JOSEPH HAYDN, the creator of the symphony and the stringed quartet, was born at Rohrau, a little Austrian village on the river Leitha, March 31, 1732. His father was a wheelwright and his mother a cook, in service with Count Harrach. Both the parents were fond of music, and both sang, the father accompanying himself upon the harp, which he played by ear. The child displayed a voice so beautiful that in his sixth year he was allowed to study music, and was also given a place in the village church-choir. Reutter, the capellmeister of St. Stephen’s, Vienna, having heard- him, was so impressed with the beauty of his voice that he offered him a position as chorister. Haydn eagerly accepted it, as it gave him opportunities for study. While in the service of St. Stephen’s he had lessons on the violin and piano, as well as in composition. When his voice broke, and his singing was of no further value, he was thrown upon the tender mercies of the world. Fortune favored him, however. He obtained a few pupils, and gave himself up to composition. He made the acquaintance of Metastasio, Porpora, and Gluck. His trios began to attract attention, and he soon found himself rising into prominence. In 1759, through the influence of a wealthy friend and amateur, he was appointed to the post of musical director and composer in the service of Count Morzin, and about this time wrote his first symphony. When the Count dismissed his band, Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy received him as his second capellmeister, under Werner. When the latter died, in 1766; Haydn took his place as sole director. His patron, meanwhile, had died, and was succeeded by his brother Nicolaus, between whom and Haydn there was the utmost good feeling. Up to this time Haydn had written thirty symphonies, a large number of trios, quartets, and several vocal pieces. His connection with the Prince lasted until 1790, and was only terminated by the latter’s death. But during this period of twenty-eight years his musical activity was unceasing; and as he had an orchestra of his own, and his patron was ardently devoted to music, the incentive to composition was never lacking. Anton succeeded Nicolaus, and was generous enough to increase Haydn’s pension; but he dismissed the entire chapel, and the composer took up his abode in Vienna. He was hardly established be-fore he received a flattering proposition from Salo-mon, the manager, to go to England, He had already had many pressing invitations from others, but could not accept them, owing to his engagement at Esterhazy., Now that he was free, he decided to make the journey. On New Year’s Day, 1791, he arrived in London. Success greeted him at once. He became universally popular. Musicians and musical societies paid him devoted attention. He gave a series of symphony concerts which aroused the greatest enthusiasm. He was treated with distinguished courtesy by the royal family. Oxford gave him the honorary degree of Doctor of Music. The nobility entertained him sumptuously. After a year of continuous fêtes, he returned to Germany, where he remained two years, during a portion of which time Beethoven was his pupil. In 1794 he made his second journey to England, where his former successes were repeated, and fresh honors were showered upon him. In 1804 he was notified by Prince Esterhazy that he was about to reorganize his chapel, and wished him for its conductor again. Haydn accordingly returned to his old position, where he remained during the rest of his life. He was already an, old man, but it was during this period that his most, remarkable works were produced, among them the Austrian, National Hymn; (“Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser “), the ” Seven Words,” the “Creation,” the ” Seasons,” and many of his best trios and quartets. He died May 31, 1809, a few days after the occupation of Vienna by the French, and among the mourners at his funeral were many French officers. Funeral services were held in all the principal European cities. Honored and respected all, over Europe, he was most deeply loved by his own countrymen, who still affectionately speak of him as “Papa” Haydn.
Haydn was sixty-five years of age when he under-took the great work of his life. It was begun in 1796, and finished in 1798. When urged to bring it to a conclusion more rapidly, he replied, “I spend much time over it, because I intend it to last a long time.” Shortly before his final departure from London, Salomon, his manager, brought him a poem for music which had been compiled by Lydley from Milton’s ” Paradise Lost,” for use by Handel, though the latter had not availed himself of it. Haydn took it with him to Vienna, and submitted it to the Baron van Swieten, the Emperor’s librarian, who was not only a very learned scholar, but also something of a musician and composer. The Baron suggested that he should make an oratorio of it, and to encourage him, not only translated the text into German, but added a number .of arias, duets, and choruses, particularly those of the descriptive kind. Several of the nobility also guaranteed the expenses of preparation and performance. His friend Griesinger writes : –
” Haydn wrote ‘The Creation’ in his sixty-fifth year with all the spirit that usually dwells in the breast of youth. I had the good fortune to-be a witness of the deep emotions and joyous enthusiasm which several performances of it under Haydn’s own direction aroused in all listeners. Haydn also confessed to me that it was not possible for him to describe the emotions with which he was filled as the performance met his entire expectation, and his audience listened to every note. ` One moment I was as cold as ice, and the next I seemed on fire, and more than once I feared I should have a stroke.”
On another occasion Haydn remarked : “Never was I so pious as when composing The Creation.’ I knelt down every day and prayed God to strengthen me for the work.” That he sought this inspiration in his old age more than once, we may infer from another remark to Griesinger;
“When composition does not get on well, I go to my chamber, and with rosary in hand say a few aves, and then the ideas return.” It was first per-formed in private at the Schwartzenberg Palace, April 29, 1 798 ; and Bombet, the celebrated French critic, who was present, says in one of his letters;
” Who can describe the applause, the delight, the enthusiasm of this society? I was present, and can assure you I never witnessed such a scene. The flower of the literary and musical society of Vienna were assembled in the room, which was well adapted to the purpose, and Haydn himself directed the orchestra. The most profound silence, the most scrupulous attention, a sentiment, I might almost say, of religious respect, were the dispositions which prevailed when the first stroke of the bow was given. The general expectation was not disappointed A long train of beauties, to that moment unknown, unfolded themselves before us; our minds, overcome with pleasure and admiration, experieneed during two successive hours. what they had rarely felt, a happy existence, produced by desires, ever lively, ever renewed, and never disappointed.”
The first public performance was given at the National Theatre, March 19, 1799, Haydn’s, name day, and the next by the Tonkunstler Societat. On the 9th of March he conducted it at the palace of Ofen before the Archduke Palatine joseph’ of Hungary. Its success was immediate, and rivalled that of “The Messiah.” It was performed all over Europe, and societies were organized for the express purpose of producing it. In London rival performances of it were given at Covent Garden and the King’s Theatre during the year 1800.
The oratorio opens with an overture representing chaos. Its effect is at first dull and indefinite, its utterances inarticulate, and its notes destitute of perceptible melody. It is Nature in her chaotic state, struggling into definite form. Gradually instrument after instrument makes an effort to extricate itself, and as the clarinets and flutes struggle out of the confusion, the feeling of order begins to make it-self apparent. The resolutions indicate harmony. At last the wonderful discordances settle, leaving a misty effect that vividly illustrates “the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters.” Then, at the fiat of the Creator, “Let there be Light,’.” the whole orchestra and chorus burst forth in the sonorous response, “And there. was Light,”
A brief passage by Uriel (tenor) describes the di-vision of light from darkness, and the end of chaos; introducing a fugued chorus, in which the rage of Satan and his hellish spirits, as they are precipitated into the abyss, is described with tremendous discords and strange modulations ; but before it closes, the music relates the beauties of the newly created earth springing up ” at God’s command.” Raphael describes the making of the firmament, the raging of the storms, the flashing lightning and rolling thunders, the showers of rain and hail, and the gently falling snow, to an accompaniment which is closely imitative in character. The work of the second day forms the theme of The Marvellous Work,” for soprano obligato with chorus, a number characterized by great joyousness and spirit. This leads- to the number, ” Rolling in foaming Billows,” in which the Music: is employed to represent the effect of water, from the roaring billows of the ” boisterous seas,” and the rivers flowing in ” serpent error,” to ” the limpid brook,” whose murmuring ripple is set to one of the sweetest and most delicious of melodies. This leads the way to the well-known aria, ” With Verdure clad,” of which Haydn himself was very fond, and which he recast three times before he was satisfied with it. It is followed by a fugued chorus (” Awake the Harp “), in which the Angels praise the Creator. We next pass’ to the creation of the planets. The instrumental prelude is a wonderful bit of constantly developing color, which increases ” in splendor bright,” forms the theme of the succeeding duet and chorus (” By Thee with Bliss “); to which the answering choir replies with a gentle and distant effect, as if from the celestial heights, ” Forever blessed be His Power.” Again Adam and Eve in mimes sive solos, finally uniting, join with the choir in ex-tolling the goodness of God ; and as they close,all take up the beautiful and majestic pan, “Hail, bounteous Lord ! Almighty, hail!” As the angelic shout dies away, a tender, loving dialogue ensues between Adam and Eve, leading to the beautiful duet, ” Graceful Consort,” which is not only the most delightful number in the work, but in freshness, sweetness, and tenderness stands almost unsurpassed among compositions of its kind. After a short bit of recitative by Thiel (” O happy Pair”), the. chorus enters upon the closing number (” Sing the Lord, ye Voices all”), beginning slowly and majestically, then developing into a masterly fugue (“Jehovah’s Praise forever shall endure”), and closing with a Laudamus of matchless beauty, in which the principal voices in solo parts are set off against the choral and orchestral masses with powerful effect.
Haydn’s last appearance in public was at a performance of the “Creation,” which took place in 1808, when it was given in Italian under the direction of Salieri. Dies says of this remarkable scene;-
“On alighting from the Prince’s carriage, he was recalved by distinguished personages of the nobility and by his scholar, Beethoven. The crowd was so great that the military had to keep order. He was carried, sitting in his arm-chair, into the hall, and was greeted upon his entrance with a flourish of trumpets and ,joyous shouts of ‘ Long live Haydn!’ He occupied a seat next his Princess, the Prince being at court that day; and on the other side sat his favorite scholar, Fraulein Kurzbeck. The highest people of rank in Vienna selected seats in his vicinity. The French ambassador noticed that he wore the medal of the Paris Concert des Amateurs. ‘Not only this, but all the medals which have been awarded in France, you ought to have received,’ said he. Haydn thought he felt a little draught the Princess threw her shawl about him, many ladies following her example, and in a few moments he was completely wrapped in shawls, Poems by Collin and Carpani, the adapter of the text, were presented to him. He could no longer conceal his feelings. His overburdened heart sought and found relief in tears. When the passage, ‘ And there was Light,’ came, and the audience broke out into tumultuous applause, he made a motion of his hands towards heaven, and said, ‘ it came from thence.’ He remained in such an agitated condition that he was obliged to take his leave at the close of the first part. As he went out, the audience thronged about him to take leave of him, and Beethoven kissed his hand and forehead devoutly. His departure completely overcame him. He could not address the audience, and could only give expression to his heartfelt gratitude with broken, feeble utterances and blessings. Upon every countenance there was deep pity, and tearful eyes followed him as he was taken to his carriage.”
” The best critique that has been given of the work is that which Haydn himself addressed to me when I went to give him an account of the performance of it in the Palace Schwartzenberg. The applause had been universal, and I hastened out to congratulate the author. Scarcely had I opened my lips when the honest composer stopped me: ‘ I am happy to find that my music pleases the public ; but I can receive no compliment on this work from you. I am convinced that you feel yourself that it is not the ‘ Creation; ” and the reason is this : in the ” Creation ” the actors are angels ;. here they are peasants.’ ”
The work is divided into four parts, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, and the characters introduced are Simon, a farmer; Jane, his daughter ; Lucas, a young countryman and shepherd ; and a chorus of Country People and Hunters, A vivacious overture, expressing the passage from winter to spring, and recitatives by Simon, Lucas, and Jane, who in turn express their. delight at the close of the one season and the approach of the other, lead to the opening chorus (” Come, gentle Spring, ethereal Mildness, come “),a fresh and animated number, which is familiar to every one. Simon trolls out a pastoral aria (” With joy the impatient Husbandman”), full of the very spirit of quiet, peace, and happiness, a quaint melody which will inevitably recall to opera-goers the ” Zitti, Zitti ” from Rossini’s ” Barber of Seville,” the essential difference between the two pieces being that in the ‘latter the time is greatly accelerated. This aria is followed by a trio and chorus (” Be propitious, -botiateous Heaven’”), a free fugue, in which all beseech a blessing upon the sowing of the seed, The next number is a duet for Jane and Lucas, with chorus (” Spring her lovely Charm unfolding “), which is fairly permeated with the delicate suggestions of opening buds and the delights of the balmy air and young verdure of spring. As its strains die away, all join in the cheerful fugued chorus, ” God of Light,” which closes the first part.
After a brief adagio prelude, the second part, “Summer,” opens with a charming aria by Simon (” From out the Fold the Shepherd drives “), which gives us a delightful picture of the shepherd driving his flock along the verdant hillside, then leaning upon his staff to watch the rising sun.` As it appears, it is welcomed by trio and chorus with the exultant shout, ” Hail, O glorious Sun ! ” As noon approaches, the music fairly becomes radiant. A series of recitatives and arias follow, bringing out in a vivid and picturesque manner the oppressive, exhaustive heat and the longing for rest and shade, leading at last to an ominous Silence as the clouds begin to gather and the sky darkens. A short recitative prepares the way, A crash of thunder is heard upon the drums: it is the prelude to, the storm chorus (” Hark ! the deep tremendous -Voice ” ). which has been the model for nearly all the storm-descriptions written since Haydn’s time. It is worked up to a tremendous climax of tumult and terror, of pouring rain, flashing lightning, and pealing thunder. At last the tempest dies away, and in the trio and chorus, ” Now cease the Conflicts,” night comes on, with its song of the quail, which Beethoven subsequently utilized in his Pastoral Symphony, the chirp of the crickets, the croaking of the frogs, the distant chime of the evening bells, and the invocation to sleep. Of the frog episode, Nohl says : ” He particularly disliked the croaking of the frogs, and realized how much it lowered his art. Swieten showed him an old piece of Grétry’s in which the croak was imitated with striking effect. Haydn contended that it would be better if the entire croak were omitted, though he yielded to Swieten’s importunities. He declared afterwards, however, that the frog passage as not his own. ‘ It was urged upon me,’ he said, `to write this French croak. In the orchestral setting it is very brief, and it cannot be done on the piano. I trust the critics will not treat me with severity for it. I am an old man, and liable to make mistakes.’ ”
After a quaintly melodious prelude the third part opens with a terzetto and chorus (” Thus Nature ever kind rewards”), an invocation to virtue and industry, and a quaintly sentimental duet (” Ye gay and painted Fair “). The next number, an aria by Simon (” Behold along the dewy Grass “), which gives us a picture of the hunter and his dog pursuing a bird, prepares the way for the great hunting chorus (” Hark ! the Mountains resound ” ), one of the most graphic and stirring choruses of this description ever written. The whole scene, the vales and forests resounding with the music of the horns, the finding of the quarry, the flying stag out-stripping the wind, the pack at fault, but starting in again as they find the scent, the tally-ho of the hunters, the noble animal at bay, his death, and the shouts of the crowd, are all pictured with a freshness and genuine out-door feeling which seem almost incredible considering Haydn’s age. This remarkable number is separated from its natural companion, the bacchanalian chorus, by a recitative extolling the wealth of the vintage. This chorus (” Joyful the Liquor flows “) is in two parts, -r- first a hymn in praise of wine, sung by the tippling revellers, and second, a dance tempo, full of life and beauty, with imitations of the bagpipe and rustic fiddles, the melody being a favorite Austrian dance-air. With this rollicking combination, for the two movements are interwoven, the third part closes.
A slow orchestral prelude, ” expressing the thick fogs at the approach of winter,” introduces the closing part. In recitative Simon describes the on-coming of the dreary season, and Jane reiterates the sentiment in the cavatina, “Light and Life dejected languish.” In Lucas’s recitative we see the snow covering the fields, and in his following aria, “The Traveller stands perplexed,’ a graphic tone-picture of the wanderer lost in the snow is presented. At last he espies the friendly light in the cottage. ” Melodious voices greet his ears,” and as he enters he beholds the friendly circle, the old father telling over his stories of the past, the mother plying the distaff, the girls spinning, and the young people making the night merry with jest and sport. At last they join in a characteristic imitative chorus (“Let the Wheel move gayly “). After the spinning they gather about the fire, and Jane sings a charming love-story (” A wealthy Lord who long had loved “), accompanied by chorus. Simon improves the occasion to moralize on the sentiment of the seasons in the aria, “In this, O vain, mis-guided Man,” impressing upon us the lesson that ” Nought but Truth remains ; ” and with a general appeal to Heaven for guidance through life, this quaint and peaceful pastoral poem in music draws to its close. It was the last important work of the aged Haydn, but it has all the charm and freshness of youth.