting that the surviving documentation derives solely from two winters, 1784–5 and 1789–90, and that Mozart’s dedicatory letter may protest his friendship a little too much. But there is no doubt of their mutual admiration as composers: each acknowledged the other as his only peer and as the only meaningful influence on his own music in the 1780s. Mozart’s dedication of quartets to Haydn – a mere composer rather than a rich or noble patron – was unusual (although cynics note that he might have attempted to recruit the latter, but failed), and Griesinger relates an anecdote according to which he defended Haydn against a stupid criticism by Kozeluch: ‘neither you nor I would have hit on that idea’. But Haydn’s expressions of admiration went further. In a famous (albeit unauthenticated) letter of 1787 to the impresario Franz Rott in Prague, he admitted that he feared comparison with ‘the great Mozart’, at least on the stage:
If only I could impress Mozart’s inimitable works on the soul of every friend of music, and the souls of high personages in particular, as deeply, with the same musical understanding and with the same deep feeling, as I understand and feel them, the nations would vie with each other to possess such a jewel.
In early 1792 he wrote to Puchberg: ‘I was quite beside myself for some time over [Mozart's] death and could not believe that Providence would transport so irreplaceable a man to the other world’, adding that he had offered to teach Mozart’s son Karl without fee (something he did not do lightly). ‘I have often been flattered by my friends with having some genius’, he said in Burney’s hearing, ‘but he was much my superior’. It is remarkable that his feelings were apparently marked neither by jealousy nor a compromise of his musical self-confidence, except possibly regarding opera; they had no effect on his productivity.
In any case it was a friend of a different sort whom Haydn most cherished around 1790: Maria Anna von Genzinger (1750–93), the wife of an important physician (whose clients included Nicolaus Esterházy) and a talented amateur pianist. In June 1789 she sent Haydn her piano arrangement of the slow movement of an unidentified composition; he responded with praise, and the relationship rapidly became intense, although as far as can be told it remained platonic. Haydn’s letters to Mme Genzinger (fig.5) are his most fervent and intimate; that of 9 February 1790, following his sudden return from Vienna to Eszterháza, is at once poignant and amusing:
Here I sit in my wilderness – forsaken – like a poor waif – almost without human society – sad – full of the memories of past glorious days – yes! past, alas! – and who knows if those days will return again? Those wonderful parties? – where the whole circle is one heart, one soul – all the beautiful musical evenings? … For three days I didn’t know if I was Kapellmeister or Kapell-servant. Nothing could console me, my whole house was in confusion, my pianoforte, which I usually love, was perverse and disobedient … I could sleep only a little, even my dreams persecuted me; and then, just when I was happily dreaming that I was listening to Le nozze di Figaro, the horrible North wind woke me and almost blew my nightcap off my head … Alas! alas! I thought to myself as I was eating here, instead of that delicious slice of beef, a chunk of a 50-year-old cow … Here in Eszterháza no one asks me: ‘Would you like some chocolate, with milk or without? … What may I offer you, my dear Haydn, would you like a vanilla or a strawberry ice?’
But, as always, he soon recovered; the letter continues: ‘I am gradually getting used to country life, and yesterday I composed [studierte] for the first time, and indeed quite Haydnish’. Later that year he completed a sonata (hXVI:49) for Mme Genzinger, in the course of which he also advised her on the purchase of a new fortepiano; earlier he had advised her daughter Josepha about her performances of his cantata Arianna a Naxos (hXXVIb:2), perhaps composed in 1789 for the Venetian singer Bianca Sacchetti.
But the year 1790 was to prove even more disruptive than Haydn could have suspected in early February. Joseph II died on 20 February, throwing Vienna into mourning; five days later, Nicolaus Esterházy’s wife died (Haydn had his hands full keeping him from succumbing to depression), followed on 28 September by the prince himself. Anton, his son and successor, immediately dissolved the musical and theatrical establishment, although Haydn was kept on at a reduced salary without official duties; he also received 1000 gulden a year from Nicolaus’s estate. He at once moved to Vienna, taking rooms with a friend, J.N. Hamberger. He declined an offer to become Kapellmeister for Prince Grassalkovics (Nicolaus’s son-in-law, resident in Pressburg), and made it clear to King Ferdinando that he would not fulfil any vague promises he might have made to travel to Naples. Whatever his intentions were, they were soon overtaken by events.
4. London, 1791–5.
Johann Peter Salomon, born in Bonn but living in London as a violinist and concert producer, heard of Nicolaus Esterházy’s death while in Europe engaging musicians for the coming season; he immediately travelled to Vienna, called on Haydn and ‘informed’ him that he would now be going to London. Salomon was not the first to contemplate this. In 1783 Haydn said of Symphonies nos.76–8 that they were composed ‘for the English gentlemen, and I intended to bring them over myself and produce them’ at the Professional Concert (the successor to the Bach-Abel Concerts of 1774–82); in July 1787 he contemplated composing an opera and instrumental works for G.A.B. Gallini, the impresario of the Italian opera. Salomon himself had had business dealings with Haydn, who in a letter to Bland of April 1790 referred to 40 ducats owed him by Salomon. However, as long as Nicolaus Esterházy was alive Haydn had been unwilling or unable to negotiate his freedom; now, Prince Anton willingly granted him a year’s leave.
Salomon’s initial contract with Haydn governed the 1791 season. Haydn was guaranteed £300 for an opera (here Salomon was acting as agent for Gallini), £300 for six symphonies, £200 for the rights to publish the latter, £200 for 20 other compositions to be conducted at his concerts and £200 profit from a ‘benefit’ concert. Haydn and Salomon left Vienna on 15 December, travelling via Munich, Wallerstein (where Haydn conducted Symphony no.92) and Bonn to Calais, from where they sailed to Dover on New Year’s Day 1791, arriving in London the next day. ‘I stayed on deck during the entire crossing’, he wrote to Mme Genzinger on 8 January, ‘so as to gaze my fill of that great monster, the ocean’.
London was the largest and economically most vibrant city in the world, made even more cosmopolitan by refugees from the French Revolution. Haydn settled in the same house where Salomon lived and also had a studio at Broadwood’s music shop, although he complained of the noise and later moved to a suburb. He immediately plunged into a hectic social and professional life which, however stimulating, competed with his need to compose:
My arrival caused a great sensation … I went the rounds of all the newspapers for three successive days. Everyone wants to know me … If I wanted, I could dine out every day; but first I must consider my health, and second my work. Except for the nobility, I admit no callers until 2 o’clock.
He also had to give fortepiano lessons, primarily to high personages; he was soon invited to a ball at the Court of St James, and to a concert sponsored by the Prince of Wales (later George IV). The latter was an enthusiastic amateur who became Haydn’s most important royal patron; on 1 February 1795 he arranged a soirée with George III and the queen in attendance, in which all the music was of Haydn’s composition and he both played and sang. Other royal invitations followed that month and in April.
London’s musical life was active and varied, and enriched by a constant stream of artists from abroad. It is abundantly documented; about Haydn’s activities there are also his letters to Genzinger and Polzelli, as well as the observations and anecdotes jotted down in his ‘London Notebooks’. The ‘season’ ran from February to May; it included two series of concerts in the Hanover Square Rooms (Salomon and Haydn on Monday and the Professional Concert on Friday), opera on Tuesday and Saturday, and ‘ancient music’ on Wednesday. Performing forces were generally larger than in Vienna or Eszterháza; in 1791–2 Haydn’s symphonies were performed by about 40 players, in 1795 by about 60. The typical concert was a mixed affair, including symphonies, sonatas, arias and duets. A special feature was the massed choral performances in Westminster Abbey; Haydn’s experience of hearing Handel’s oratorios there was the chief stimulus for The Creation.
Haydn arrived with relatively few new works except the string quartets op.64; they were published in 1791–2 by Bland, ‘composed by Giuseppe Haydn, and performed under his direction, at Mr Salomon’s Concert’. However, Symphonies nos.90–92 had not yet been printed in England; Haydn made use of nos.90 and 92 in 1791, as well as lyre notturnos (arranged for flute and oboe) and Arianna a Naxos. Symphony no.92 soon became a favourite, and was one of several symphonies performed on the occasion of his receiving the honorary doctorate of music at Oxford, 6–8 July 1791 (whence its nickname). This event meant a great deal to him; thereafter he often referred to himself in public documents (or when needing to assert his status) as ‘Doktor der Tonkunst’.
Among Haydn’s new compositions in 1791–2 were the first six ‘London’ symphonies (nos.93–8). Only nos.95 in C minor and 96 in D (‘Miracle’) were given in 1791; the others followed in 1792, although nos.93–4 had been composed in the second half of 1791: no.93 in D (17 February), 98 in B (2 March), 94 in G (‘Surprise’, 23 March), 97 in C (3 or 4 May). His benefit concert in May (fig.6) cleared £350, nearly double the £200 he had been guaranteed. Even though the journalistic prose is somewhat formulaic and may to some extent even have been ‘suggested’ by Salomon, these concerts were a sensation. The following report is of the first, on 11 March 1791:
Never, perhaps, was there a richer musical treat. It is not wonderful that to souls capable of being touched by music, haydn should be an object of homage, and even of idolatry; for like our own shakspeare he moves and governs the passions at will. His new Grand Overture [symphony] was pronounced by every scientific ear to be a most wonderful composition; but the first movement in particular rises in grandeur of the subject, and in the rich variety of air and passion, beyond any even of his own productions.
The symphony was no.92, 95 or 96. Charles Burney, with whom Haydn was to become fast friends, waxed equally enthusiastic:
Haydn himself presided at the piano-forte; and the sight of that renowned composer so electrified the audience, as to excite an attention and a pleasure superior to any that had ever, to my knowledge, been caused by instrumental music in England. All the slow middle movements were encored; which never happened before, I believe, in any country.
By contrast, Haydn’s new opera, L’anima del filosofo or Orfeo ed Euridice, was never produced: although he composed it during the spring of 1791 and it had entered rehearsal, Gallini (owing to political intrigue) was denied a licence for the theatre.
By the end of the 1791 season Salomon and Haydn were agreed that he would stay for another year. However, Anton Esterházy (who had written to Haydn cordially in February) wanted him to return; when Haydn informed him that he had signed a new contract with Salomon and requested an additional year’s leave, the prince refused, demanding that he inform him ‘by the next post the exact time when you will arrive back here again’. Haydn feared outright dismissal; as so often, it did not come to that. The summer and autumn gave him ample opportunity to compose, travel and expand his social circle. In August and early September he stayed on the estate of Nathaniel Brassey, a banker, in Hertfordshire. By mid-September he was back in London; on 5 November he attended an official banquet given by the newly installed Lord Mayor (amusingly described in the Notebooks). On 24–5 November he stayed at Oatlands, a property of the Duke of York, who the previous day had been married to a daughter of the King of Prussia; the new duchess became one of his most loyal patrons.
Meanwhile, he had begun giving piano lessons to Rebecca Schroeter, the attractive and well-to-do widow of the composer and pianist Johann Samuel Schroeter. During the winter of 1791–2 this relationship blossomed into a passionate affair, documented by copies Haydn made of her letters to him (beginning with this one, from 7 March):
My D[ear]: I was extremely sorry to part with you so suddenly last Night … I had a thousand affectionate things to say to you, my heart was and is full of tenderness for you, you are dearer to me every day of my life … I am truly sensible of your goodness, and I assure you my D. if anything had happened to trouble me, I would have opened my heart, & told you with the most perfect confidence. Oh how earnestly [I] wish to see you. I hope you will come to me tomorrow. I shall be happy to see you both in the Morning and the Evening.
Haydn later confirmed the relationship to Dies: ‘an English widow in London, who loved me … a beautiful and charming woman and I would have married her very easily if I had been free’. Although no letters between them survive following his departure in the summer of 1792, they remained close: Haydn dedicated the piano trios hXV:24–6 (1795) to her, she witnessed an important contract of 1796 regarding English editions of his music, they were in touch again regarding business in 1797 and she was a subscriber to The Creation.
Haydn’s and Salomon’s plans for the 1792 season were complicated by the organizers of the Professional Concert, whom Haydn had disappointed in the 1780s and who in 1791 had printed scurrilous notices alleging that his talent had dried up. As he wrote to Genzinger (17 January), complaining of overwork:
At present I am [composing] for Salomon’s concerts, and I am making every effort to do my best, because our rivals, the Professional Concert, have had my pupil Pleyel from Strasbourg come here to conduct their concerts. So now a bloody harmonious war will commence between master and pupil. The newspapers are all full of it, but it seems to me that there will soon be an armistice, because my reputation is so firmly established. Pleyel behaved so modestly towards me on his arrival that he won my affection again.
Pleyel’s music, similar to but far less brilliant and complex than his master’s, was then very popular. Haydn’s outward modesty and good manners notwithstanding, he was not about to be upstaged by a former student whose talent lay far beneath his own. Even his most famous ‘surprise’, in the eponymous symphony, played a role. Griesinger writes:
I jokingly asked him once if it was true that he composed the Andante … in order to wake up the dozing English audience. ‘No … my intention was to surprise the public with something new, and to debut in a brilliant manner, in order to prevent my rank from being usurped by Pleyel, my pupil …’
Another orchestral work of 1792 is the ‘Concertante’, a symphonie concertante for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon and orchestra (given on 9 March); it was composed in direct competition with Pleyel’s most popular composition.
On 10 April 1792 Haydn wrote to Prince Anton, informing him that ‘our concerts will be finished at the end of June, after which I shall begin the journey home without delay, in order to serve my most gracious prince and lord again’. He departed from London at the end of June or beginning of July, travelling via Bonn (where he met Beethoven) and Frankfurt. There is considerable evidence that he intended to return for the 1793 season; in the event he did not until 1794. On 24 July 1792 he arrived in Vienna, occupying the same lodgings as in the autumn of 1790. His 18 months in the Habsburg capital were uneventful. Polzelli was in Italy (still asking for money), and Mme Genzinger died on 20 January 1793. Haydn must have been lonely when not absorbed in his work, a condition presumably not ameliorated by his wife’s suggestion that they purchase a small house in the suburb of Gumpendorf (not occupied until 1797; it is now the Vienna Haydn Museum). Beethoven arrived in November, and their intercourse began immediately; it included a stay at Eisenstadt with Haydn in the summer of 1793. Haydn set him (like all his students) to a systematic course of counterpoint on Fux’s model, but had neither time nor inclination to correct the exercises systematically, and Beethoven switched to Albrechtsberger. More important to both composers was doubtless whatever comments Haydn made about free composition, as well as shop-talk about musical life and career-building (these seem to have been his chief contribution to the training of his many ‘pupils’ during the 1790s). By early winter he had decided not to return to London in 1793: he had finally determined to undergo an operation for a long-painful polyp in his nose, and perhaps he feared travelling at a dangerous stage in the Napoleonic Wars. In any case it was to his advantage to take an additional year, so as to be able to have new compositions in his portfolio on his return.
In November 1792 Haydn produced 12 each of new minuets and German dances (hIX:11–12) at a charity ball, and immediately published them with Artaria. Keess had produced Symphonies nos.95–6 in the winter of 1791–2; Haydn produced others himself on 15 March 1793, and again for the Tonkünstler-Societät in December, where he also gave his choral ‘madrigal’ The Storm (hXXIVa:8) in a revised version with a German text, possibly by Swieten. He began the string quartets op.71/74 (a single opus of six) in late 1792 and composed them mainly in 1793, with a view to producing them in London. He also refined his sales methods: a nobleman (in this case Count Anton Georg Apponyi) purchased the ‘dedication’ for 100 ducats, for which he received the exclusive right (in Vienna) to own a manuscript copy and to perform the quartets until Haydn published them (after one or two years), and was named as dedicatee on the editions. Later in 1793 Haydn worked on three symphonies for London, completing no.99 in E, the second and third movements of no.100 in G (‘Military’) and all but the first movement of no.101 in D (‘Clock’); he may also have begun the first set of English songs. Another major composition from 1793 is the variations for piano in F minor hXVII:6. On 19 January 1794 he departed for London, accompanied by the former Esterházy copyist Johann Elssler, now his amanuensis; they arrived on 5 February. On the way they stayed in Passau, where he heard a choral arrangement of the Seven Last Words by the local Kapellmeister, Joseph Friebert.
The Professional Concert having disbanded, in 1794 Haydn and Salomon had the stage to themselves. Symphony no.99 had its première on 10 February 1794, no.101 on 3 March, no.100 on 31 March. In the summer Haydn travelled to Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Bath and Bristol. For the 1795 season, however, Salomon abandoned his concerts, owing to the difficulty of obtaining ‘vocal performers of the first rank from abroad’ (he resumed them in 1796). Haydn therefore allied himself with the so-called Opera Concerts, directed by the violinist and composer Giovanni Battista Viotti, with an even larger orchestra, of approximately 60 players; Symphony no.102 was first given on 2 February, no.103 (‘Drumroll’) on 2 March, and no.104 – ‘The 12th which I have composed in England’, Haydn wrote on the autograph, doubtless with more than a touch of pride – at his benefit concert on 4 May. His success was greater than ever; following the benefit, Burney wrote that his 1795 symphonies were ‘such as were never heard before, of any mortal’s production; of what Apollo & the Muses compose or perform we can only judge by such productions as these’. Another important work given its première at this concert was the cantata Berenice, che fai(hXXIVa:10), composed for the reigning prima donna, Brigida Giorgi Banti.
Haydn’s compositions from 1794–5 are more heterogeneous than those from 1791–2. He returned to piano music for the first time since 1790, composing at least three sets of trios: hXV:18–20, dedicated to Maria Therese Esterházy, the widow of Prince Anton; 21–3, dedicated to Maria Hermenegild, the wife of Anton’s successor Prince Nicolaus II; and 24–6, dedicated to Mrs Schroeter. Nos.27–9 were dedicated to his friend Therese Jansen (b c1770), a celebrated virtuoso who in 1795 married a son of the engraver Francesco Bartolozzi (Haydn was a witness); it is unclear whether they date from 1795 or 1796. He composed no.31 for Jansen as well: the finale (1794) originated as an occasional piece titled ‘Jacob’s Dream!’, designed to amuse her by showing up the insufficiencies of a self-important violinist in the higher registers. He also composed sonatas nos.50 and 52 for Jansen, and no.51 probably for Schroeter. Another genre he took up again owing to the influence of a lady was the solo song. The muse was Anne Hunter (1742–1821), another well-to-do widow (of the famous surgeon John Hunter) and a minor poet, who supplied the texts for at least nine of Haydn’s 14 songs in English; 12 appeared as two sets of Original Canzonettas in 1794–5. He also composed numerous arias, divertimentos, marches, canons and other works.
Haydn’s London visits were the highpoint of his career up to that time. Griesinger reports that he earned 24,000 gulden and netted 13,000 (the equivalent of more than 20 years’ salary at the Esterházy court), and that he ‘considered the days spent in England the happiest of his life. He was everywhere appreciated there; it opened a new world to him’. Whether he seriously contemplated staying is not known; Prince Anton Esterházy had died in 1794, freeing him from even a nominal obligation to the court, and the royal family attempted to persuade him to remain. But the question was settled when Anton’s successor, Nicolaus II, offered him reappointment as Esterházy Kapellmeister. Although he remained in London for two months following the end of the 1795 season, composing trios and canzonets and seeing to the publication of many of his English compositions – he established new, long-term relations, for example with the ‘musick seller’ F.A. Hyde, an agent for Longman & Broderip, with whom he signed an elaborate contract in 1796 – he departed (according to Dies) on 15 August, travelling via Hamburg and Dresden and arriving in Vienna presumably around the beginning of September. His new house still not being ready for occupancy, he took lodgings on the Neuer Markt in the old city.
5. Vienna, 1795–1809.
‘Haydn often said that he first became famous in Germany owing to his reputation in England’ (Griesinger). From 1761 to 1790, notwithstanding his fame as a composer and the brilliance of the Esterházy court, he had been ‘stuck in the country’ (letter to Artaria, 17 May 1781); he could never be in Vienna for very long, his music was not in favour at the imperial court and his relationship with the Tonkünstler was strained. In 1795, by contrast, he returned as a culture-hero. Many of his remaining works originated in collaboration with the cultural-political establishment and were staged as ‘events’ of social and ideological as well as musical import. The key figure was Baron van Swieten, the imperial librarian and censor and the resolutely high-minded leader of the Gesellschaft der Associirten, an organization of noble patrons who subsidized large-scale performances of oratorios and the like. In addition, Haydn’s position as Esterházy Kapellmeister was far less onerous than before. Nicolaus II largely abandoned Eszterháza in favour of Vienna and Eisenstadt; Haydn’s primary duty was to supply a mass each year for performance in conjunction with the celebration of the nameday (8 September) of Maria Hermenegild, Nicolaus’s consort; this took place in Eisenstadt, where he usually spent the summer.
As a result, Haydn’s compositional orientation changed fundamentally. He composed little instrumental music: no orchestral works save the Trumpet Concerto (1796) and only one piano work (the trio no.30, 1796; nos.27–9 may have been completed then as well); the only genre he actively cultivated was the string quartet, with op.76 (completed 1797, dedicated to Count Joseph Erdődy; published in 1799) and op.77 (1799, dedicated to Prince Joseph Franz Lobkowitz; published in 1802). Instead, he devoted himself primarily to sacred vocal music: masses for Esterházy and oratorios for Vienna. Both the Missa Sancti Bernardi von Offida (Heiligmesse) and the Missa in tempore belli (Paukenmesse) are dated 1796; the former was apparently composed first and performed in Eisenstadt, while the latter originated in the autumn and was first given at the Piaristenkirche in Vienna on 26 December, then produced in Eisenstadt in 1797. There followed the Missa in angustiis (commonly known as the ‘Nelson Mass’) in 1798, the Theresienmesse in 1799, theSchöpfungsmesse in 1801 and the Harmoniemesse in 1802; thereafter this office was fulfilled by other composers, including Hummel and, in 1807, Beethoven. The absence of new masses in 1797 and 1800 doubtless reflects Haydn’s intense work on The Creation and The Seasons, respectively, during those two years.
Haydn’s collaboration with Swieten began in early 1796 with an arrangement of the Seven Last Words as a kind of oratorio: more precisely, a reworking of Friebert’s arrangement (see §4). He added chorale-like a cappella intonations preceding most of the ‘words’ and a wind band introduction to the second part, rewrote the choral parts and revised the orchestration; Swieten revised the text and arranged for the première at the Schwarzenberg Palace, on 26–7 March. Haydn produced it often thereafter, usually for the benefit of the Tonkünstler-Societät. In 1797 that organization finally made up for its earlier neglect: on 20 January, a letter signed by Salieri and Paul Wranitzky granted Haydn free admission to all their concerts for life, and on 11 December he was elected a ‘senior assessor’ in perpetuity.
An overtly political composition was the ‘Emperor’s Hymn’, Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, from winter 1796–7. Although one later account has Swieten manipulating things, the immediate impetus came from Count Joseph Franz Saurau, the president of Lower Austria and later Minister of the Interior:
I have often regretted that unlike the English we had no national anthem suited to display before the entire world the devoted attachment of the people to theirLandesvater … This seemed especially necessary at a time when the Revolution in France was raging at its strongest …
I had a text fashioned by the worthy poet [Lorenz Leopold] Haschka; and to have it set to music, I turned to our immortal compatriot Haydn, who, I felt, was the only man capable of creating something that could be placed at the side of … ‘God Save the King’.
Haydn identified thoroughly with the cultural politics of this project. In late January 1797 the hymn was hastily printed and disseminated, and performed in theatres throughout the Habsburg realm on the emperor’s birthday, 12 February. This ‘Volkslied’, as he called it, combined hymnlike and popular elements so successfully that it became the anthem of both Austria and Germany. Later in 1797 he employed the melody as the basis for the variation movement in the String Quartet op.76 no.3, and in his last years he played it daily at the piano.
But Haydn and Swieten were already pursuing bigger game. On Haydn’s departure from England Salomon had given him a libretto (now lost) entitled The Creation of the World, supposedly written for Handel but never set to music. Back in Vienna, Haydn showed it to Swieten: ‘I recognized at once that such an exalted subject would give Haydn the opportunity I had long desired, to show the whole compass of his profound accomplishments and to express the full power of his inexhaustible genius’; the emphasized phrase implies that Swieten’s purpose was not artistic alone, but cultural-political as well. The Associirten guaranteed Haydn 500 ducats and subsidized the copying and performance. Haydn, whose enthusiasm for the project was bound up with his experience of Handel in London, conceived the remarkable notion of disseminating the work in both German and English (it is apparently the first original bilingual composition). Swieten translated the libretto and adapted the English prosody to his German version; he also made suggestions regarding the musical setting, many of which Haydn adopted. He began the composition apparently in autumn 1796 (Albrechtsberger wrote to Beethoven in December that he had heard him ‘improvise’ from it); it was at least half done by summer 1797 and according to F.S. Silverstolpe (see Stellan Mörner, E1969) was completed during the autumn, in Eisenstadt, although the preparation of performance materials (which entailed revisions) lasted up to March 1798.
The Associirten at first produced the work only in private, again at the Schwarzenberg Palace; following a ‘Generalprobe’ on 29 April the official première took place on the 30th, with additional performances on 7 and 10 May. The effect was overwhelming; Silverstolpe reported:
No one, not even Baron van Swieten, had seen the page of the score wherein the Creation of Light is portrayed … Haydn had the expression of someone who is thinking of biting his tongue, either to hide his embarrassment or to conceal a secret. And in that moment when Light broke forth for the first time, one would have said that light-rays darted from the composer’s blazing eyes. The enchantment of the electrified Viennese was so profound that the performers could not proceed for some minutes.
The first public performance took place on 19 March 1799, at the Burgtheater, with a complement of about 180 performers (not 400, as has been speculated); a benefit for the Tonkünstler followed on 22 December. The work immediately became a staple especially of charity performances, many conducted by Haydn himself, which brought in tens of thousands of gulden. ‘I know that God has favoured me’, he said to Griesinger, ‘but the world may as well know that I have been no useless member of society, and that one can also do good by means of music’. Beyond this, The Creation ‘made history’ immediately and on a pan-European scale in a way equalled by no other composition, owing to its fortunate combination of sublime subject, cultural-historical ‘moment’ on the cusp between Enlightenment and Romanticism, appeal to both high-minded and ordinary listeners, Haydn’s unrivalled stature and the originality and grandeur of his music. His pride in and personal identification with the work, in addition to his usual concern for financial advantage, induced him to publish it himself, selling it ‘by subscription’ all over Europe, with the assistance of colleagues such as Dr Burney; his advertisement (June 1799) reads:
The success which my Oratorio The Creation has been fortunate enough to enjoy … [has] induced me to arrange for its dissemination myself. Thus the work will appear … neatly and correctly engraved and printed on good paper, with German and English texts; and in full score, so that [at least] one work of my composition will be available to the public in its entirety, and the connoisseur will be in a position to see it as a whole and to judge it.
The edition appeared at the end of February 1800 with a list of more than 400 subscribers.
By spring 1799 Haydn and Swieten were planning a second oratorio, The Seasons, with a libretto based on James Thomson’s pastoral epic of 1726–8; Haydn composed the music apparently from autumn 1799 to the end of 1800. He suffered a serious illness in winter 1800–01, as the work neared completion, during which he again identified with his own oratorio. His pupil Sigismund Ritter von Neukomm reported:
Speaking of the penultimate aria, ‘Behold, O weak and foolish man, Behold the picture of thy life’ … he said: ‘This aria refers to me!’ And in this wonderful masterpiece he really did speak entirely from his inmost soul, so much so that he became seriously ill while composing it, and … the Lord … allowed him to see ‘his life’s image and his open grave’.
The private première at the Schwarzenberg Palace took place on 24 April 1801, the first public production on 19 May. Although the initial reception of The Seasons was favourable – Haydn wrote to Clementi that it had enjoyed ‘unanimous approval’ and that ‘many prefer it to The Creation, because of its greater variety’ – critical opinion soon became mixed, owing in part to its perceived ‘lower’ subject, in part to a growing aesthetic resistance to its many pictorialisms. Haydn himself contributed to both strands of criticism: he supposedly said to Francis II, ‘In The Creation angels speak and tell of God, but in The Seasons only Simon speaks’ (Dies); and he indiscreetly criticized Swieten’s croaking frogs (‘Frenchified trash’) and the absurdity of a choral hymn to toil (Fleiss). Nonetheless he maintained that it would join The Creation in assuring his lasting fame. For the publication he took the path of lesser resistance, selling the rights to Breitkopf & Härtel.
Other than masses, Haydn’s only important liturgical work from this period is the Te Deum ‘for the Empress’ (hXXIIIc:2), probably composed in 1800 and apparently first given in September in Eisenstadt, perhaps in conjunction with the visit there of Lord Nelson (whence the nickname ‘Nelson Mass’ for the Missa in angustiis). A very different kind of vocal composition is represented by the 13 partsongs (hXXV), composed in the years 1796–9. A number of lieder and canons date from the same years; the latter were also ‘private’ works, the autographs of which Haydn framed and mounted on the walls of his house. A chapter in its own right is the hundreds of arrangements of British folksongs he sold to the publisher George Thomson in Edinburgh, not all from his own pen; as in so many other respects, Beethoven followed him in this lucrative commission.
In 1799 Haydn began to complain of physical and mental weakness. He wrote to Härtel in June:
Every day the world compliments me on the fire of my recent works, but no one will believe the strain and effort it costs me to produce them. Some days my enfeebled memory and the unstrung state of my nerves crush me to the earth to such an extent that I fall prey to the worst sort of depression, and am quite incapable of finding even a single idea for many days thereafter; until at last Providence revives me, and I can again sit down at the pianoforte and begin to scratch away.
Indeed his productivity began to decline about this time, although his music continued to gain in ‘fire’ and cogency as long as he continued to compose. His last major completed work was the Harmoniemesse given in September 1802; there followed only (perhaps) the ‘Hungarian National March’ (hVIII:4; referred to in a letter of November) and the unfinished String Quartet op.103 of 1802–3, originally intended to go with op.77 to complete an opus of three (published 1806, dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries). He deeply regretted his loss of the stamina and concentration necessary for composition. On 6 December 1802 he thanked Pleyel for the receipt of the latter’s edition of his complete string quartets, adding: ‘I only wish that I could have back 10 years of my advanced age, so that I could provide you with something new of my composition – perhaps – despite everything – it can still happen’; a draft or alternative version (printed by Griesinger) of the letter to Härtel quoted above includes the passage: ‘It is almost as if with the decline in my mental powers, my desire and compulsion to work increase. O God! how much remains to be done in this glorious art, even by such a man as I have been!’ One inevitably thinks of Beethoven, who would soon prove him right: their relationship was difficult around the years 1798–1803, owing to Beethoven’s ‘anxiety of influence’ vis-à-vis Haydn, the crisis of his deafness, Haydn’s increasing frailty and their mutual ambivalence regarding Beethoven’s eventual assumption of the mantle of greatest living composer.
In the same letter Haydn also complained about the press of business (he was then arranging the self-publication of The Creation). Härtel added to that burden by initiating negotiations towards the publication of the so-called Oeuvres complettes (1800–06). This was not a complete edition but comprised salable works for or with piano, analogous to an edition of Mozart already under way. In this connection Härtel sent Haydn a list of compositions attributed to him, asking him to pronounce on their authorship; Haydn (rather casually) did so. This was the first of several initiatives that led to Haydn’s and Elssler’s production in 1805 of the comprehensive ‘Catalogue of all those compositions that I approximately recall having composed from my 18th to my 73rd year’, or ‘Haydn-Verzeichnis’.
In 1800 Haydn’s wife died, leaving much of her modest estate to him. No longer interested in marriage, he signed a declaration in which he promised to marry Luigia Polzelli or no-one, as well as to bequeath her 300 gulden a year (a sum he later reduced to 150). In May–June 1801 he drew up his will; the largest bequests were to his two brothers, but he also included among the beneficiaries many other relatives, former benefactors (and perhaps lovers), servants, religious and charitable institutions. From 1800 on he received a steady stream of distinguished visitors, honours and medals of which a gold medal from and honorary citizenship of the City of Vienna, in recognition of his charitable performances, meant the most to him. He also continued to talk shop with younger musicians; in addition to Pleyel and Beethoven, those who benefited included Anton Wranitzky, Neukomm, Reicha, Eybler, Weigl, Seyfried, Hummel, Diabelli, Kalkbrenner and Weber.
Haydn’s last public musical function was on 26 December 1803, when he conducted the Seven Last Words. Thereafter he mainly stayed at home in Gumpendorf; after 1805 he wrote no letters in his own hand. His youngest brother Johann died in Eisenstadt in that year, and Michael (who in 1801–2 had declined an invitation to succeed him as Esterházy Kapellmeister) followed in 1806. His last public appearance of any kind was on 27 March 1808, at a gala performance of The Creation in honour of his 76th birthday, in the Great Hall of the University. He signed his last will on 7 February 1809, altered primarily to reflect the many deaths that had taken place in the meantime. It disbursed about 24,000 gulden; his estate totalled about 55,000 gulden. During the spring he progressively weakened and had to be cared for by Elssler and other servants. His final decline was hastened by the French bombardment of Vienna on 11–12 May; Napoleon ordered that a guard of honour be stationed at his house, and his last known visitor was a French officer who paid his respects and sang an aria from The Creation. After playing the ‘Emperor’s Hymn’ on 26 May ‘with such expression and taste that our good Papa was astonished about it himself … and was very pleased’ (Elssler), he had to be assisted to bed; he did not rise again. He died at about 20 minutes before 1 a.m. on 31 May; owing to the war only a simple burial was possible, the following afternoon. On 15 June a solemn memorial service was held in the Schottenkirche, with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. His remains are now interred in the Bergkirche in Eisenstadt.
6. Character and personality.
The traditional image of Haydn’s personality has been that of ‘Papa Haydn’: pious, good-humoured, concerned for the welfare of others, proud of his students, regular in habits, conservative. Although not inaccurate, it is one-sided; it reflects the elderly and increasingly frail man his first biographers knew. Insight into the personality and behaviour of the vigorous and productive composer, performer, Kapellmeister, impresario, businessman, conqueror of London, husband and lover, whose career had already spanned 50 years when Griesinger met him in 1799, must be inferred from his correspondence (which is more revealing than is usually assumed) and from other sources.
Haydn’s public life exemplified the Enlightenment ideal of the honnête homme: the man whose good character and worldly success enable and justify each other. His modesty and probity were everywhere acknowledged (he was occasionally entrusted with secret diplomatic communications). These traits were not only prerequisites to his success as Kapellmeister, entrepreneur and public figure, but also aided the favourable reception of his music. A more appropriate sense of ‘Papa’ would be that of ‘patriarch’, as in the resolution making him a life member of the Tonkünstler-Societät in 1797, ‘by virtue of his extraordinary merit as the father and reformer of the noble art of music’. The many younger musicians who benefited from his teaching and advice, as well as the court performers whom he directed, seem to have regarded him as a father-figure, or kindly uncle; he was well disposed towards them and helped them as he could, although there is little evidence that he thought of them as substitutes for the children he (apparently) never had.
When conditions permitted (i.e. in Vienna and London) Haydn enjoyed a rich emotional and intellectual life. In addition to his intimate relationships with Polzelli, Genzinger and Schroeter, he developed warm friendships with Mozart and Albrechtsberger; with Burney, Dr and Mrs Hunter and Therese Jansen; with an unnamed man to whom he wrote from Vienna in December 1792 (in English), playing the role of honorary godchild: ‘I rejoice very much that my handsome and good Mother Susana has changed her state … I wish from all my heart, that my Dear Mother may at my arrival next year present me a fine little Brother or Sister’; with ‘my dear’ Nancy Storace and ‘my very dearest’ Nanette Bayer (a ‘great genius’ of a pianist, employed by Count Apponyi) and many others. His observations in the London Notebooks reveal an active interest in every aspect of social life and culture, ‘high’ and ‘low’ alike. He was interested in literature, art and philosophy and gladly circulated and corresponded with intellectuals and freemasons, albeit without pretensions to being an intellectual himself.
Haydn’s character was marked by a duality between earnestness and humour. F.S. Silverstolpe, who saw much of him during the composition of The Creation, reported:
I discovered in Haydn as it were two physiognomies. One was penetrating and serious, when he talked about anything sublime, and the mere word ‘sublime’ was enough to excite his feelings to visible animation. In the next moment this air of exaltation was chased away as fast as lightning by his usual mood, and he became jovial with a force that was visible in his features and even passed into drollery. The latter was his usual physiognomy; the former had to be induced.
The many anecdotes about Haydn’s youthful propensity to practical joking, however implausible individually, must collectively reflect some reality. Griesinger found that ‘a guileless roguery, or what the British call humour, was one of Haydn’s outstanding characteristics’. But he was also a devout Catholic: he inscribed most of his autographs ‘In nomine Domini’ at the head and ‘Laus Deo’ at the end, and composed major works in honour of the Virgin, including the Stabat mater, the Salve regina in G minor, and the Missa Cellensis and ‘Great Organ Mass’. His most important instrumental work of the 1780s was arguably the Seven Last Words. He identified personally with The Creation and the religious portions ofThe Seasons and came to think of the former in overtly moralistic terms, as he wrote in 1801:
The [story of the] Creation has always been considered the sublimest and most awe-inspiring image for mankind. To accompany this great work with appropriate music could certainly have no other result than to heighten these sacred emotions in the listener’s heart, and to make him highly receptive to the goodness and omnipotence of the Creator.
Haydn’s personality was more complex than has usually been thought. His marriage was unhappy, and he was often lonely and at times melancholy. In May 1790 he wrote to Mme Genzinger: ‘I beg Your Grace not to shy away from comforting me by your pleasant letters, for they cheer me up in my isolation, and are highly necessary for my heart, which is often very deeply hurt’. Nor was it only a question of his physical and social isolation at Eszterháza; from London he wrote to Polzelli of his ‘melanconia’ in much the same terms.
His modesty, genuine though it was, had distinct limits. He took pride in his works, notably including his vocal music; he wrote to Artaria in October 1781:
My lieder, through their variety, naturalness, and beautiful and grateful melodies, will perhaps surpass all others … Now something from Paris: Mr leGros … wrote me all sorts of nice things about my Stabat mater, which was given … to the greatest applause … They were surprised that I was so extraordinarily successful in vocal music; but I wasn’t surprised at all, for they haven’t heard anything yet. If they could only hear … my most recent opera La fedeltà premiata! I assure [you] that nothing comparable has yet been heard in Paris, and perhaps not even in Vienna.
Haydn prized his status as an original (see §7); he bluntly rejected the notion that Sammartini might have been an influence on his early string quartets, adding (to Griesinger) that he acknowledged only C.P.E. Bach as a model. He was sensitive to criticism: he resented north Germans’ rejection of his stylistic mixture (which seemed to them a breach of decorum), was jealous of Joseph II’s patronage of inferior composers such as Leopold Hofmann (whose ‘Gassenlieder’ in particular he intended to surpass), and railed against those who pointed out technical flaws such as parallel 5ths in his late music. He took pains to forestall potential criticism of the similar beginnings of the sonatas hXVI:36/ii and 39/i by printing a prefatory note asserting that he had done this deliberately, ‘in order to show different methods of realization’. After Mozart’s death he willingly accepted the role of greatest living composer; in London he actively defended his ‘rank’ against Pleyel’s challenge. Despite his grateful dependence on Swieten for librettos and patronage by the Associirten, behind Swieten’s back he gibed that his symphonies were ‘as stiff as the man himself’ and ridiculed the libretto of The Seasons. His despair at no longer being able to compose after 1802 was doubtless fuelled in part by resentment at Beethoven’s success in pushing forward into new domains of music – domains that he believed would have lain open to him if only his health had not failed.
Although Haydn often protested his devotion to the Esterházy princes, ‘in whose service I wish to live and die’ (1776), and praised Nicolaus for providing the conditions under which his art could develop, his attitude towards the court was never subservient and over time became increasingly ambivalent. He did not hesitate to assert his interests and those of his musicians against the court administration: these interventions were usually successful (including, for example, re-engaging Polzelli and her husband and keeping them on the payroll for ten years). The relationship between Nicolaus and Haydn was not merely that of prince and employee: their playing baryton trios together (Haydn presumably on the viola) was by definition intimate music-making, and according to Framery the composer had to restore the prince from attacks of depression (Haydn himself described this in March 1790, admittedly during Nicolaus’s bereavement). After 1780 he became increasingly independent of the court both compositionally and financially, and he hated having to abandon the artistic and social pleasures of Vienna for distant Eszterháza. After Nicolaus’s death he was de facto a free artist. In a letter of September 1791 to Mme Genzinger his ambivalence is palpable:
This little bit of freedom, how sweet it tastes! I had a good prince, but at times I was forced to be dependent on base souls. I often sighed for release; now I have it in some measure … Even though I am burdened with more work, the knowledge that I am not bound to service makes ample amends for all my toil. And yet, dear though this freedom is to me, I long to be in Prince Esterházy’s service on my return, if only for the sake of my poor family. However, I doubt that this longing can be satisfied, in that my prince … absolutely demands my immediate return, which however I cannot comply with, owing to a new contract I have entered into here.
Indeed, London won out. Yet in 1795 he was glad to become Kapellmeister again – although only on condition of minimal duties.
As regards money, Haydn was so self-interested as to shock both certain high-minded contemporaries (Joseph Martin Kraus, Friedrich Rochlitz) and many later authorities. Whereas until 1749 he presumably suffered nothing worse than ordinary schoolboy privations, during his early freelance years he lived in poverty, an experience he was determined never to repeat. He always attempted to maximize his income, whether by negotiating the right to sell his music outside the Esterházy court, driving hard bargains with publishers or selling his works three and four times over; he regularly engaged in ‘sharp practice’ and occasionally in outright fraud. When crossed in business relations, he reacted angrily. At times his protestations of straitened circumstances were mendacious (as when denying Polzelli’s requests for money), or perhaps self-deceptive. Yet Haydn was generous. He supported his brother Johann for decades and bequeathed substantial sums to relatives, servants and those who had supported him in his youth, and took pride in the large sums generated for charity by performances of his oratorios.
Haydn’s appearance is known from various descriptions and from many paintings and busts. He was not handsome; he was ‘small in stature, but sturdily and strongly built. His forehead was broad and well modelled, his skin brownish, his eyes lively and fiery, his other features full and strongly marked, and his whole physiognomy and bearing bespoke prudence and a quiet gravity’ (Griesinger); but he also had an overlarge nose, exacerbated by his long-term polyp, and was pock-marked (Dies). Of the many contemporary images only a few avoid idealizing their subject. From about 1768 there is a portrait by Grundmann, the Esterházy court painter, showing the young and self-assertive Kapellmeister in uniform (fig.1). More conventional in both facial features and the pose at the keyboard are the various images based on a lost painting of uncertain date by Guttenbrunn (fig.4; Haydn’s wife and Griesinger claimed that it was a good likeness) and the engraving by Mansfield (1781) published by Artaria. There is a good miniature from about 1788 (fig.7). From London we have formal portraits by Hoppner and Hardy, of which the former (fig.9) has the more personality; still more is conveyed in the drawing by George Dance (in two versions; fig.10), which Haydn claimed was the best likeness of himself. Several sculptures survive from the last Vienna years, including two busts by Grassi (fig.8; praised by Griesinger); there is also a deathmask, taken by Elssler.
7. Style, aesthetics, compositional method.
Haydn’s style was understood in his own day as unique. He famously commented to Griesinger:
My prince was satisfied with all my works; I received approval. As head of an orchestra I could try things out, observe what creates a [good] effect and what weakens it, and thus revise, make additions or cuts, take risks. I was cut off from the world, nobody in my vicinity could upset my self-confidence or annoy me, and so I had no choice but to become original.
By ‘original’ he seems to have meant that he belonged to no school and acknowledged few if any models. However, in late 18th-century aesthetics originality also implied genius, a link emphasized among others by Kant.
In many ways Haydn’s style can be understood as analogous to the duality in his personality between earnestness and humour. He said as much when referring to his method of composition: ‘I sat down [at the keyboard] and began to fantasize, according to whether my mood was sad or happy, serious or trifling’. Of course, in his music these qualities are not unmediated binary opposites but poles of a continuum. Admittedly, since about 1800 wit has been the better understood pole. Johann Karl Friedrich Triest wrote (1801) of his ‘unmistakable manner’: ‘what the English call “humour”, for which the German Laune does not quite provide an exact equivalent’. Haydn’s ‘unique’ or ‘inimitable’ Laune was a frequent motif in contemporary criticism. Most of the familiar nicknames for his works respond to features that listeners have taken as humorous; e.g. the ‘Surprise’ Symphony or the ‘Joke’ Quartet op.33 no.2. In other cases the wit is on a higher plane, e.g. the ‘ticking’ accompaniment in the slow movement of the ‘Clock’ Symphony, no.101. The crucial point, however, is that Haydn’s popular style is not a simple projection of his personality, but his compositional ‘persona’ or ‘musical personality’, deliberately assumed for complex artistic purposes. Indeed ‘wit’ signifies intelligence as well as humour: his inexhaustible rhythmic and motivic inventiveness, the conversational air of many quartet movements, his formal ambiguity and caprice, his brilliant and at times disquieting play with beginnings that are endings and the reverse (the ‘Joke’ Quartet ending has stimulated half a dozen learned exegeses). Often Haydn’s wit shades into irony, as was recognized by his contemporaries: ‘Haydn might perhaps be compared, in respect to the fruitfulness of his imagination, with our Jean Paul [Richter] (omitting, obviously, his chaotic design; transparent representation (lucidus ordo) is not the least of Haydn’s virtues); or, in respect to his humour, his original wit (vis comica) with Lor. Sterne’ (Triest). In fact, his irony goes beyond wit: a passage may be deceptive in character or function (the D major interlude in the first movement of the ‘Farewell’ Symphony sounds like a minuet out of context, but it is not a minuet and plays a crucial tonal and psychological role), or a movement may systematically subvert listeners’ expectations until (or even past) the end (the finale of the Quartet op.54 no.2). Like Beethoven, Haydn often seems to problematize music rather than merely to compose it (the tonal ambiguity at the beginning of op.33 no.1).
Earnestness and depth of feeling are equally important to Haydn’s art. These qualities were less appreciated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, owing in part to the absence of his vocal music and much of his earlier instrumental music from the standard repertory, in part to a lack of sympathy for his extra-musical and ethical concerns during the age of absolute music. But Griesinger reported: ‘Haydn said that instead of so many quartets, sonatas and symphonies he should have composed more vocal music, for he could have become one of the leading opera composers’. Until about 1800 vocal music was as responsible for his reputation as instrumental; Gerber wrote in 1790: ‘around the year 1780 he attained the highest level of excellence and fame through his church and theatre works’. Like all 18th-century composers, Haydn believed that the primary purpose of a composition was to move the listener, and that the chief basis of this effect was song. He was an excellent tenor in the chamber (if not the theatre). He insisted to Griesinger that a prerequisite for good music was ‘fluent melody’, and he ‘criticized the fact that now so many musicians compose who have never learnt how to sing: “Singing must almost be reckoned one of the lost arts; instead of song, people allow the instruments to dominate”.
This emphasis on feeling also applies to instrumental music – even sprightly allegros and minuets – and throughout Haydn’s career. Much of his early music is earnest, at times even harsh; see the keyboard Trio hXV:f1, the String Trio hV:3, the slow movement of the String Quartet op.2 no.4, Symphony no.22 and much else, to say nothing of vocal works such as the Stabat mater and the Salve regina in G minor. Many of his keyboard works are affective in an intimate way: he wrote to Mme Genzinger regarding the Adagio of Sonata no.49: ‘It means a great deal, which I will analyse for you when I have the chance’. His orchestral music ‘signified’ as well: the slow introductions to the London symphonies are implicit invocations of the sublime, and this topic became overt in the Chaos–Light sequence in The Creation and elsewhere in his late sacred vocal music. Many works that were later taken as humorous he did not intend as such, for example the ‘Farewell’ Symphony. Similarly, even at his wittiest or most programmatic he never abandons tonal and formal coherence.
The duality between earnestness and wit is analogous to the 18th-century distinctions between connoisseurs (‘Kenner’) and amateurs (‘Liebhaber’), and between traditional or learned and modern or galant style. These dualities characterize many of Haydn’s works, groups of works and even entire periods. In his pre-Esterházy instrumental music, genre was a primary determinant of style: modest, unpretentious divertimentos, quartets and keyboard concertinos etc. stand seemingly opposed to larger-scale symphonies, string trios and keyboard trios. The three op.20 quartets with fugal finales project, in order of composition, severe tradition (no.5), the galant (no.6) and a studied mixture of both (no.2); yet these monuments to high art originated precisely in the middle of his baryton-trio decade. In the late 1770s most of his symphonies were unambiguously intended as entertainment, but no.70 is selfconsciously learned. In 1785–90 he composed some 45 weighty symphonies, quartets and piano works, but also lyre concertos and notturnos, flute trios and other light works. Of course, the distinction between ‘art’ and ‘entertainment’ cannot be simplistically correlated with differences in artistic quality. Haydn’s early string quartets are arguably his most polished pre-Esterházy works; the baryton trios and lyre notturnos are finely wrought compositions, as rewarding in their way as the raw expressionism of the ‘Sturm und Drang’. These stylistic dualities are found even in his late sacred vocal music and long hindered its appreciation. His quotation of the buffa-like contredanse from no.32 of The Creation in the Schöpfungsmesse so offended the empress that she insisted that he alter it in performances at the Habsburg court, many of her high-minded contemporaries took offence at the ‘Tändeleien’ (trifling) and dance-like triple metres in his late masses, and as recently as the 1970s noted authorities still wrote of the ‘triviality’ of the Kyrie of the Missa in tempore belli. Now, however, their stylistic heterodoxy seems as gloriously uplifting as that of Die Zauberflöte.
Haydn usually juxtaposes or contrasts stylistic dualities rather than synthesize them. Perhaps he approaches synthesis most closely when an ostensibly artless or humorous theme later changes in character (e.g. Symphony no.103, minuet) or is subjected to elaborate contrapuntal development; the latter is especially characteristic of finales (e.g. Symphony no.99; Beethoven twice copied out the development section). In general, Haydn’s art is based on the traditional principle of variety within unity. ‘Once I had seized upon an idea’, he said to Griesinger, ‘my whole endeavour was to develop and sustain it in keeping with the rules of the art’. A Haydn movement works out a single basic idea; the ‘second theme’ of his sonata forms is often a variant of the opening theme. Often this part of the exposition forswears thematic statements altogether, in favour of unstable developmental passages (his ‘expansion section’); stability is restored only in the position of the usual closing theme. To be sure, that working out usually entails many contrasting treatments and effects (Haydn: ‘light and shade’, i.e. chiaroscuro): the second theme usually differs in treatment, and the recapitulation brings fresh developments; in his double-variation slow movements the alternating major and minor themes are usually variants of each other. Thus both novelty and continuity are maintained from beginning to end.
In one respect, however, Haydn deliberately courted a union of opposites: his ‘popular’ style that simultaneously addressed the connoisseur. ‘If one wanted to describe the character of Haydn’s compositions in just two words, they would be … artful popularity or popular (easily comprehensible, effective) artfulness’ (Triest). No other composer – not even C.P.E. Bach or Mozart – had Haydn’s gift of writing ostensibly simple or folklike tunes of wide appeal, and broadly humorous sallies, that concealed (or developed into) the highest art. Indeed these aspects of his style intensified in his London and late Vienna years, along with the complexity of his music and its fascination for connoisseurs. One of the best early comments on Haydn’s music was Gerber’s: he ‘possessed the great art of appearing familiar in his themes’ (emphasis added): that is, their popular character is neither merely given nor a direct reflection of his personality, but the result of calculated artistic shaping. This becomes obvious when he employs folk tunes, as in the Andante of Symphony no.103 and the finale of no.104: the piquant raised fourth-degree of the one, the horn pedal of the other, are not quoted, but adapted to the character of a grand symphony. Haydn’s ‘pretension … to a simplicity that appears to come from Nature itself is no mask but the true claim of a style whose command over the whole range of technique is so great that it can ingenuously afford to disdain the outward appearance of high art’ (Rosen, I1971).
Many aspects of Haydn’s music can be appreciated only by ignoring the concept of ‘Classical style’. These include lean orchestration (Haydn: ‘no superfluous ornaments, nothing overdone, no deafening accompaniments’), in which the planes of sound do not compactly blend but remain distinct, nervous bass lines, constant motivic-thematic development and a rhythmic vitality and unpredictability that can become almost manic, as in the finales of many late string quartets and piano trios. Many Haydn movements are progressive in form, continually developing (e.g. the first movements of Symphonies nos.92 and 103); on a still larger scale, many works exhibit tendencies towards through-composition or ‘cyclic’ organization; a few are as tightly integrated as any work of Beethoven (e.g. the ‘Farewell’ Symphony and no.46; the string quartets op.20 no.2, op.54 no.2 and op.74 no.3; Piano Sonata no.30).
Haydn was also a master of rhetoric. This is a matter not only of musical ‘topoi’ and rhetorical ‘figures’ but also of contrasts in register, gestures, implications of genre and the rhythms of destabilization and recovery, especially as these play out over the course of an entire movement. Referential associations are common in his instrumental music, especially symphonies (nos.6–8, 22, 26, 30–31, 44–5, 49, 60, 64, 73, 100); they invoke serious human and cultural issues, including religious belief, war, pastoral, the times of day, longing for home, ethnic identity and the hunt. Haydn told Griesinger and Dies that he ‘often portrayed moral characters in his symphonies’ and that one early Adagio presented ‘a dialogue between God and a foolish sinner’ (unidentified; perhaps from no.7, 22 or 26). In his vocal music Haydn (like Handel) was a brilliant and enthusiastic word-painter. This trait is but one aspect of his musical imagery in general: in addition to rhetorical figures and ‘topoi’ it comprises key associations (e.g. E with the hereafter), semantic associations (e.g. the flute with the pastoral) and musical conceptualizations (e.g. long notes on ‘E-wigkeit’ in The Creation or ‘ae-ter-num’ in the late Te Deum).
Like all 18th-century composers, Haydn composed for his audiences (which term includes his performers). He calculated Piano Sonata no.49 expressly for Mme Genzinger; in his piano works of 1794–6 he systematically differentiated between a difficult, extroverted style for Therese Jansen and a less demanding, intimate one for Rebecca Schroeter. Regarding the Piano Trio hXV:13 he wrote to Artaria: ‘I send you herewith the third trio, which I have rewritten with variations, to suit your taste’ – i.e. Artaria’s estimate of the taste of Haydn’s market. When he went to London, his music for public performance became grander and more brilliant. He disliked having to compose without knowing his audience, as he wrote regarding Applausus: ‘If I have perhaps not divined the taste of [the musicians], I am not to be blamed for this; neither the persons nor the place are known to me, and the fact that they were concealed from me truly made my work distasteful’.
‘I was never a hasty writer, and always composed with deliberation and diligence’, Haydn told Griesinger. His method encompassed three stages: ‘phantasieren’ at the keyboard in order to find a viable idea (see above), ‘komponieren’ (working out the musical substance, both at the keyboard and by means of shorthand drafts, usually on one or two staves) and ‘setzen’ (writing the full score). Sketching was a regular procedure: although drafts survive for only a modest proportion of his music, they comprise works in all genres and all types of musical context (including recitatives). A draft for the finale of Symphony no.99 confirms Griesinger’s description of his use of numbered cross-references to organize a series of passages originally written down in a different order. His surviving autographs by and large are fair copies, which exhibit few corrections and alterations.
8. Sacred vocal music.
Vocal music constitutes fully half of Haydn’s output. Both his first and last completed compositions were mass settings, and he cultivated sacred vocal music extensively throughout his career except during the later 1780s, when elaborate church music was inhibited by the Josephinian reforms, and the first half of the 1790s in London.
The Missa brevis in F (hXXII:1) is apparently his earliest surviving composition; on rediscovering it in old age he pronounced himself pleased by ‘the melody and a certain youthful fire’ (Dies), which are enhanced by resourceful contrasts between the two solo sopranos and the chorus. The remaining masses fall into two groups of six each: nos.2, 4–8 (1766–82; no.3 is probably spurious) and nos.9–14 (1796–1802); except where noted they are of medium length (30 to 40 minutes). The former are notably heterogeneous. The huge and impressive Missa Cellensis in C (begun 1766) is of the solenne type (often miscalled ‘cantata mass’); each of the five main sections is subdivided into numerous complete and independent movements. These include choruses both festive and ominous, elaborate arias, ariosos, ensembles and four massive concluding fugues. The Kyrie and certain arias are traditional in style, while the remainder is distinctly modern; the fugues are powerfully expressive despite their contrapuntal fireworks, especially the overwhelming ‘Et vitam venturi’, which functions not merely as a concluding highpoint but as the through-composed goal of the entire Credo. The Missa ‘Sunt bona mixta malis’ (1768) survives only in an autograph fragment transmitting the Kyrie and the first part of the Gloria; it is not known whether Haydn completed the work, and the import of ‘mixed good and bad’ (from a classical proverb) remains obscure. It is set for chorus and organ continuo in stile antico; strict fugal expositions alternate with free counterpoint and occasional homophonic passages. The ‘Great Organ Mass’ in E (c1768–9) is more personal in tone: the dark english horns contrast with exuberant treble obbligato organ parts in the Kyrie, Benedictus and Dona nobis pacem. The Missa Sancti Nicolai (1772) is often described as ‘pastoral’, owing to its key of G major and the lilting 6/4 rhythm of the Kyrie (which returns for the Dona nobis pacem), although the Crucifixus and Agnus Dei are serious indeed. In the mid-1770s followed the ‘Little Organ Mass’ in B, a quiet, almost pietistically fervent missa brevis. The ‘Mariazellermesse’ in C (1782) resembles the Missa Cellensis in key, scoring and purpose, although it is more compact and more closely allied with sonata style.
Notwithstanding their semi-private function for the Esterházy court, Haydn’s six late masses are consummate masterworks that exhibit no trace of provinciality or the ‘occasional’. He exploits the complementary functions of soloists and chorus with inexhaustible freedom and telling effect; owing to his London experience the orchestra plays a newly prominent role. Four are in B, perhaps because b” was Haydn’s usual highest pitch for choral sopranos (he employed the same key for the final choruses of Parts 2–3 of The Creation and Part 1 of The Seasons). The other two are the only ones for which he provided descriptive titles: the Missa in tempore belli (‘Mass in Time of War’, 1796) in C features the bright, trumpet-dominated sound typical of masses in this key; the Missa in angustiis (‘Mass in [times of] Distress’, later nicknamed ‘Nelson Mass’, 1798) in D minor and major is scored for a dark orchestra comprising only trumpets and timpani, strings and organ. Both invoke the travails of the Napoleonic wars. The Agnus Dei of the former includes threatening timpani motifs and harsh trumpet fanfares, while the Benedictus of the latter culminates in another harsh fanfare passage ‘out of context’; both influenced the Agnus Dei in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis. On the other hand, except for the sombre Kyrie and Benedictus of the ‘Nelson Mass’, both are otherwise firmly optimistic; the ending of the latter is downright jaunty.
Although Haydn’s late masses indubitably reflect the experience of the London symphonies, their symphonic character has been exaggerated. Even in the Kyrie, which usually consists of a slow introduction and a fast main movement, the latter freely combines fugato and sonata style in a distinctly unsymphonic way. The Gloria and Credo are divided into several movements, fast–slow–fast with the slow middle movement(s) in contrasting keys and featuring the soloists (e.g. the ‘Qui tollis’ of the Missa in tempore belli, a bass aria with solo cello in A major; or the ‘Et incarnatus’ of the Heiligmesse, based on Haydn’s canon Gott im Herzen); they usually conclude with a fugue on a brief subject, which often entersattacca and always leads to a homophonic coda. The Sanctus often adopts the ‘majesty’ topic, admixed with mysterious passages; it leads directly into the brief ‘Pleni sunt coeli – Osanna’, which may or may not return following the Benedictus. The latter is a long movement and an emotional highpoint; it usually features the soloists and is in, or based on, sonata form. The Agnus Dei opens with an initial slow section, either threatening in the minor or serenely confident in a remote major key; it leads to a half-cadence and thence to the fast ‘Dona nobis pacem’, usually a free combination of fugato and homophony, leading (again) to a homophonic wind-up.
The other liturgical works date primarily from the first half of Haydn’s career; their original destinations and purposes are almost entirely unknown. According to liturgical function they comprise offertories (hXXIIIa), Marian antiphons (hXXIIIb), hymns (hXXIIIc) and pastorellas (hXXIIId; Haydn called them ‘cantilenas’). They vary widely in style and scale, from the massive, dark, traditional Stabat mater (hXXbis, 1767) to the tender devotion of the Lauda Sion hymn complexes; from the festive jubilation of the choral Te Deum settings with trumpets and drums in C to the stylized folk idiom of the pastorellas for solo voices and strings. Even subgenres exhibit marked contrasts: the Lauda Sion hymns from the 1750s (hXXIIIc:5) are all in C, Vivace 3/4, while those from the later 1760s (hXXIIIc:4) are in a tonally interesting set of four different keys and alternate Andante 3/4 with Largo alla breve. Similarly, the Salve regina in E (hXXIIIb:1, 1756) features ornate italianate writing for the solo soprano, whereas that in G minor (hXXIIIb:2, 1771) is expressively brooding, with no trace of vocal ornamentation. Of the three late works, the offertory Non nobis, Domine in D minor (hXXIIIa:1, ?1780s) is an a cappella work reminiscent of the Missa ‘Sunt bona mixta malis’, while the six ‘English psalms’ of 1794 (hXXIII, Nachtrag), Haydn’s only Protestant church music, adumbrate the elevated but plain style of ‘The heavens are telling’ inThe Creation. The late Te Deum ‘for the empress’ (hXXIIIc:2, ?1800), for chorus and very large orchestra, is an ABA construction of great power and terseness; it whirls through the very long text in little more than eight minutes, while still finding time for a double fugue and an immense climax at the end.
Haydn’s oratorios comprise Il ritorno di Tobia, his revision of Friebert’s arrangement of the Seven Last Words, The Creation and The Seasons. The libretto of Tobia (by a brother of Boccherini) narrates the story of the blind Tobit from the Apocrypha; Haydn fashioned a magnificent late example of Austrian-Italian vocal music, comprising chiefly long bravura arias, along with three choruses; most of the recitatives are accompagnati of emotional intensity. In 1784 he revived the oratorio, shortening many of the arias, adding two magnificent new choruses and supplementing the instrumentation. The Seven Last Words, a success during Haydn’s lifetime and beyond, is less popular today, in part because it is not a full-length work, in part owing to the succession of eight consecutive adagios which, paradoxically, seem more monotonous than in the orchestral version. Its most striking movement is the bleak, newly composed introduction to the second part, scored for wind alone and set in A minor, a key Haydn hardly ever used.
The Creation is Haydn’s most loved work today, as it was in his lifetime. Part 1 treats the First to Fourth Days (the creation of light, land and sea, plant life, heavenly bodies), Part 2 the Fifth and Sixth (animals, birds, fish, man and woman); each Day comprises recitative on prose from Genesis, a commentary set as an aria or ensemble, another recitative and a choral hymn of praise. Part 3 abandons the Bible; it amounts to a cantata devoted to Adam and Eve and to further praise of heaven. The optimistic tone is enhanced by the increasing brilliance and complexity of the choruses as the work proceeds; they reflect Haydn’s experience of Handel in England. Also reminiscent of Handel (not that Haydn needed the stimulus) are the many word- and scene-paintings, of which the most striking include the emergence of the oceans and mountains (‘Rolling in foaming billows’), the sunrise and moonrise, the birds of ‘On mighty pens’ and the teeming low strings of ‘Be fruitful all’; though often taken as humorous, these conceits are essential to the Enlightenment optimism of the work. The famous ‘Representation Chaos’ (or ‘Idea of Chaos’: Vorstellung implies both meanings) is not literally chaotic but paradoxical: beginning in C minor mystery, it initiates a larger process which points beyond itself, and acquires meaning only with the choral climax on ‘And there was light!’ in C major. The remainder of Part 1 takes place, as it were, during the reverberation of this event; its triumphant concluding chorus ‘The heavens are telling’ is again in C. By contrast, the final sections dealing with ourselves shift to the ‘human’ key of B and its subdominant E. Although Part 3 opens in a radiant, astonishingly remote E major for the Garden of Eden, it soon reverts to F and C for the gigantic ‘Lobgesang’ and, via E for Adam’s and Eve’s lovemaking in earthy Singspiel style, to B for the final choral fugue.
The libretto of The Seasons presents scenes of nature and country life; the narrator-function is personified as the moralizing peasants Simon, Jane and Lucas. The scenic aspects stimulated Haydn to his best efforts: the storms of late winter, the farmer sowing his seed to the tune of the Andante of the ‘Surprise’ Symphony, a sunrise that outdoes that in The Creation, the thick C minor fogs of early winter, and the multi-movement depiction of summer heat, first languid, then oppressive, finally exploding in Haydn’s greatest storm. Among the genre scenes those for the chorus are unsurpassed, notably at the end of Autumn: first the hunt, from sighting to chase to kill to celebration (the horns quote numerous actual hunting calls, and join the trombones and strings in double grace notes for the baying of the hounds), and cast in progressive tonality from D to E; then the drinking chorus in C, with increasingly uncertain harmonizations of a prominent high note for the raising of glasses, a dance in 6/8 leading to an inebriated fugue and a breathless wind-up that may have inspired the end of Verdi’s Falstaff. Other important choruses are pastoral (‘Komm, holder Lenz’) and religious: ‘Ewiger, mächtiger, gütiger Gott’ at the end of Spring, Haydn’s most massive chorus (itself run on from the preceding trio, the two movements as a whole in ‘progressive tonality’); and the concluding ‘Dann bricht der grosse Morgen an’, in which we enter heaven in a blaze of C major glory, resolving the C minor of the beginning of Winter. Notwithstanding its less exalted subject, The Seasons is compositionally more virtuoso than The Creation and offers greater variety of tone: Haydn’s pastoral is one of the final glories of a tradition that is more than ‘high’ enough.
In Haydn’s sacred vocal music the aesthetics of through-composition is a matter not only of cyclic integration, but of doctrine and devotion. Many of these works are organized around the conceptual image of salvation, at once personal and communal, achieved at or near the end: a musical realization of the desire for a state of grace. This is especially clear in a relatively brief work such as the Salve regina in G minor, where the astonishing vocal entry on an augmented sixth chord is not really resolved until the end, when Haydn ‘hears’ the supplicants’ prayer by turning to the major. Particularly in his late sacred music such concepts are wedded to the sublime: not only in the Creation of Light, which expresses that which is otherwise unthinkable – the origins of the universe and of history – but also in the choruses that conclude each part of The Creation, ‘Spring’ and ‘Winter’ inThe Seasons and many movements of the late masses.
9. Secular vocal music.
Haydn’s stage works comprise 13 Italian operas, four Italian comedies (with spoken dialogue rather than recitative), five or six German Singspiele and incidental music for plays, of which only Symphony no.60, ‘Il distratto’, survives; almost all were composed for the Esterházy court. Those predating 1766 are lost, except for fragments of the festa teatrale Acide(1762, revised 1773) and of the commedia Marchese (1762–3). His three operas from the late 1760s become increasingly long and complex. The two-act intermezzo La canterina(1766) has wonderful comic scenes centring on the jealous singing teacher Don Pelagio and his charge Gasparina (who ‘overreacts’ to being thrown out of his house with a distraught aria in C minor); each act ends with a quartet. Lo speziale (1768), in three acts, is called a dramma giocoso and is based on a libretto of this type by Goldoni, but the Esterházy version eliminates the two parti serie. It has many new features, including a ‘Turkish’ aria with ‘exotic’ key-relations and rhythms and a graphic portrayal of the effects of the apothecary’s remedies for constipation. The concluding trio and quartet of the first and second acts, respectively, include real dramatic action. The three-act Le pescatrici (1769–70), also based on Goldoni, is a true dramma giocoso including the ‘serious’ Prince Lindoro and Eurilda, an heiress to a principality who has been raised as a simple fisherwoman; their music is in ‘high’ style, and Eurilda (in distinction to the eponymous fisherwomen) takes no part in the comic ensembles. It has more ensembles, in proportion to its total length, than any other Haydn opera, although the majority are ‘choruses’ in primarily homophonic style. Among the latter is the Act 3 ‘Soavi zeffiri’, whose E major tonality and depiction of sea breezes resemble Mozart’s ‘Placido è il mar’ in Idomeneo and ‘Soave sia il vento’ in Così fan tutte.
After a pause, in 1773 Haydn composed L’infedeltà delusa, a ‘burletta per musica’ in two acts based on a libretto by the ‘reforming’ librettist Marco Coltellini. For the last time there are no serious characters; the opera portrays an idealized peasant life (with much lampooning of the nobility) and the characters are concerned only to set their mismatched affections aright. From the same year comes the German Philemon und Baucis, originally a marionette opera but surviving only in an adaptation for the stage. The moralizing plot is based on the old theme of the god or king who is spiritually renewed by the incorruptible virtue of simple peasants; musically it is similar to L’infedeltà, with the addition of impressive D minor music in the overture and a thunderstorm chorus preceding Jupiter’s arrival.
Most of Haydn’s remaining operas for Eszterháza are in three acts and are drammi giocosi or other subgenres that mix comic and serious characters. In 1775 he composedL’incontro improvviso on a libretto adapted from Gluck’s La rencontre imprévue; it is a harem-rescue plot set in the orient, as in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, although many incidents lack sufficient motivation. The heroine Rezia and her rescuer Prince Ali are the serious characters, while lower-class characters provide broad ‘exotic’ humour. In a subplot Rezia uses her confidantes Balkis and Dardane to test Ali’s fidelity (the gender-reversal is noteworthy); their Act 1 trio in the harem, with three sopranos sharing chromatic lines full of suspensions, is an invocation of timeless pleasure. In 1777 followed Il mondo della luna, based on Goldoni’s popular libretto; the hero Ecclitico dupes the elderly Buonafede into supposing he has travelled to the moon (staged as an exotic, luxurious kingdom) and eventually into assenting to Ecclitico’s marriage to his daughter Clarice (and two other marriages for good measure). The keys C and E symbolize Earth and Moon respectively, the representation of the journey in the Act 1 finale being particularly magical, as is the Act 3 duet for the two principals. La vera costanza (1778–9, revised 1785), on a libretto by Francesco Puttini previously set by Anfossi, is Haydn’s fullest exploration of the ‘sentimental’ subgenre of opera buffa. Rosina, secretly married to the half-mad Count Errico, lives incognito in a fishing-village. Eventually the Count and many other characters discover her, leading to repeated painful tests of her virtue and fortitude; in despair she flees to the country, where the final reconciliation takes place. The music is glorious and the characterizations surprisingly credible, with Rosina reaching heights of genuine emotion. The finales to Acts 1 and 2 are now (and largely remain) as long and complex as those in Mozart’s operas.
A change of pace is represented by L’isola disabitata (1779), a relatively brief azione teatrale on a libretto by Metastasio, with all the recitatives orchestrally accompanied, and quite short, primarily lyrical arias without much coloratura. Next came La fedeltà premiata (1780), a dramma pastorale giocoso by G.B. Lorenzi, previously set by Cimarosa as L’infedeltà fedele; given the contrived plot-spring of the annual sacrifice of two lovers to appease an offended sea monster, the action and motivations are plausible. The number of arias in serious style is relatively high, with a climax in Celia’s great scena in Act 2; the finale in Act 1 is Haydn’s longest (822 bars). Orlando paladino (1782) is a dramma eroicomico with a libretto by Nunziato Porta based on Badini. Its subject is Orlando’s madness (deriving ultimately from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso), which Haydn portrays in remarkable scenes of mixed accompanied recitative and aria; the long scenes for Angelica and the feckless Medoro are musical highlights as well, as are the comic numbers for Orlando’s squire Pasquale. Armida (1783) is a dramma eroico based on the Armida-Rinaldo action from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata. It is primarily seria in style, with long stretches of action set in freely alternating accompanied recitatives and set pieces; the long magic forest scene of Act 3 is particularly successful. L’anima del filosofo, ossia Orfeo ed Euridice (1791), anopera seria in four acts composed in London to a libretto by Badini, was not produced. Notwithstanding numerous bravura arias, its style resembles that of Haydn’s late instrumental works more closely than do his earlier operas; in Act 2 the extended scenes of Eurydice’s death and Orpheus’s discovery of her body are deeply affecting. It also includes numerous choruses, which contribute to the action; he uses males for the Furies and females for the Bacchae, the latter bringing the work to a tragic end in D minor.
During his career Haydn’s operatic palette expanded both generically, from straight buffa or seria to various mixed types (reflecting the repertory as a whole), and compositionally, with longer individual numbers, interpenetration of accompanied recitative and set piece, and increased size and scope of the finale (except in seria). Notwithstanding his own high opinion of his operas (see §6), they were largely forgotten until the second half of the 20th century, when editions and recordings as well as stagings made them widely available. Their recent reception has been mixed. The music is beyond praise: the brilliance of Haydn’s tonal and formal construction and his rhythmic verve go without saying; masterly too are his vivid characterization in arias, expressive strength in accompanied recitatives and fascinating orchestral effects; he often composes ‘against the grain’ of the genre or libretto to dramatic purpose. For these reasons (as well as their ready availability), they have attracted much analytical and critical attention. On the other hand, although the librettos represent major types and their thematic orientation is often strong, they often exhibit weaknesses of plausibility, motivation or dramaturgy; even Haydn’s music cannot always overcome these faults, nor did he always exploit the dramatic implications of his librettos. For example, when deceptions are revealed in the Act 2 finales of Lo speziale and Il mondo della luna, the musical character does not change until later, when the people deceived (Sempronio, Buonafede) give vent to outbursts of rage; and Eurydice’s second death remains anticlimactic (although here the libretto is also at fault). However, negative criticism has also been coloured by insufficient understanding of generic norms of the period 1760–80 (such as the dominance of aria over ensemble and ‘seamless’ action, and the relative brevity of the third act), and by inappropriate comparisons with Gluck and late Mozart instead of with Gassmann, Anfossi or Cimarosa. In appropriate stagings with good singers, Haydn’s operas are effective and moving in the theatre.
The festive Italian cantatas honouring Prince Nicolaus (hXXIVa:1–5, c1762–7) begin with a long orchestral ritornello leading to an accompanied recitative announcing the cause for celebration, followed by arias and duets and concluding with a chorus. The very long solo numbers are unusually virtuoso and richly orchestrated (in an aria from Qual dubbio ormai, no.4, Haydn wrote himself an elaborate obbligato harpsichord part). The celebratory cantata Applausus (hXXIVa:6, 1768) on an allegorical Latin text is stylistically similar, although it is longer and musically more concentrated, and as appropriate to its elevated text has been said to adumbrate the sublime. An important late chorus is The Storm (hXXIVa:8, 1792); as in so many works of this type, minor-mode fury is followed by ‘calm’ in the major.
Three late solo cantatas for soprano are of great significance. Miseri noi (hXXIVa:7, by 1786) was composed for an unknown occasion and singer (possibly Nancy Storace); the middle section, a Largo in G minor, is particularly impressive. Arianna a Naxos (hXXVIb:2, ?1789) was perhaps composed for Bianca Sacchetti in Venice; in the passionate recitatives the piano presents the lion’s share of the musical material, while the voice declaims the text dramatically. Ariadne’s mixed hope and despair are vividly portrayed; in her final aria a long, slow, formal paragraph in F major leads to a wild rage aria in F minor, of which the final chord, for piano alone, is astonishingly F major. Berenice, che fai(hXXIVa:10, 1795), on a text from Metastasio’s Antigono, is public music for a virtuoso and hence more difficult and extroverted. The recitatives feature what is arguably Haydn’s most extreme use of remote and enharmonic modulations; further, the two arias are in ‘opposed’ keys (E major and F minor), while the orchestration is as brilliant as that of the last London symphonies.
Haydn’s 47 songs (hXXVIa) comprise 24 German lieder (nos.1–24, 1781–4), 14 English songs (nos.25–36, 41–2, 1794–5, of which nos.25–36 were published as ‘Canzonettas’) and miscellaneous German lieder. The lieder of 1781–4 stand in close chronological and stylistic proximity to the op.33 quartets. Although they have seemed simple to many commentators – they are relatively short and strophic, with the piano right hand largely doubling the voice – they are varied in mood and exhibit subtle rhythmic and formal construction, often brilliantly realizing implications of the text; the 1784 set includes more deeply felt items. The English canzonettas contain many striking effects and are in many cases through-composed; see the remarkable off-tonic vocal entry of She never told her love, with its climax on ‘smiling with grief’, or the controlled passion of O Tuneful Voice: the poem invokes Mrs Hunter’s sorrow at Haydn’s departure, the music his farewell to her and to England. A special case is the ‘Emperor’s Hymn’ (see §5), with its fusion of elevated hymn and ‘folk’ styles. The 13 partsongs (mehrstimmige Gesänge; hXXVc, 1796–9) with keyboard accompaniment adumbrate the characteristic 19th-century Viennese genre of social music for vocal ensemble. Haydn said of them that they were composed ‘con amore in happy times and without commission’ (Griesinger); as far as we know they (and his canons) are his only works of which this is true. They are among his wittiest, most beautiful and most touching creations, with an inimitable air of casual sophistication and a brilliant combination of comic and serious topics and styles; their fusion of easy intelligibility and wit with the highest art and their ravishing part-writing almost suggest string quartets for voices.