Haydn by J. Cuthbert Hadden

This etext was produced by John Mamoun and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team of Charles Franks. HAYDN by J. Cuthbert Hadden TABLE OF CONTENTS: DEDICATION PREFACE TEXT OF “HAYDN,” FROM THE MASTER MUSICIANS SERIES Chapter I: Birth–Ancestry–Early Years Chapter II: Vienna–1750-1760 Chapter III: Eisenstadt–1761-1766 Chapter IV: Esterhaz–1766-1790 Chapter V: First London Visit–1791-1792 Chapter VI: Second
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  • 1902
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This etext was produced by John Mamoun and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team of Charles Franks.


by J. Cuthbert Hadden



Chapter I: Birth–Ancestry–Early Years Chapter II: Vienna–1750-1760
Chapter III: Eisenstadt–1761-1766 Chapter IV: Esterhaz–1766-1790
Chapter V: First London Visit–1791-1792 Chapter VI: Second London Visit–1794-1795 Chapter VII: “The Creation” and “The Seasons” Chapter VIII: Last Years
Chapter IX: Haydn, the Man
Chapter X: Haydn, the Composer
Appendix A: Haydn’s Last Will and Testament Appendix B: Catalogue of Works
Appendix C: Bibliography
Appendix D: Haydn’s Brothers
Appendix E: A Selection of Haydn’s Letters



The Rev. Robert Blair, D.D.
In Grateful Acknowledgment of
Many Kindnesses and Much
Pleasant Intercourse


The authority for Haydn’s life is the biography begun by the late Dr Pohl, and completed after his death by E.V. Mandyczewski. To this work, as yet untranslated, every subsequent writer is necessarily indebted, and the present volume, which I may fairly claim to be the fullest life of Haydn that has so far appeared in English, is largely based upon Pohl. I am also under obligations to Miss Pauline D. Townsend, the author of the monograph in the “Great Musicians” series. For the rest, I trust I have acquainted myself with all the more important references made to Haydn in contemporary records and in the writings of those who knew him. Finally, I have endeavoured to tell the story of his career simply and directly, to give a clear picture of the man, and to discuss the composer without trenching on the ground of the formalist.


EDINBURGH, September 1902.




Introductory–Rohrau–A Poor Home–Genealogy–Haydn’s Parents– His Birth–His Precocity–Informal Music-making–His First Teacher–Hainburg–“A Regular Little Urchin”–Attacks the Drum– A Piece of Good Luck–A Musical Examination–Goes to Vienna–Choir School of St Stephen’s–A House of Suffering–Lessons at the Cathedral–A Sixteen-Part Mass–Juvenile Escapades–“Sang like a Crow”–Dismissed from the Choir.

Haydn’s position, alike in music and in musical biography, is almost unique. With the doubtful exception of Sebastian Bach, no composer of the first rank ever enjoyed a more tranquil career. Bach was not once outside his native Germany; Haydn left Austria only to make those visits to England which had so important an influence on the later manifestations of his genius: His was a long, sane, sound, and on the whole, fortunate existence. For many years he was poor and obscure, but if he had his time of trial, he never experienced a time of failure. With practical wisdom he conquered the Fates and became eminent. A hard, struggling youth merged into an easy middle-age, and late years found him in comfortable circumstances, with a solid reputation as an artist, and a solid retiring-allowance from a princely patron, whose house he had served for the better part of his working career. Like Goethe and Wordsworth, he lived out all his life. He was no Marcellus, shown for one brief moment and “withdrawn before his springtime had brought forth the fruits of summer.” His great contemporary, Mozart, cut off while yet his light was crescent, is known to posterity only by the products of his early manhood. Haydn’s sun set at the end of a long day, crowning his career with a golden splendour whose effulgence still brightens the ever-widening realm of music.

Voltaire once said of Dante that his reputation was becoming greater and greater because no one ever read him. Haydn’s reputation is not of that kind. It is true that he may not appeal to what has been called the “fevered modern soul,” but there is an old-world charm about him which is specially grateful in our bustling, nerve-destroying, bilious age. He is still known as “Papa Haydn,” and the name, to use Carlyle’s phrase, is “significant of much.” In the history of the art his position is of the first importance. He was the father of instrumental music. He laid the foundations of the modern symphony and sonata, and established the basis of the modern orchestra. Without him, artistically speaking, Beethoven would have been impossible. He seems to us now a figure of a very remote past, so great have been the changes in the world of music since he lived. But his name will always be read in the golden book of classical music; and whatever the evolutionary processes of the art may bring, the time can hardly come when he will be forgotten, his works unheard.


Franz Joseph Haydn was born at the little market-town of Rohrau, near Prugg, on the confines of Austria and Hungary, some two-and-a-half hours’ railway journey from Vienna. The Leitha, which flows along the frontier of Lower Austria and Hungary on its way to the Danube, runs near, and the district

[Figure: Haydn’s birth-house at Rohrau]

is flat and marshy. The house in which the composer was born had been built by his father. Situated at the end of the market-place, it was in frequent danger from inundation; and although it stood in Haydn’s time with nothing worse befalling it than a flooding now and again, it has twice since been swept away, first in 1813, fours years after Haydn’s death, and again in 1833. It was carefully rebuilt on each occasion, and still stands for the curious to see–a low-roofed cottage, very much as it was when the composer of “The Creation” first began to be “that various thing called man.” A fire unhappily did some damage to the building in 1899. But excepting that the picturesque thatched roof has given place to a covering of less inflammable material, the “Zum Haydn” presents its extensive frontage to the road, just as it did of yore. Our illustration shows it exactly as it is to-day. [See an interesting account of a visit to the cottage after the fire, in The Musical Times for July 1899.] Schindler relates that when Beethoven, shortly before his death, was shown a print of the cottage, sent to him by Diabelli, he remarked: “Strange that so great a man should have been born in so poor a home!” Beethoven’s relations with Haydn, as we shall see later on, were at one time somewhat strained; but the years had softened his asperity, and this indirect tribute to his brother composer may readily be accepted as a set-off to some things that the biographer of the greater genius would willingly forget.

A Poor Home

It was indeed a poor home into which Haydn had been born; but tenderness, piety, thrift and orderliness were there, and probably the happiest part of his career was that which he spent in the tiny, dim-lighted rooms within sound of Leitha’s waters.

In later life, when his name had been inscribed on the roll of fame, he looked back to the cottage at Rohrau, “sweet through strange years,” with a kind of mingled pride and pathetic regret. Flattered by the great and acclaimed by the devotees of his art, he never felt ashamed of his lowly origin. On the contrary, he boasted of it. He was proud, as he said, of having “made something out of nothing.” He does not seem to have been often at Rohrau after he was launched into the world, a stripling not yet in his teens. But he retained a fond memory of his birthplace. When in 1795 he was invited to inspect a monument erected to his honour in the grounds of Castle Rohrau, he knelt down on the threshold of the old home by the market-place and kissed the ground his feet had trod in the far-away days of youth. When he came to make his will, his thoughts went back to Rohrau, and one of his bequests provided for two of its poorest orphans.


Modern theories of heredity and the origin of genius find but scanty illustration in the case of Haydn. Unlike the ancestors of Bach and Beethoven and Mozart, his family, so far as the pedigrees show, had as little of genius, musical or other, in their composition, as the families of Shakespeare and Cervantes. In the male line they were hard-working, honest tradesmen, totally undistinguished even in their sober walk in life. They came originally from Hainburg, where Haydn’s great-grandfather, Kaspar, had been among the few to escape massacre when the town was stormed by the Turks in July 1683. The composer’s father, Matthias Haydn, was, like most of his brothers, a wheelwright, combining with his trade the office of parish sexton. He belonged to the better peasant class, and, though ignorant as we should now regard him, was yet not without a tincture of artistic taste. He had been to Frankfort during his “travelling years,” and had there picked up some little information of a miscellaneous kind. “He was a great lover of music by nature,” says his famous son, “and played the harp without knowing a note of music.” He had a fine tenor voice, and when the day’s toil was over he would gather his household around him and set them singing to his well-meant accompaniment.

Haydn’s Mother

It is rather a pretty picture that the imagination here conjures up, but it does not help us very much in trying to account for the musical genius of the composer. Even the popular idea that genius is derived from the mother does not hold in Haydn’s case. If Frau Haydn had a genius for anything it was merely for moral excellence and religion and the good management of her household. Like Leigh Hunt’s mother, however, she was “fond of music, and a gentle singer in her way”; and more than one intimate of Haydn in his old age declared that he still knew by heart all the simple airs which she had been wont to lilt about the house. The maiden name of this estimable woman was Marie Koller. She was a daughter of the Marktrichter (market judge), and had been a cook in the family of Count Harrach, one of the local magnates. Eight years younger than her husband, she was just twenty-one at her marriage, and bore him twelve children. Haydn’s regard for her was deep and sincere; and it was one of the tricks of destiny that she was not spared to witness more of his rising fame, being cut off in 1754, when she was only forty-six. Matthias Haydn promptly married again, and had a second family of five children, all of whom died in infancy. The stepmother survived her husband–who died, as the result of an accident, in 1763–and then she too entered a second time into the wedded state. Haydn can never have been very intimate with her, and he appears to have lost sight of her entirely in her later years. But he bequeathed a small sum to her in his will, “to be transferred to her children should she be no longer alive.”


Joseph Haydn, to give the composer the name which he now usually bears, was the second of the twelve children born to the Rohrau wheelwright. The exact date of his birth is uncertain, but it was either the 31st of March or the 1st of April 1732. Haydn himself gave the latter as the correct date, alleging that his brother Michael had fixed upon the previous day to save him from being called an April fool! Probably we shall not be far off the mark if we assume with Pohl that Haydn was born in the night between the 31st of March and the 1st of April.

His Precocity

Very few details have come down to us in regard to his earlier years; and such details as we have refer almost wholly to his musical precocity. It was not such a precocity as that of Mozart, who was playing minuets at the age of four, and writing concertos when he was five; but just on that account it is all the more credible. One’s sympathies are with the frank Philistine who pooh-poohs the tales told of baby composers, and hints that they must have been a trial to their friends. Precocious they no doubt were; but precocity often evaporates before it can become genius, leaving a sediment of disappointed hopes and vain ambitions. In literature, as Mr Andrew Lang has well observed, genius may show itself chiefly in acquisition, as in Sir Walter Scott, who, as a boy, was packing all sorts of lore into a singularly capacious mind, while doing next to nothing that was noticeable. In music it is different. Various learning is not so important as a keenly sensitive organism. The principal thing is emotion, duly ordered by the intellect, not intellect touched by emotion. Haydn’s precocity at any rate was of this sort. It proclaimed itself in a quick impressionableness to sound, a delicately-strung ear, and an acute perception of rhythm.

Informal Music-Making

We have seen how the father had his musical evenings with his harp and the voices of wife and children. These informal rehearsals were young Haydn’s delight. We hear more particularly of his attempts at music-making by sawing away upon a piece of stick at his father’s side, pretending to play the violin like the village schoolmaster under whom he was now learning his rudiments. The parent was hugely pleased at these manifestations of musical talent in his son. He had none of the absurd, old-world ideas of Surgeon Handel as to the degrading character of the divine art, but encouraged the youngster in every possible way. Already he dreamt–what father of a clever boy has not done the same?–that Joseph would in some way or other make the family name famous; and although it is said that like his wife, he had notions of the boy becoming a priest, he took the view that his progress towards holy orders would be helped rather than hindered by the judicious cultivation of his undoubted taste for music.

His First Teacher

While these thoughts were passing through his head, the chance visit of a relation practically decided young Haydn’s future. His grandmother, being left a widow, had married a journeyman wheelwright, Matthias Seefranz, and one of their children married a schoolmaster, Johann Matthias Frankh. Frankh combined with the post of pedagogue that of choir-regent at Hainburg, the ancestral home of the Haydns, some four leagues from Rohrau. He came occasionally to Rohrau to see his relatives, and one day he surprised Haydn keeping strict time to the family music on his improvised fiddle. Some discussion following about the boy’s unmistakable talent, the schoolmaster generously offered to take him to Hainburg that he might learn “the first elements of music and other juvenile acquirements.” The father was pleased; the mother, hesitating at first, gave her reluctant approval, and Haydn left the family home never to return, except on a flying visit. This was in 1738, when he was six years of age.


The town of Hainburg lies close to the Danube, and looks very picturesque with its old walls and towers. According to the Nibelungen Lied, King Attila once spent a night in the place, and a stone figure of that “scourge of God” forms a feature of the Hainburg Wiener Thor, a rock rising abruptly from the river, crowned with the ruined Castle of Rottenstein. The town cannot be very different from what it was in Haydn’s time, except perhaps that there is now a tobacco manufactory, which gives employment to some 2000 hands.

It is affecting to think of the little fellow of six dragged away from his home and his mother’s watchful care to be planted down here among strange surroundings and a strange people. That he was not very happy we might have assumed in any case. But there were, unfortunately, some things to render him more unhappy than he need have been. Frankh’s intentions were no doubt excellent; but neither in temper nor in character was he a fit guardian and instructor of youth. He got into trouble with the authorities more than once for neglect of his duties, and had to answer a charge of gambling with loaded dice. As a teacher he was of that stern disciplinarian kind which believes in lashing instruction into the pupil with the “tingling rod.” Haydn says he owed him more cuffs than gingerbread.

“A Regular Little Urchin”

What he owed to the schoolmaster’s wife may be inferred from the fact that she compelled him to wear a wig “for the sake of cleanliness.” All his life through Haydn was most particular about his personal appearance, and when quite an old man it pained him greatly to recall the way in which he was neglected by Frau Frankh. “I could not help perceiving,” he remarked to Dies, “much to my distress, that I was gradually getting very dirty, and though I thought a good deal of my little person, was not always able to avoid spots of dirt on my clothes, of which I was dreadfully ashamed. In fact, I was a regular little urchin.” Perhaps we should not be wrong in surmising that the old man was here reading into his childhood the habits and sentiments of his later years. Young boys of his class are not usually deeply concerned about grease spots or disheveled hair.

Attacks the Drum

At all events, if deplorably neglected in these personal matters, he was really making progress with his art. Under Frankh’s tuition he attained to some proficiency on the violin and the harpsichord, and his voice was so improved that, as an early biographer puts it, he was able to “sing at the parish desk in a style which spread his reputation through the canton.” Haydn himself, going back upon these days in a letter of 1779, says: “Our Almighty Father (to whom above all I owe the most profound gratitude) had endowed me with so much facility in music that even in my sixth year I was bold enough to sing some masses in the choir.” He was bold enough to attempt something vastly more ponderous. A drummer being wanted for a local procession, Haydn undertook to play the part. Unluckily, he was so small of stature that the instrument had to be carried before him on the back of a colleague! That the colleague happened to be a hunchback only made the incident more ludicrous. But Haydn had rather a partiality for the drum–a satisfying instrument, as Mr George Meredith says, because of its rotundity–and, as we shall learn when we come to his visits to London, he could handle the instrument well enough to astonish the members of Salomon’s orchestra. According to Pohl, the particular instrument upon which he performed on the occasion of the Hainburg procession is still preserved in the choir of the church there.

Hard as these early years must have been, Haydn recognized in after-life that good had mingled with the ill. His master’s harshness had taught him patience and self-reliance. “I shall be grateful to Frankh as long as I live,” he said to Griesinger, “for keeping me so hard at work.” He always referred to Frankh as “my first instructor,” and, like Handel with Zachau, he acknowledged his indebtedness in a practical way by bequeathing to Frankh’s daughter, then married, 100 florins and a portrait of her father–a bequest which she missed by dying four years before the composer himself.

A Piece of Good Fortune

Haydn had been two years with Frankh when an important piece of good fortune befell him. At the time of which we are writing the Court Capellmeister at Vienna was George Reutter, an inexhaustible composer of church music, whose works, now completely forgotten, once had a great vogue in all the choirs of the Imperial States. Even in 1823 Beethoven, who was to write a mass for the Emperor Francis, was recommended to adopt the style of this frilled and periwigged pedant! Reutter’s father had been for many years Capellmeister at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, and on his death, in 1738, the son succeeded to the post. He had not been long established in the office when he started on a tour of search for choristers. Arriving at Hainburg, he heard from the local pastor of Haydn’s “weak but pleasing voice,” and immediately had the young singer before him.

A Musical Examination

The story of the examination is rather amusing. Reutter gave the little fellow a canon to sing at first sight. The boy went though the thing triumphantly, and the delighted Reutter cried “Bravo!” as he flung a handful of cherries into Haydn’s cap. But there was one point on which Reutter was not quite satisfied. “How is it, my little man,” he said, “that you cannot shake?” “How can you expect me to shake,” replied the enfant terrible, “when Herr Frankh himself cannot shake?” The great man was immensely tickled by the ready retort, and, drawing the child towards him, he taught him how to make the vibrations in his throat required to produce the ornament. The boy picked up the trick at once. It was the final decision of his fate. Reutter saw that here was a recruit worth having, and he lost no time in getting the parents’ sanction to carry him off to Vienna. In the father’s case this was easily managed, but the mother only yielded when it was pointed out that her son’s singing in the cathedral choir did not necessarily mean the frustration of her hopes of seeing him made a priest.

Goes to Vienna

Thus, some time in the year 1740, Reutter marched away from Hainburg with the little Joseph, and Hainburg knew the little Joseph no more. Vienna was now to be his home for ten long years of dreary pupilage and genteel starvation. In those days, and for long after, St Stephen’s Cathedral was described as “the first church in the empire,” and it is still, with its magnificent spire, the most important edifice in Vienna. Erected in 1258 and 1276 on the site of a church dating from 1144, it was not finally completed until 1446. It is in the form of a Latin cross, and is 355 feet long. The roof is covered with coloured tiles, and the rich groined vaulting is borne by eighteen massive pillars, adorned with more than a hundred statuettes. Since 1852 the building has been thoroughly restored, but in all essentials it remains as it was when Haydn sang in it as a choir-boy.

The Choir School of St Stephen’s

Many interesting details have been printed regarding the Choir School of St Stephen’s and its routine in Haydn’s time. They have been well summarized by one of his biographers. [See Miss Townsend’s Haydn, p. 9.] The Cantorei was of very ancient foundation. Mention is made of it as early as 1441, and its constitution may be gathered from directions given regarding it about the period 1558-1571. It was newly constituted in 1663, and many alterations were made then and afterwards, but in Haydn’s day it was still practically what it had been for nearly a century before. The school consisted of a cantor (made Capellmeister in 1663), a sub-cantor, two ushers and six scholars. They all resided together, and had meals in common; and although ample allowance had originally been made for the board, lodging and clothing of the scholars, the increased cost of living resulted in the boys of Haydn’s time being poorly fed and scantily clad. They were instructed in “religion and Latin, together with the ordinary subjects of school education, and in music, the violin, clavier, and singing.” The younger scholars were taken in hand by those more advanced. The routine would seem to us now to be somewhat severe. There were two full choral services daily in the cathedral. Special Te Deums were constantly sung, and the boys had to take part in the numerous solemn processions of religious brotherhoods through the city, as well as in the services for royal birthdays and other such occasions. During Holy Week the labours of the choir were continuous. Children’s processions were very frequent, and Haydn’s delight in after years at the performance of the charity children in St Paul’s may have been partly owing to the reminiscences of early days which it awakened.

A House of Suffering

But these details are aside from our main theme. The chapel-house of St Stephen’s was now the home of our little Joseph. It ought to have been a happy home of instruction, but it was, alas! a house of suffering. Reutter did not devote even ordinary care to his pupil, and from casual lessons in musical theory he drifted into complete neglect. Haydn afterwards declared that he had never had more than two lessons in composition from Reutter, who was, moreover, harsh and cruel and unfeeling, laughing at his pupil’s groping attempts, and chastising him on the slightest pretext. It has been hinted that the Capellmeister was jealous of his young charge–that he was “afraid of finding a rival in the pupil.” But this is highly improbable. Haydn had not as yet shown any unusual gifts likely to excite the envy of his superior. There is more probability in the other suggestion that Reutter was piqued at not having been allowed by Haydn’s father to perpetuate the boy’s fine voice by the ancient method of emasculation. The point, in any case, is not of very much importance. It is sufficient to observe that Reutter’s name survives mainly in virtue of the fact that he tempted Haydn to Vienna with the promise of special instruction, and gave him practically nothing of that, but a great deal of ill-usage.

Lessons at St Stephen’s

Haydn was supposed to have lessons from two undistinguished professors named Gegenbauer and Finsterbusch. But it all amounted to very little. There was the regular drilling for the church services, to be sure: solfeggi and psalms, psalms and solfeggi–always apt to degenerate, under a pedant, into the dreariest of mechanical routine. How many a sweet-voiced chorister, even in our own days, reaches manhood with a love for music? It needs music in his soul. Haydn’s soul withstood the numbing influence of pedantry. He realized that it lay with himself to develop and nurture the powers within his breast of which he was conscious. “The talent was in me,” he remarked, “and by dint of hard work I managed to get on.” Shortly before his death, when he happened to be in Vienna for some church festival, he had an opportunity of speaking to the choir-boys of that time. “I was once a singing boy,” he said. “Reutter brought me from Hainburg to Vienna. I was industrious when my companions were at play. I used to take my little clavier under my arm, and go off to practice undisturbed. When I sang a solo, the baker near St Stephen’s yonder always gave me a cake as a present. Be good and industrious, and serve God continually.”

A Sixteen-Part Mass!

It is pathetic to think of the boy assiduously scratching innumerable notes on scraps of music paper, striving with yet imperfect knowledge to express himself, and hoping that by some miracle of inspiration something like music might come out of it. “I thought it must be all right if the paper was nice and full,” he said. He even went the length of trying to write a mass in sixteen parts–an effort which Reutter rewarded with a shrug and a sneer, and the sarcastic suggestion that for the present two parts might be deemed sufficient, and that he had better perfect his copying of music before trying to compose it. But Haydn was not to be snubbed and snuffed out in this way. He appealed to his father for money to buy some theory books. There was not too much money at Rohrau, we may be sure, for the family was always increasing, and petty economies were necessary. But the wheelwright managed to send the boy six florins, and that sum was immediately expended on Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum and Mattheson’s Volkommener Capellmeister–heavy, dry treatises both, which have long since gone to the musical antiquary’s top shelf among the dust and the cobwebs. These “dull and verbose dampers to enthusiasm” Haydn made his constant companions, in default of a living instructor, and, like Longfellow’s “great men,” toiled upwards in the night, while less industrious mortals snored.

Juvenile Escapades

Meanwhile his native exuberance and cheerfulness of soul were irrepressible. Several stories are told of the schoolboy escapades he enjoyed with his fellow choristers. One will suffice here. He used to boast that he had sung with success at Court as well as in St Stephen’s. This meant that he had made one of the choir when visits were paid to the Palace of Schonbrunn, where the Empress Maria and her Court resided. On the occasion of one of these visits the palace was in the hands of the builders, and the scaffolding presented the usual temptation to the youngsters. “The empress,” to quote Pohl, “had caught them climbing it many a time, but her threats and prohibitions had no effect. One day when Haydn was balancing himself aloft, far above his schoolfellows, the empress saw him from the windows, and requested her Hofcompositor to take care that ‘that fair-headed blockhead,’ the ringleader of them all, got ‘einen recenten Schilling’ (slang for ‘a good hiding’).” The command was only too willingly obeyed by the obsequious Reutter, who by this time had been ennobled, and rejoiced in the addition of “von” to his name. Many years afterwards, when the empress was on a visit to Prince Esterhazy, the “fair-headed blockhead” took the cruel delight of thanking her for this rather questionable mark of Imperial favour!

“Sang like a Crow”

As a matter of fact, the empress, however she may have thought of Haydn the man, showed herself anything but considerate to Haydn the choir-boy. The future composer’s younger brother, Michael, had now arrived in Vienna, and had been admitted to the St Stephen’s choir. His voice is said to have been “stronger and of better quality” than Joseph’s, which had almost reached the “breaking” stage; and the empress, complaining to Reutter that Joseph “sang like a crow,” the complacent choirmaster put Michael in his place. The empress was so pleased with the change that she personally complimented Michael, and made him a present of 24 ducats.

Dismissed from St Stephen’s

One thing leads to another. Reutter, it is obvious, did not like Haydn, and any opportunity of playing toady to the empress was too good to be lost. Unfortunately Haydn himself provided the opportunity. Having become possessed of a new pair of scissors, he was itching to try their quality. The pig-tail of the chorister sitting before him offered an irresistible attraction; one snip and lo! the plaited hair lay at his feet. Discipline must be maintained; and Reutter sentenced the culprit to be caned on the hand. This was too great an indignity for poor Joseph, by this time a youth of seventeen–old enough, one would have thought, to have forsworn such boyish mischief. He declared that he would rather leave the cathedral service than submit. “You shall certainly leave,” retorted the Capellmeister, “but you must be caned first.” And so, having received his caning, Haydn was sent adrift on the streets of Vienna, a broken-voiced chorister, without a coin in his pocket, and with only poverty staring him in the face. This was in November 1749.



Vienna–The Forlorn Ex-Chorister–A Good Samaritan–Haydn Enskied–Street Serenades–Joins a Pilgrim Party–An Unconditional Loan–“Attic” Studies–An Early Composition– Metastasio–A Noble Pupil–Porpora–Menial Duties–Emanuel Bach– Haydn his Disciple–Violin Studies–Attempts at “Programme” Music–First Opera–An Aristocratic Appointment–Taken for an Impostor–A Count’s Capellmeister–Falls in Love–Marries– His Wife.


The Vienna into which Haydn was thus cast, a friendless and forlorn youth of seventeen, was not materially different from the Vienna of to-day. While the composer was still living, one who had made his acquaintance wrote of the city: “Represent to yourself an assemblage of palaces and very neat houses, inhabited by the most opulent families of one of the greatest monarchies in Europe–by the only noblemen to whom that title may still be with justice applied. The women here are attractive; a brilliant complexion adorns an elegant form; the natural but sometimes languishing and tiresome air of the ladies of the north of Germany is mingled with a little coquetry and address, the effect of the presence of a numerous Court…In a word, pleasure has taken possession of every heart.” This was written when Haydn was old and famous; it might have been written when his name was yet unknown.

Vienna was essentially a city of pleasure–a city inhabited by “a proud and wealthy nobility, a prosperous middle class, and a silent, if not contented, lower class.” In 1768, Leopold Mozart, the father of the composer, declared that the Viennese public had no love of anything serious or sensible; “they cannot even understand it, and their theatres furnish abundant proof that nothing but utter trash, such as dances, burlesques, harlequinades, ghost tricks, and devils’ antics will go down with them.” There is, no doubt, a touch of exaggeration in all this, but it is sufficiently near the truth to let us understand the kind of attention which the disgraced chorister of St Stephen’s was likely to receive from the musical world of Vienna. It was Vienna, we may recall, which dumped Mozart into a pauper’s grave, and omitted even to mark the spot.

The Forlorn Ex-Chorister

Young Haydn, then, was wandering, weary and perplexed, through its streets, with threadbare clothes on his back and nothing in his purse. There was absolutely no one to whom he could think of turning. He might, indeed, have taken the road to Rohrau and been sure of a warm welcome from his humble parents there. But there were good reasons why he should not make himself a burden on them; and, moreover, he probably feared that at home he would run some risk of being tempted to abandon his cherished profession. Frau Haydn had not yet given up the hope of seeing her boy made a priest, and though we have no definite information that Haydn himself felt a decided aversion to taking orders, it is evident that he was disinclined to hazard the danger of domestic pressure. He had now finally made up his mind that he would be a composer; but he saw clearly enough that, for the present, he must work, and work, too, not for fame, but for bread.

A Good Samaritan

Musing on these things while still parading the streets, tired and hungry, he met one Spangler, a tenor singer of his acquaintance, who earned a pittance at the Church of St Michael. Spangler was a poor man–but it is ever the poor who are most helpful to each other–and, taking pity on the dejected outcast, he invited Haydn to share his garret rooms along with his wife and child. It is regrettable that nothing more is known of this good Samaritan–one of those obscure benefactors who go through the world doing little acts of kindness, never perhaps even suspecting how far-reaching will be the results. He must have died before Haydn, otherwise his name would certainly have appeared in his will.

Haydn Enskied

Haydn remained with Spangler in that “ghastly garret” all through the winter of 1749-1750. He has been commiserated on the garret– needlessly, to be sure. Garrets are famous, in literary annals at any rate; and is it not Leigh Hunt who reminds us that the top story is healthier than the basement? The poor poet in Pope, who lay high in Drury Lane, “lull’d by soft zephyrs through the broken pane,” found profit, doubtless, in his “neighbourhood with the stars.” However that may be, there, in Spangler’s attic, was Haydn enskied, eager for work–work of any kind, so long as it had fellowship with music and brought him the bare means of subsistence.

“Scanning his whole horizon
In quest of what he could clap eyes on,”

he sought any and every means of making money. He tried to get teaching, with what success has not been recorded. He sang in choirs, played at balls and weddings and baptisms, made “arrangements” for anybody who would employ him, and in short drudged very much as Wagner did at the outset of his tempestuous career.

Street Serenades

He even took part in street serenades by playing the violin. This last was not a very dignified occupation; but it is important to remember that serenading in Vienna was not the lover’s business of Italy and Spain, where the singer is accompanied by guitar or mandoline. It was a much more serious entertainment. It dated from the seventeenth century, if we are to trust Praetorius, and consisted of solos and concerted vocal music in various forms, accompanied sometimes by full orchestra and sometimes by wind instruments alone. Great composers occasionally honoured their patrons and friends with the serenade; and composers who hoped to be great found it advantageous as a means of gaining a hearing for their works. It proved of some real service to Haydn later on, but in the meantime it does not appear to have swelled his lean purse. With all his industry he fell into the direst straits now and again, and was more than once driven into wild projects by sheer stress of hunger.

Joins a Pilgrim Party

One curious story is told of a journey to Mariazell, in Styria. This picturesquely-situated village has been for many years the most frequented shrine in Austria. To-day it is said to be visited by something like 100,000 pilgrims every year. The object of adoration is the miraculous image of the Madonna and Child, twenty inches high, carved in lime-wood, which was presented to the Mother Church of Mariazell in 1157 by a Benedictine priest. Haydn was a devout Catholic, and not improbably knew all about Mariazell and its Madonna. At any rate, he joined a company of pilgrims, and on arrival presented himself to the local choirmaster for admission, showing the official some of his compositions, and telling of his eight years’ training at St Stephen’s. The choirmaster was not impressed. “I have had enough of lazy rascals from Vienna,” said he. “Be off!” But Haydn, after coming so far, was not to be dismissed so unceremoniously. He smuggled himself into the choir, pleaded with the solo singer of the day to be allowed to act as his deputy, and, when this was refused, snatched the music from the singer’s hand, and took up the solo at the right moment with such success that “all the choir held their breath to listen.” At the close of the service the choirmaster sent for him, and, apologizing for his previous rude behaviour, invited him to his house for the day. The invitation extended to a week, and Haydn returned to Vienna with money enough–the result of a subscription among the choir–to serve his immediate needs.

An Unconditional Loan

But it would have been strange if, in a musical city like Vienna, a youth of Haydn’s gifts had been allowed to starve. Slowly but surely he made his way, and people who could help began to hear of him. The most notable of his benefactors at this time was a worthy tradesman named Buchholz, who made him an unconditional loan of 150 florins. An echo of this unexpected favour is heard long years after in the composer’s will, where we read: “To Fraulein Anna Buchholz, 100 florins, inasmuch as in my youth her grandfather lent me 150 florins when I greatly needed them, which, however, I repaid fifty years ago.”

“Attic” Studies

One hundred and fifty florins was no great sum assuredly, but at this time it was a small fortune to Haydn. He was able to do a good many things with it. First of all, he took a lodging for himself–another attic! Spangler had been very kind, but he could not give the young musician the privacy needed for study. It chanced that there was a room vacant, “nigh to the gods and the clouds,” in the old Michaelerhaus in the Kohlmarkt, and Haydn rented it. It was not a very comfortable room–just big enough to allow the poor composer to turn about. It was dimly lighted. It “contained no stove, and the roof was in such bad repair that the rain and the snow made unceremonious entry and drenched the young artist in his bed. In winter the water in his jug froze so hard during the night that he had to go and draw direct from the well.” For neighbours he had successively a journeyman printer, a footman and a cook. These were not likely to respect his desire for quiet, but the mere fact of his having a room all to himself made him oblivious of external annoyances. As he expressed it, he was “too happy to envy the lot of kings.” He had his old, worm-eaten spinet, and his health and his good spirits; and although he was still poor and unknown, he was “making himself all the time,” like Sir Walter Scott in Liddesdale.

An Early Composition

Needless to say, he was composing a great deal. Much of his manuscript was, of course, torn up or consigned to the flames, but one piece of work survived. This was his first Mass in F (No. 11 in Novello’s edition), erroneously dated by some writers 1742. It shows signs of immaturity and inexperience, but when Haydn in his old age came upon the long-forgotten score he was so far from being displeased with it that he rearranged the music, inserting additional wind parts. One biographer sees in this procedure “a striking testimony to the genius of the lad of eighteen.” We need not read it in that way. It rather shows a natural human tenderness for his first work, a weakness, some might call it, but even so, more pardonable than the weakness–well illustrated by some later instances–of hunting out early productions and publishing them without a touch of revision.


It was presumably by mere chance that in that same rickety Michaelerhaus there lived at this date not only the future composer of “The Creation,” but the Scribe of the eighteenth century, the poet and opera librettist, Metastasio. Born in 1698, the son of humble parents, this distinguished writer had, like Haydn, suffered from “the eternal want of pence.” A precocious boy, he had improvised verses and recited them on the street, and fame came to him only after long and weary years of waiting. In 1729 he was appointed Court poet to the theatre at Vienna, for which he wrote several of his best pieces, and when he made Haydn’s acquaintance his reputation was high throughout the whole of Europe. Naturally, he did not live so near the clouds as Haydn–his rooms were on the third story–but he heard somehow of the friendless, penniless youth in the attic, and immediately resolved to do what he could to further his interests. This, as events proved, was by no means inconsiderable.

A Noble Pupil

Metastasio had been entrusted with the education of Marianne von Martinez, the daughter of a Spanish gentleman who was Master of the Ceremonies to the Apostolic Nuncio. The young lady required a musicmaster, and the poet engaged Haydn to teach her the harpsichord, in return for which service he was to receive free board. Fraulein Martinez became something of a musical celebrity. When she was only seventeen she had a mass performed at St Michael’s Church, Vienna. She was a favourite of the Empress Maria Theresa, and is extolled by Burney–who speaks of her “marvelous accuracy” in the writing of English–as a singer and a player, almost as highly as Gluck’s niece. Her name finds a place in the biographies of Mozart, who, at her musical receptions, used to take part with her in duets of her own composition. Several of her manuscripts are still in the possession of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Something of her musical distinction ought certainly to be attributed to Haydn, who gave her daily lessons for three years, during which time he was comfortably housed with the family.


It was through Metastasio, too, that he was introduced to Niccolo Porpora, the famous singing-master who taught the great Farinelli, and whose name is sufficiently familiar from its connection with an undertaking set on foot by Handel’s enemies in London. Porpora seems at this time to have ruled Vienna as a sort of musical director and privileged censor, to have been, in fact, what Rossini was for many years in Paris. He was giving lessons to the mistress of Correr, the Venetian ambassador–a “rare musical enthusiast”–and he employed Haydn to act as accompanist during the lessons.

Menial Duties

We get a curious insight into the social conditions of the musicians of this time in the bearing of Haydn towards Porpora and his pupil. That Haydn should become the instructor of Fraulein Martinez in no way compromised his dignity; nor can any reasonable objection be raised against his filling the post of, accompanist to the ambassador’s mistress. But what shall be said of his being transported to the ambassador’s summer quarters at Mannersdorf, and doing duty there for six ducats a month and his board–at the servants’ table? The reverend author of Music and Morals answers by reminding us that in those days musicians were not the confidential advisers of kings like Wagner, rich banker’s sons like Meyerbeer, private gentlemen like Mendelssohn, and members of the Imperial Parliament like Verdi. They were “poor devils” like Haydn. Porpora was a great man, no doubt, in his own metier. But it is surely odd to hear of Haydn acting the part of very humble servant to the singing-master; blackening his boots and trimming his wig, and brushing his coat, and running his errands, and playing his accompaniments! Let us, however, remember Haydn’s position and circumstances. He was a poor man. He had never received any regular tuition such as Handel received from Zachau, Mozart from his father, and Mendelssohn from Zelter. He had to pick up his instruction as he went along; and if he felt constrained to play the lackey to Porpora, it was only with the object of receiving in return something which would help to fit him for his profession. As he naively said, “I improved greatly in singing, composition, and Italian.” [The relations of Haydn and Porpora are sketched in George Sand’s “Consuelo.”]

Emanuel Bach

In the meantime he was carrying on his private studies with the greatest assiduity. His Fux and his Mattheson had served their turn, and he had now supplemented them by the first six Clavier Sonatas of Philipp Emanuel Bach, the third son of the great composer. The choice may seem curious when we remember that Haydn had at his hand all the music of Handel and Bach, and the masters of the old contrapuntal school. But it was wisely made. The simple, well-balanced form of Emanuel Bach’s works “acted as well as a master’s guidance upon him, and led him to the first steps in that style of writing which was afterwards one of his greatest glories.” The point is admirably put by Sir Hubert Parry. He says, in effect, that what Haydn had to build upon, and what was most congenial to him, through his origin and circumstances, was the popular songs and dances of his native land, which, in the matter of structure, belong to the same order of art as symphonies and sonatas; and how this kind of music could be made on a grander scale was what he wanted to discover. The music of Handel and Bach leaned too much towards the style of the choral music and organ music of the church to serve him as a model. For their art was essentially contrapuntal–the combination of several parts each of equal importance with the rest, each in a sense pursuing its own course. In modern music the essential principle is harmonic: the chords formed by the combination of parts are derived and developed in reference to roots and keys. In national dances few harmonies are used, but they are arranged on the same principles as the harmonies of a sonata or a symphony; and “what had to be found out in order to make grand instrumental works was how to arrange more harmonies with the same effect of unity as is obtained on a small scale in dances and national songs.” Haydn, whose music contains many reminiscences of popular folk-song, had in him the instinct for this kind of art; and the study of Philipp Emanuel’s works taught him how to direct his energies in the way that was most agreeable to him.

A Disciple of Emanuel Bach

Although much has been written about Emanuel Bach, it is probable that the full extent of his genius remains yet to be recognized. He was the greatest clavier player, teacher and accompanist of his day; a master of form, and the pioneer of a style which was a complete departure from that of his father. Haydn’s enthusiasm for him can easily be explained. “I did not leave the clavier till I had mastered all his six sonatas,” he says, “and those who know me well must be aware that I owe very much to Emanuel Bach, whose works I understand and have thoroughly studied. Emanuel Bach himself once complimented me on this fact.” When Haydn began to make a name Bach hailed him with delight as a disciple, and took occasion to send him word that, “he alone had thoroughly comprehended his works and made a proper use of them.”

This is a sufficient answer to the absurd statement which has been made, and is still sometimes repeated, that Bach was jealous of the young composer and abused him to his friends. A writer in the European Magazine for October 1784, says that Bach was “amongst the number of professors who wrote against our rising author.” He mentions others as doing the same thing, and then continues: “The only notice Haydn took of their scurrility and abuse was to publish lessons written in imitation of the several styles of his enemies, in which their peculiarities were so closely copied and their extraneous passages (particularly those of Bach of Hamburg) so inimitably burlesqued, that they all felt the poignancy of his musical wit, confessed its truth, and were silent.” Further on we read that the sonatas of Ops. 13 and 14 were “expressly composed in order to ridicule Bach of Hamburg.” All this is manifestly a pure invention. Many of the peculiarities of Emanuel Bach’s style are certainly to be found in Haydn’s works–notes wide apart, pause bars, surprise modulations, etc., etc.–but if every young composer who adopts the tricks of his model is to be charged with caricature, few can hope to escape. The truth is, of course, that every man’s style, whether in music or in writing, is a “mingled yarn” of many strands, and it serves no good purpose to unravel it, even if we could.

Violin Studies

Haydn’s chief instrument was the clavier, but in addition to that he diligently practiced the violin. It was at this date that he took lessons on the latter instrument from “a celebrated virtuoso.” The name is not mentioned, but the general opinion is that Dittersdorf was the instructor. This eminent musician obtained a situation as violinist in the Court Orchestra at Vienna in 1760; and, curiously enough, after many years of professional activity, succeeded Haydn’s brother, Michael, as Capellmeister to the Bishop of Groswardein in Hungary. He wrote an incredible amount of music, and his opera, “Doctor and Apotheker,” by which he eclipsed Mozart at one time, has survived up to the present. Whether or not he gave Haydn lessons on the violin, it is certain that the pair became intimate friends, and had many happy days and some practical jokes together. One story connected with their names sounds apocryphal, but there is no harm in quoting it. Haydn and Dittersdorf were strolling down a back street when they heard a fiddler scraping away in a little beer cellar. Haydn, entering, inquired, “Whose minuet is that you are playing?” “Haydn’s,” answered the fiddler. “It’s a–bad minuet,” replied Haydn, whereupon the enraged player turned upon him and would have broken his head with the fiddle had not Dittersdorf dragged him away.

Attempts at Programme Music

It seems to have been about this time–the date, in fact, was 1751–that Haydn, still pursuing his serenading practices, directed a performance of a quintet of his own composition under the windows of Felix Kurz, a well-known Viennese comedian and theatrical manager. According to an old writer, Kurz amused the public by his puns, and drew crowds to his theatre by his originality and by good opera-buffas. He had, moreover, a handsome wife, and “this was an additional reason for our nocturnal adventurers to go and perform their serenades under the harlequin’s windows.” The comedian was naturally flattered by Haydn’s attention. He heard the music, and, liking it, called the composer into the house to show his skill on the clavier. Kurz appears to have been an admirer of what we would call “programme” music. At all events he demanded that Haydn should give him a musical representation of a storm at sea. Unfortunately, Haydn had never set eyes on the “mighty monster,” and was hard put to it to describe what he knew nothing about. He made several attempts to satisfy Kurz, but without success. At last, out of all patience, he extended his hands to the two ends of the harpsichord, and, bringing them rapidly together, exclaimed, as he rose from the instrument, “The devil take the tempest.” “That’s it! That’s it!” cried the harlequin, springing upon his neck and almost suffocating him. Haydn used to say that when he crossed the Straits of Dover in bad weather, many years afterwards, he often smiled to himself as he thought of the juvenile trick which so delighted the Viennese comedian.

His First Opera

But the comedian wanted more from Haydn than a tempest on the keyboard. He had written the libretto of an opera, “Der Neue Krumme Teufel,” and desired that Haydn should set it to music. The chance was too good to be thrown away, and Haydn proceeded to execute the commission with alacrity, not a little stimulated, doubtless, by the promise of 24 ducats for the work. There is a playfulness and buoyancy about much of Haydn’s music which seems to suggest that he might have succeeded admirably in comic opera, and it is really to be regretted that while the words of “Der Neue Krumme Teufel” have been preserved, the music has been lost. It would have been interesting to see what the young composer had made of a subject which–from Le Sage’s “Le Diable Boiteux” onwards–has engaged the attention of so many playwrights and musicians. The opera was produced at the Stadt Theatre in the spring of 1752, and was frequently repeated not only in Vienna, but in Berlin, Prague, Saxony and the Breisgau.

An Aristocratic Appointment

An event of this kind must have done something for Haydn’s reputation, which was now rapidly extending. Porpora seems also to have been of no small service to him in the way of introducing him to aristocratic acquaintances. At any rate, in 1755, a wealthy musical amateur, the Baron von Furnberg, who frequently gave concerts at his country house at Weinzierl, near Vienna, invited him to take the direction of these performances and compose for their programmes. It was for this nobleman that he wrote his first string quartet, the one in B flat beginning–

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

This composition was rapidly followed by seventeen other works of the same class, all written between 1755 and 1756.

Taken for an Impostor

Haydn’s connection with Furnberg and the success of his compositions for that nobleman at once gave him a distinction among the musicians and dilettanti of Vienna. He now felt justified in increasing his fees, and charged from 2 to 5 florins for a month’s lessons. Remembering the legend of his unboylike fastidiousness, and the undoubted nattiness of his later years, it is curious to come upon an incident of directly opposite tendency. A certain Countess von Thun, whose name is associated with Beethoven, Mozart and Gluck, met with one of his clavier sonatas in manuscript, and expressed a desire to see him. When Haydn presented himself, the countess was so struck by his shabby appearance and uncouth manners that it occurred to her he must be an impostor! But Haydn soon removed her doubts by the pathetic and realistic account which he gave of his lowly origin and his struggles with poverty, and the countess ended by becoming his pupil and one of his warmest friends.

A Count’s Capellmeister

Haydn is said to have held for a time the post of organist to the Count Haugwitz; but his first authenticated fixed engagement dates from 1759, when, through the influence of Baron Furnberg, he was appointed Capellmeister to the Bohemian Count Morzin. This nobleman, whose country house was at Lukavec, near Pilsen, was a great lover of music, and maintained a small, well-chosen orchestra of some sixteen or eighteen performers. It was for him that Haydn wrote his first Symphony in D–

[Figure: a musical score excerpt]

Falls in Love

We now approach an interesting event in Haydn’s career. In the course of some banter at the house of Rogers, Campbell the poet once remarked that marriage in nine cases out of ten looks like madness. Haydn’s case was not the tenth. His salary from Count Morzin was only 20 pounds with board and lodging; he was not making anything substantial by his compositions; and his teaching could not have brought him a large return. Yet, with the proverbial rashness of his class, he must needs take a wife, and that, too, in spite, of the fact that Count Morzin never kept a married man in his service! “To my mind,” said Mozart, “a bachelor lives only half a life.” It is true enough; but Mozart had little reason to bless the “better half,” while Haydn had less. The lady with whom he originally proposed to brave the future was one of his own pupils–the younger of the two daughters of Barber Keller, to whom he had been introduced when he was a chorister at St Stephen’s. According to Dies, Haydn had lodged with the Kellers at one time. The statement is doubtful, but in any case his good stars were not in the ascendant when it was ordained that he should marry into this family.


It was, as we have said, with the younger of the two daughters that he fell in love. Unfortunately, for some unexplained reason, she took the veil, and said good-bye to a wicked world. Like the hero in “Locksley Hall,” Haydn may have asked himself, “What is that which I should do?” But Keller soon solved the problem for him. “Barbers are not the most diffident people of the world,” as one of the race remarks in “Gil Blas,” and Keller was assuredly not diffident. “Never mind,” he said to Haydn, “you shall have the other.” Haydn very likely did not want the other, but, recognizing with Dr Holmes’s fashionable lady that “getting married is like jumping overboard anyway you look at it,” he resolved to risk it and take Anna Maria Keller for better or worse.

His Wife

The marriage was solemnized at St Stephen’s on November 26, 1760, when the bridegroom was twenty-nine and the bride thirty-two. There does not seem to have been much affection on either side to start with; but Haydn declared that he had really begun to “like” his wife, and would have come to entertain a stronger feeling for her if she had behaved in a reasonable way. It was, however, not in Anna Maria’s nature to behave in a reasonable way. The diverting Marville says that the majority of women married to men of genius are so vain of the abilities of their husbands that they are frequently insufferable. Frau Haydn was not a woman of that kind. As Haydn himself sadly remarked, it did not matter to her whether he were a cobbler or an artist. She used his manuscript scores for curling papers and underlays for the pastry, and wrote to him when he was in England for money to buy a “widow’s home.” He was even driven to pitifully undignified expedients to protect his hard-earned cash from her extravagant hands.

There are not many details of Anna Maria’s behaviour, for Haydn was discreetly reticent about his domestic affairs; and only two references can be found in all his published correspondence to the woman who had rendered his life miserable. But these anecdotes tell us enough. For a long time he tried making the best of it; but making the best of it is a poor affair when it comes to a man and woman living together, and the day arrived when the composer realized that to live entirely apart was the only way of ending a union that had proved anything but a foretaste of heaven. Frau Haydn looked to spend her last years in a “widow’s home” provided for her by the generosity of her husband, but she predeceased him by nine years, dying at Baden, near Vienna, on the 20th of March 1800. With this simple statement of facts we may finally dismiss a matter that is best left to silence–to where “beyond these voices there is peace.”

Whether Count Morzin would have retained the services of Haydn in spite of his marriage is uncertain. The question was not put to the test, for the count fell into financial embarrassments and had to discharge his musical establishment. A short time before this, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy had heard some of Haydn’s compositions when on a visit to Morzin, and, being favourably impressed thereby, he resolved to engage Haydn should an opportunity ever present itself. The opportunity had come, and Haydn entered the service of a family who were practically his life-long patrons, and with whom his name must always be intimately associated.



The Esterhazy Family–Haydn’s Agreement–An “Upper Servant”?– Dependence in the Order of Nature–Material and Artistic Advantages of the Esterhazy Appointment–Some Disadvantages– Capellmeister Werner–A Posthumous Tribute–Esterhazy “The Magnificent”–Compositions for Baryton–A Reproval–Operettas and other Occasional Works–First Symphonies.

The Esterhazy Family

As Haydn served the Esterhazys uninterruptedly for the long period of thirty years, a word or two about this distinguished family will not be out of place. At the present time the Esterhazy estates include twenty-nine lordships, with twenty-one castles, sixty market towns, and 414 villages in Hungary, besides lordships in Lower Austria and a county in Bavaria. This alone will give some idea of the power and importance of the house to which Haydn was attached. The family was divided into three main branches, but it is with the Frakno or Forchtenstein line that we are more immediately concerned. Count Paul Esterhazy of Frakno (1635-1713) served in the Austrian army with such distinction as to gain a field-marshal’s baton at the age of thirty. He was the first prince of the name, having been ennobled in 1687 for his successes against the Turks and his support of the House of Hapsburg. He was a musical amateur and a performer of some ability, and it was to him that the family owed the existence of the Esterhazy private chapel, with its solo singers, its chorus, and its orchestra. Indeed, it was this prince who, in 1683, built the splendid Palace of Eisenstadt, at the foot of the Leitha mountains, in Hungary, where Haydn was to spend so many and such momentous years.

When Prince Paul died in 1713, he was succeeded by his son, Joseph Anton, who acquired “enormous wealth,” and raised the Esterhazy family to “the height of its glory.” This nobleman’s son, Paul Anton, was the reigning prince when Haydn was called to Eisenstadt in 1761. He was a man of fifty, and had already a brilliant career behind him. Twice in the course of the Seven Years’ War he had “equipped and maintained during a whole campaign a complete regiment of hussars for the service of his royal mistress,” and, like his distinguished ancestor, he had been elevated to the dignity of field-marshal. He was passionately devoted to the fine arts, more particularly to music, and played the violin with eminent skill. Under his reign the musical establishment at Eisenstadt enjoyed a prosperity unknown at any other period of its history.

Haydn’s Agreement

As there will be something to say about the terms and nature of Haydn’s engagement with Prince Paul Anton, it may be well to quote the text of the agreement which he was required to sign. It was in these terms:


“This day (according to the date hereto appended) Joseph Heyden [sic] native of Rohrau, in Austria, is accepted and appointed Vice-Capellmeister in the service of his Serene Highness, Paul Anton, Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, of Esterhazy and Galantha, etc., etc., with the conditions here following:

“1st. Seeing that the Capellmeister at Eisenstadt, by name Gregorius Werner, having devoted many years of true and faithful service to the princely house, is now, on account of his great age and infirmities, unfit to perform the duties incumbent on him, therefore the said Gregorious Werner, in consideration of his long services, shall retain the post of Capellmeister, and the said Joseph Heyden as Vice-Capellmeister shall, as far as regards the music of the choir, be subordinate to the Capellmeister and receive his instructions. But in everything else relating to musical performances, and in all that concerns the orchestra, the Vice-Capellmeister shall have the sole direction.

“2nd. The said Joseph Heyden shall be considered and treated as a member of the household. Therefore his Serene Highness is graciously pleased to place confidence in his conducting himself as becomes an honourable official of a princely house. He must be temperate, not showing himself overbearing towards his musicians, but mild and lenient, straightforward and composed. It is especially to be observed that when the orchestra shall be summoned to perform before company, the Vice-Capellmeister and all the musicians shall appear in uniform, and the said Joseph Heyden shall take care that he and all members of his orchestra do follow the instructions given, and appear in white stockings, white linen, powdered, and either with a pig-tail or a tie-wig.

“3rd. Seeing that the other musicians are referred for directions to the said Vice-Capellmeister, therefore he should take the more care to conduct himself in an exemplary manner, abstaining from undue familiarity, and from vulgarity in eating, drinking and conversation, not dispensing with the respect due to him, but acting uprightly and influencing his subordinates to preserve such harmony as is becoming in them, remembering how displeasing the consequences of any discord or dispute would be to his Serene Highness.

“4th. The said Vice-Capellmeister shall be under an obligation to compose such music as his Serene Highness may command, and neither to communicate such compositions to any other person, nor to allow them to be copied, but to retain them for the absolute use of his Highness, and not to compose anything for any other person without the knowledge and permission of his Highness.

“5th. The said Joseph Heyden shall appear in the ante-chamber daily, before and after mid-day, and inquire whether his Highness is pleased to order a performance of the orchestra. After receipt of his orders be shall communicate them to the other musicians and shall take care to be punctual at the appointed time, and to ensure punctuality in his subordinates, making a note of those who arrive late or absent themselves altogether.

“6th. Should any quarrel or cause of complaint arise, the Vice-Capellmeister shall endeavour to arrange it, in order that his Serene Highness may not be incommoded with trifling disputes; but should any more serious difficulty occur, which the said Joseph Heyden is unable to set right, his Serene Highness must then be respectfully called upon to decide the matter.

“7th. The said Vice-Capellmeister shall take careful charge of all music and musical instruments, and shall be responsible for any injury that may occur to them from carelessness or neglect.

“8th. The said Joseph Heyden shall be obliged to instruct the female vocalists, in order that they may not forget in the country what they had been taught with much trouble and expense in Vienna, and, as the said Vice-Capellmeister is proficient on various instruments, he shall take care to practice himself on all that he is acquainted with.

“9th. A copy of this agreement and instructions shall be given to the said Vice-Capellmeister and to his subordinates, in order that he may be able to hold them to their obligations therein laid down.

“10th. It is considered unnecessary to detail the services required of the said Joseph Heyden more particularly, since his Serene Highness is pleased to hope that he will of his own free will strictly observe not only these regulations, but all others that may from time to time be made by his Highness, and that he will place the orchestra on such a footing, and in such good order, that he may bring honour upon himself, and deserve the further favour of the Prince, his master, who thus confides in his zeal and discretion.

“11th. A salary of four hundred florins to be received quarterly is hereby bestowed upon the said Vice-Capellmeister by his Serene Highness.

“12th. In addition, the said Joseph Heyden shall have board at the officers’ table, or half a gulden a day in lieu thereof.

“13th. Finally, this agreement shall hold good for at least three years from May 1st, 1761, with the further condition that if at the conclusion of this term the said Joseph Heyden shall desire to leave the service, he shall notify his intention to his Highness half-a-year beforehand.

“14th. His Serene Highness undertakes to keep Joseph Heyden in his service during this time, and should he be satisfied with him, he may look forward to being appointed Capellmeister. This, however, must not be understood to deprive his Serene Highness of the freedom to dismiss the said Joseph Heyden at the expiration of the term, should he see fit to do so.

“Duplicate copies of this document shall be executed and exchanged.

“Given at Vienna this 1st day of May 1761,

“Ad mandatum Celsissimi Principis.


An “Upper Servant”?

The situation indicated by this lengthy document has afforded matter for a good deal of comment, and not a little foolish writing. With some it is the old case of Porpora and the blacking of the boots. Thus Miss Townsend remarks: “Our indignation is roused at finding a great artist placed in the position of an upper servant, and required to perform duties almost menial in their nature.” That is essentially a modern view. These things have to be judged in relation to the ideas of the age. It was only a few years before this that Johnson had contemptuously thrown away a pair of boots which some pitying soul had placed at the door of his rooms at Pembroke. The British mind likes to think of the sturdy independence of the man who struck the death-blow at patronage in literature. But Johnson himself had the meanest opinion of fiddlers.

Dependence in the Order of Nature

There was no talk in Haydn’s native country of the dignity of art, at any rate so far as musicians were concerned. When Mozart first arrived in Vienna in 1781, he had to live with the archbishop’s household, and dine at the servants’ table. Nay, he was known as “the villain, the low fellow.” And is it altogether certain even now, in free Britain, that the parish organist is very clearly distinguished in the squire’s mind from the peripatetic organ-grinder? Public opinion does not seem to have commiserated Haydn on his position of dependence; and, as for Haydn himself, he was no doubt only too glad to have an assured income and a comfortable home. We may be certain that he did not find the yoke unbearably galling. He was of humble birth; of a family which must always have looked up to their “betters” as unspeakably and immeasurably above them. Dependence was in the order of nature, and a man of Haydn’s good sense was the last in the world to starve and fret because his freedom to practice his art and develop his powers was complicated with a sort of feudal service. Some strong souls may find an empty purse the truest source of inspiration, as Mr Russell Lowell declares it to be; but it is very much to be doubted whether a careful investigation would show that a great man’s best work was done with the wolf at the door.

Material Advantages

Haydn had no self-pity: why should we pity him? He had free quarters at the palace, with liberty to enjoy the company of his wife when she chose to favour him–an event of rare occurrence. His salary was raised from time to time. The old prince, his first employer, paid him 400 florins; his successor increased the amount first to 600 and then to 782 florins (78 pounds); and finally he had 1400 florins, which last sum was continued to him as a pension when he left the Esterhazy service. Although money had a much higher purchasing value in those days, the figures here quoted do not seem princely when we consider the extent and nature of Haydn’s duties, but to a man of Haydn’s simple tastes they would appear ample enough. At least, they would save him from lying on straw and drinking bad whisky, which Wagner regarded as among the things that are inimical to the creative genius.

Artistic Advantages

These were the material advantages of the Eisenstadt appointment. The artistic advantages were even more important, especially to a young and inexperienced artist who, so far, had not enjoyed many opportunities of practically testing his own work. Haydn had a very good band always at his disposal, the members of which were devoted to him. If he wrote part of a symphony over-night he could try it in the morning, prune, revise, accept, reject. Many a young composer of to-day would rejoice at such an opportunity, as indeed Haydn himself rejoiced at it. “I not only had the encouragement of constant approval,” he says, speaking of this period of his career, “but as conductor of an orchestra I could make experiments, observe what produced an effect and what weakened it, and was thus in a position to improve, alter, make additions and omissions, and be as bold as I pleased.”

Some Disadvantages

No doubt there were some disadvantages in counterpoise. After the gay life of Vienna, Eisenstadt must have been dull enough, and there is plenty of evidence to show that the young artist occasionally fell into the dumps. In one letter he complains that he “never can obtain leave, even for four-and-twenty hours, to go to Vienna.” In another he writes: “I am doomed to stay at home. What I lose by so doing you can well imagine. It is indeed sad always to be a slave, but Providence wills it so. I am a poor creature, plagued perpetually by hard work, and with few hours for recreation.” Haydn clearly recognized the necessities of the artist. A quiet life is all very well, but no man ever yet greatly touched the hearts of men if he kept himself too strictly segregated from his kind. Music, like every other art, would perish in a hot-house. Reckon up to-day the composers who are really a force in the emotional life of the people, and ask which of them was reared in the serene, cold air of the academies. A composer to be great must live with his fellows, and open his soul to human affluences. “I was cut off from the world,” says Haydn. “There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” But his originality was that of an active mind working upon material already stored, and the store had to be replenished in occasional excursions, all too few, from the palace.

The Eisenstadt appointment, then, provided for Haydn’s material wants, and gave him opportunities for the peaceful pursuit of his studies, for experiment and self-criticism. He was treated with great consideration by the Esterhazys, and, menial or not, he lived on their bounty and in the friendliest relations with them.

Capellmeister Werner

From his agreement with Prince Esterhazy it will have been gathered that, though virtually entrusted with the direction of the Eisenstadt musical establishment, Haydn was really under the control of an old official. Such arrangements seldom work well. The retention of Joseph Werner was presumably due to the thoughtful kindness of his noble patron, but it was bound to lead to awkward situations. Werner had served the Esterhazys for thirty-two years, and could not be expected to placidly accept his supersession by a young and as yet almost unknown musician. True, he was not a very distinguished man himself. He had composed a large amount of music, chiefly sacred, including thirty-nine masses and twelve “Oratorios for Good Friday,” besides some grotesque pieces intended as burlesques of the musical life of Vienna. Not one of his works has any real musical value; but, as is usually the case with the talent which stops short of genius, he thought a great deal of himself, and was inclined to look down upon Haydn as an interloper, unskilled in that rigid counterpoint which was the “heaven’s law” of the old-time composer. Indeed, he described his associate as “a mere fop” and “a scribbler of songs.”

A Posthumous Tribute

It is but fair to Haydn to say that, if he did not suffer his nominal superior gladly, he at least treated him with respect and a certain deference. He did more. Werner died in 1766, having thus seen only five years of the new order of things, but Haydn’s regard for his memory was such that, so late as 1804, he published six of his fugues arranged as string quartets, “out of sincere esteem for this celebrated master.” A kindness of heart and a total absence of professional jealousy characterized Haydn throughout his whole career, and never more than in this action.

Esterhazy “the Magnificent”

The composer had been rather less than a twelvemonth in his service when Prince Paul Anton died on the 18th of March 1762. He was succeeded by his brother Nicolaus, a sort of glorified “Grand Duke” of Chandos, who rejoiced in the soubriquet of “The Magnificent.” He loved ostentation and glitter above all things, wearing at times a uniform bedecked with diamonds. But he loved music as well. More, he was a performer himself, and played the baryton, a stringed instrument not unlike the viola-da-gamba, in general use up to the end of the eighteenth century. Haydn naturally desired to please his prince, and being perpetually pestered to provide new works for the noble baryton player, he thought it would flatter him if he himself learnt to handle the baryton. This proved an unfortunate misreading of “The Magnificent’s” character, for when Haydn at length made his debut with the instrument, the prince lost no time in letting him understand that he disapproved of such rivalry. An amusing story is told of Kraft, the Eisenstadt ‘cellist, at this time, who occasionally played the second baryton. Kraft presented the prince with a composition into which he had introduced a solo for himself as second baryton. The prince asked to see the part, and proceeded to try it over. Coming to a difficult passage, he exclaimed indignantly: “For the future, write solos only for my part; it is no credit to you to play better than I; it is your duty.”

Compositions for Baryton

Haydn, so far as we can make out, never essayed the baryton again, but he wrote a surprising amount of music for it, considering its complicated mechanism and the weakness of its tone. In the catalogue of his works there are no fewer than 175 compositions for the instrument–namely, six duets for two barytons, twelve sonatas for baryton and violoncello, twelve divertimenti for two barytons and bass, and 125 divertimenti for baryton, viola and violoncello; seventeen so-called “cassations”; and three concertos for baryton, with accompaniment of two violins and bass. There is no need to say anything about these compositions, inasmuch as they have gone to oblivion with the instrument which called them into being. At the best they can never have been of much artistic importance.

A Reproval

A new epoch began at Eisenstadt with the rule of Prince Nicolaus. He was a man of unbounded energy himself, and he expected everybody in his service to be energetic too. There is nothing to suggest that Haydn neglected any of his routine duties, which certainly gave him abundant opportunity to “break the legs of time,” but once, at least–in 1765–his employer taxed him with lack of diligence in composition, as well as for failing to maintain the necessary discipline among the musicians under his charge. It is likely enough that Haydn was not a rigid disciplinarian; but it must have been a mere whim on the part of Prince Nicolaus to reprove him on the score of laziness in composing. In any case, it seems to have been only a solitary reproof. There is no evidence of its having been repeated, and we may assume that even now it was not regarded as a very serious matter, from the fact that three weeks after the prince was requesting his steward to pay Haydn 12 ducats for three new pieces, with which he was “very much pleased.”


Life at Eisenstadt moved on in “calm peace and quiet,” but now and again it was stirred into special activity, when Haydn had to put forth his efforts in various new directions. Such an occasion came very early in his service of Prince Nicolaus, when that pompous person made triumphant entry into Eisenstadt. The festivities were on a regal scale and continued for a whole month. A company of foreign players had been engaged to perform on a stage erected in the large conservatory, and Haydn was required to provide them with operettas. He wrote several works of the kind, one of which, “La Marchesa Nepola,” survives in the autograph score. Later on, for the marriage of Count Anton, the eldest son of Prince Nicolaus, in 1763, he provided a setting of the story which Handel had already used for his “Acis and Galatea.” This work, which was performed by the Eisenstadt Capelle, with the orchestra clad in a new uniform of crimson and gold, bore the name of “Acide e Galatea.” Portions of the score still exist–a section of the overture, four arias, and a finale quartet. The overture is described as being “in his own style, fresh and cheerful, foreshadowing his symphonies. The songs are in the Italian manner, very inferior in originality and expression to Handel’s music; the quartet is crude in form and uninteresting in substance.” [See Miss Townsend’s Haydn, p. 44.]

It would seem rather ungracious, as it would certainly be redundant to discuss these “occasional” works in detail. For one thing, the material necessary to enable us to form a correct estimate of Haydn’s powers as a dramatic composer is wanting. The original autograph of “Armida,” first performed in 1783, is, indeed, preserved. “Orfeo ed Euridice,” written for the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket in 1791, but never staged, was printed at Leipzig in 1806, and a fair idea of the general style of the work may be obtained from the beautiful air, “Il pensier sta negli oggetti,” included in a collection entitled “Gemme d’Antichita.” But beyond these and the fragments previously mentioned, there is little left to represent Haydn as a composer of opera, the scores of most of the works written expressly for Prince Esterhazy having been destroyed when the prince’s private theatre was burned down in 1779. What Haydn would have done for opera if he had devoted his serious attention to it at any of the larger theatres it is, of course, impossible to say. Judging from what has survived of his work in this department, he was notable for refinement rather than for dramatic power. We must, however, remember the conditions under which he worked. He confessed himself that his operas were fitted only for the small stage at Esterhaz and “could never produce the proper effect elsewhere.” If he had written with a large stage in view, it may reasonably be assumed that he would have written somewhat differently.

Occasional Works

In 1764 Prince Nicolaus made a journey to Frankfort for the coronation of the Archduke Joseph as King of the Romans. After the festivities connected with that imposing function were over he extended his journey to Paris, where he created some sensation by his extravagant displays of wealth and circumstance. During the Prince’s absence Haydn busied himself on a couple of compositions intended to celebrate his home-coming. One was a Te Deum, the other a cantata. The latter work is the more worthy of remark, not because of its music, but because of the fulsomely obsequious manner in which it celebrates the graces and virtues of Nicolaus the Magnificent. The cantata is made up of choruses and duets, a recitative and two arias. Parts of it were afterwards employed in church services. The Te Deum is in C major, and is for four voices with orchestra. It is interesting as an early work, especially if we compare it with the greater Te Deum in the same key composed in the year 1800.

First Symphonies

At this point a summary may perhaps be made of the compositions written by Haydn during these five years a Eisenstadt. The list, as given by Pohl, comprises, in addition to the works already named, about thirty symphonies six string trios, a few divertimenti in five parts, a piece for four violins and two ‘celli, entitled “Echo,” twelve minuets for orchestra, concertos, trios, sonatas and variations for clavier, and, in vocal music, a “Salve Regina” for soprano and alto, two violins and organ. It would serve no useful purpose to deal with these works in detail. The symphonies are, of course, the most important feature in the list, but of these we shall speak generally when treating of Haydn as the father of instrumental music. The first Symphony in C Major, usually called “Le Midi,” is of special interest.

[Figure: a musical score excerpt]

The autograph score, dated 1761, and preserved at Eisenstadt, is superscribed, “In Nomine Domini,” and closes with Haydn’s customary “Laus Deo” after the final signature The work is in the usual four movements. The symphonies of this date included also those known in England as “Le Matin” and “Le Soir,” the one beginning–

[Figure: a musical score excerpt] and the other–

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

Of the string quartets and other instrumental compositions of the period nothing need be said. In all these the composer was simply feeling his way towards a more perfect expression, and as few of them are now performed, their interest for us is almost entirely antiquarian.



Haydn’s Fame extending–Haydn and Mozart compared–Esterhaz–Its Puppet Theatre–A Busy Life–Opera at Esterhaz–First Oratorio– Opponents and Intriguers–“L’Isola Disabitata”–A Love Episode– Correspondence with Artaria and Forster–Royal Dedicatees– The “Seven Words”–The “Toy” and “Farewell” Symphonies.

To crowd the details of a professional career covering close upon a quarter of a century into a single chapter would, in the case of most of the great composers, be an altogether impossible task. In Haydn’s case the difficulty is to find the material for even so slight a record. His life went on smoothly, almost sleepily, as we should now think, in the service of his prince, without personal incident and with next to no disturbance from the outside world. If he had not been a genius of the first rank the outside world would, in all probability, never have heard of his existence.

Haydn’s Fame extending

As it was, his fame was now manifestly spreading. Thus the Wiener Diarum for 1766 includes him among the most distinguished musicians of Vienna, and describes him as “the darling of our nation.” His amiable disposition, says the panegyrist, “speaks through every one of his works. His music has beauty, purity, and a delicate and noble simplicity which commends it to every hearer. His cassations, quartets and trios may be compared to a pure, clear stream of water, the surface now rippled by a gentle breeze from the south, and anon breaking into agitated billows, but without ever leaving its proper channel and appointed course. His symphonies are full of force and delicate sympathy. In his cantatas he shows himself at once captivating and caressing, and in his minuets he is delightful and full of humour. In short, Haydn is in music what Gellert is in poetry.” This comparison with Gellert, who died three years later, was at that date, as Dr Pohl remarks, the most flattering that could well be made. The simplicity and naturalness of Gellert’s style were the very antithesis of the pedantries and frigid formalities of the older school; and just as he pioneered the way for the resuscitation of German poetry under Goethe and Schiller, so Haydn may be said to have prepared the path for Beethoven and the modern school.

Haydn and Mozart compared

Very likely it was this comparison of the magazine writer that suggested Dittersdorf’s remark to Joseph II in 1786, when the emperor requested him to draw an analogy between Haydn’s and Mozart’s chamber music. Dittersdorf shrewdly replied by asking the emperor in his turn to draw a parallel between Gellert and Klopstock; whereupon Joseph made answer by saying that both were great poets, but that Klopstock’s works required attentive study, while Gellert’s beauties were open to the first glance. The analogy, Dittersdorf tells us, “pleased the emperor very much.” Its point is, however, not very clear–that is to say, it is not very clear whether the emperor meant to compare Klopstock with Haydn and Gellert with Mozart or vice versa, and whether, again, he regarded it as more of a merit that the poet and the composer should require study or be “open to the first glance.” Joseph was certainly friendly towards Mozart, but by all accounts he had no great love for Haydn, to whose “tricks and nonsense” he made frequent sneering reference.

The first noteworthy event of 1766 was the death of Werner, which took place on March 5. It made no real difference to Haydn, who, as we have seen, had been from the first, in effect, if not in name, chief of the musical establishment; but it at least freed him from sundry petty annoyances, and left him absolutely master of the musical situation. Shortly after Werner’s death, the entire musical establishment at Eisenstadt was removed to the prince’s new palace of Esterhaz, with which Haydn was now to be connected for practically the whole of his remaining professional career.


A great deal has been written about Esterhaz, but it is not necessary that we should occupy much space with a description of the castle and its surroundings. The palace probably owed its inception to the prince’s visit to Paris in 1764. At any rate, it is in the French Renaissance style, and there is some significance in the fact that a French traveller who saw it about 1782 described it as having no place but Versailles to compare with it for magnificence. The situation–about three and a half miles from Eisenstadt–was anything but suitable for an erection of the kind, being in an unhealthy marsh and “quite out of the world.” But Prince Nicolaus had set his heart upon the scheme, as Scott set his heart upon Abbotsford; and just as “Clarty Hole” came in time to be “parked about and gated grandly,” so Esterhaz, after something like 11,000,000 gulden had been spent upon it, emerged a veritable Versailles, with groves and grottoes, hermitages and temples, summer-houses and hot-houses, and deer parks and flower gardens. There were two theatres in the grounds: one for operas and dramatic performances generally; the other “brilliantly ornamented and furnished with large artistic marionettes, excellent scenery and appliances.”

A Puppet Theatre

It is upon the entertainments connected with the latter house that the French traveller just mentioned chiefly dwells. “The prince,” he says, “has a puppet theatre which is certainly unique in character. Here the grandest operas are produced. One knows not whether to be amazed or to laugh at seeing ‘Alceste,’ ‘Alcides,’ etc., put on the stage with all due solemnity, and played by puppets. His orchestra is one of the best I ever heard, and the great Haydn is his court and theatre composer. He employs a poet for his singular theatre, whose humour and skill in suiting the grandest subjects for the stage, and in parodying the gravest effects, are often exceedingly happy. He often engages a troupe of wandering players for a month at a time, and he himself and his retinue form the entire audience. They are allowed to come on the stage uncombed, drunk, their parts not half learned, and half-dressed. The prince is not for the serious and tragic, and he enjoys it when the players, like Sancho Panza, give loose reins to their humour.”

Prince Nicolaus became so much attached to this superb creation of his own, that he seldom cared to leave it. A small portion of the Capelle remained at Eisenstadt to carry on the church service there, but the prince seldom went to Eisenstadt, and more seldom still to Vienna. Most of the Hungarian grandees liked nothing better than to display their wealth in the Imperial city during the winter season; but to Haydn’s employer there was literally “no place like home.” When he did go to Vienna, he would often cut short his visits in the most abrupt manner, to the great confusion of his musicians and other dependants. These eccentricities must have given some annoyance to Haydn, who, notwithstanding his love of quiet and seclusion, often longed for the change and variety of city life. It is said that he was specially anxious to make a tour in Italy about this time, but that ambition had, of necessity, to be abandoned.

A Busy Life

There was certainly plenty for him to do at Esterhaz–more than he had ever been required to do at Eisenstadt. Royalties, nobles and aristocrats were constantly at the palace; and music was one of the chief diversions provided for them. The prince was very proud of his musical establishment, and desired to have it considered the best of its kind in Europe. The orchestra of the opera was formed of members of the Capelle; “the singers were Italian for the most part, engaged for one, two, or more years, and the books of the words were printed. Numerous strolling companies were engaged for shorter terms; travelling virtuosi often played with the members of the band. Special days and hours were fixed for chamber music, and for orchestral works; and in the interval the singers, musicians and actors met at the cafe, and formed, so to speak, one family.” Something more than creative genius was obviously required to direct the music of an establishment of this kind. A talent for organization, an eye for detail, tact in the management of players and singers–these qualities were all indispensable for the performance of duties such as Haydn had undertaken. That he possessed them we may fairly assume from more than one circumstance. In the first place, his employer was satisfied with him. He raised his salary, listened attentively to all his suggestions, and did everything that he could to retain his services. In the second place, his band and singers were sincerely attached to him. They saw that he had their interests, personal and professional, at heart, and they “loved him like a father.” The prince paid them well, and several of them were sufficiently capable to receive appointments afterwards in the Imperial Chapel. Pohl gives a list of the names about this time, but, with one or two exceptions, they are quite unfamiliar. J. B. Krumpholtz, the harpist, was engaged from 1773 to 1776, and Andreas Lidl, who played in London soon after leaving the band, was in the service of the prince from 1769 to 1774.

The sum paid to Haydn at this date was not large as we should now consider it, but it was sufficient to free him from financial worry had it not been for the extravagance and bad management of his wife. The prince gave him about 78 pounds, in addition to which he had certain allowances in kind, and, as we have already said, free quarters for himself and his wife when she thought fit to stay with him. Probably, too, he was now making something substantial by his compositions. Griesinger declares that he had saved about 200 pounds before 1790, the year when he started for London. If that be true, he must have been very economical. His wife, we must remember, was making constant calls upon him for money, and in addition he had to meet the pressing demands of various poor relations. His correspondence certainly does not tend to show that he was saving, and we know that when he set out for London he had not only to draw upon the generosity of his prince for the costs of the journey, but had to sell his house to provide for his wife until his return.

Opera at Esterhaz

It is time, however, to speak of some of Haydn’s compositions during this period. At Esterhaz he “wrote nearly all his operas, most of his arias and songs, the music for the marionette theatre–of which he was particularly fond–and the greater part of his orchestral and chamber works.” The dramatic works bulk rather largely during the earlier part of the period. In 1769, for example, when the whole musical establishment of Esterhaz visited Vienna, a performance of his opera, “Lo Speciale,” was given at the house of Freiherr von Sommerau, and was repeated in the form of a concert. Other works of the kind were performed at intervals, particularly on festival occasions, but as most of them have perished, and all of them are essentially pieces d’occasion, it is unnecessary even to recall their names. In 1771 Haydn wrote a “Stabat Mater” and a “Salve Regina,” and in 1773 followed the Symphony in C which bears the name of the Empress Maria Theresa, having been written for the empress’s visit to Esterhaz in September of that year. In the course of the visit Haydn was naturally introduced to Her Majesty, when, as we have stated, he took occasion to remind her of the “good hiding” she had ordered him to have at Schonbrunn during the old chorister days at St Stephen’s. “Well, you see, my dear Haydn,” was the reply, “the hiding has borne good fruit.”

First Oratorio

In 1775 came his first oratorio, “Il Ritorno di Tobia.” This is an exceedingly interesting work. It was first performed under Haydn’s direction by the Tonkunstler Societat, with solo singers from Esterbaz, at Vienna, on April 2, 1775. In 1784 Haydn added two choruses, one a “Storm Chorus,” which is sometimes confused with the “Storm Chorus” (in the same key, but in triple time) composed during his sojourn in London. It is from “Il Ritorno di Tobia” that the so-called motet, “Insanae et Vanae Curae,” is adapted, and the “Storm Chorus” immediately follows a fine soprano air in F minor and major, sung by Anna in the original work, a portion of which forms the beautiful second subject (in F) of the “Insanae.” The original words of this chorus–“Svanisce in un momento”–are to the effect that the soul threatens to yield to the fury of its enemies, yet trust in God keeps one steadfast. The music admirably reflects these contrasting sentiments, first in the tumultuous D minor section, and then in the tranquillity of the F major portion which follows, no less than in the trustful quietude of the D major conclusion. Latin words were adapted to three of the original choruses, but nothing seems to be known as to the origin of the “Insanae” adaptation. A full score of the motet, published by Breitkopf & Hartel in 1809, was reviewed in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of August 15, 1810, as if it were an entirely original work. The source of the Latin words also remains a mystery. They were presumably put together to fit Haydn’s music, but by whom we have no means of ascertaining.

It is interesting to know that Haydn brought the score of his “Il Ritorno di Tobia” with him to England on the occasion of his first visit in 1791, probably with a view to its performance here. Messrs Novello’s private library contains an oblong volume in the handwriting of Vincent Novello, in which he has copied some numbers from “Tobia,” including the air of Anna already mentioned, but not the “Insanae” chorus. The inside cover of the book bears the following note in Novello’s hand, written, not later than 1820, under the contents of the volume:

“The whole of the above are unpublished manuscripts, and were copied from an extremely rare volume, containing the full orchestral score of the entire oratorio, kindly lent to me for the purpose by my friend, Mr Shield, who had obtained it from Haydn himself during the visit of the latter to England in the year 1791.–VINCENT NOVELLO, 240 Oxford St.”

[See an interesting account of “Il Ritorno di Tobia” in The Musical Times for September 1901, p. 600.]

Some of our musical societies in search of novelties might do worse than revive this almost completely forgotten oratorio. The airs are exceedingly melodious, and the choruses bold and tuneful, with well-developed fugue subjects. The “Insanae” already referred to is frequently performed.


In 1776 Haydn composed “La Vera Costanza” for the Court Theatre of Vienna, but owing to certain intrigues it was declined by the management and produced at Esterhaz instead. The opera was subsequently staged at Vienna in 1790, and six of its airs and a duet were published by Artaria. This incident makes it sufficiently plain that Haydn had his opponents among the musicians and critics of Vienna as well as elsewhere. Burney says a friend in Hamburg wrote him in 1772 that “the genius, fine ideas and fancy of Haydn, Ditters and Filitz were praised, but their mixture of serious and comic was disliked, particularly as there is more of the latter than the former in their works; and as for rules, they knew but little of them.” If we substitute “humorous” for “comic,” this may be allowed to fully represent the views of the critics and amateurs of Vienna in regard to Haydn’s music.

And, unfortunately, the incident just mentioned was not a solitary one. In 1778 Haydn applied for membership to the Tonkunstler Societat, for whom he had in reality written his “Il Ritorno di Tobia.” One would have expected such a body to receive him with open arms, but instead of that they exacted a sum of 300 florins on the ground of his non-residence in Vienna! Not only so, but they would fain have brought him under a promise to compose for them whenever they chose to ask him. This latter condition Haydn felt to be impossible in view of his engagement at Esterhaz, and he withdrew his admission fee. That the society were not ashamed of themselves is obvious from a further episode. Some years after this they desired Haydn to rearrange his “Tobia” for a special performance, and when he demanded payment for his trouble they promptly decided to produce Hasse’s “Elena” instead. Everything comes to the man who waits. After his second visit to London the Tonkunstler Societat welcomed Haydn at a special meeting, and with one voice appointed him “Assessor Senior” for life. In return for this distinction he presented the society with “The Creation” and “The Seasons,” to which gifts, according to Pohl, its prosperity is mainly owing.

“L’Isola Disabitata”

If Haydn was thus less highly appreciated at home than he deserved to be, there were others who knew his sterling worth. In 1779 he composed one of his best operas, “L’Isola Disabitata,” the libretto of which was by his old benefactor Metastasio, and this work procured his nomination as a member of the Philharmonic Society of Modena. The following extract of a letter written to Artaria in May 1781 is interesting in this connection. He says: