Born 1732 died 1809. It is hard for a rich man to enter heaven, so most of the great musicians have come either out of poverty or out of the merely relative ease of lower middle-class. Haydn’s father was a wheelwright, and his mother a cook, and he was born in a small village in Lower Austria. The population was largely Slav, his ancestry also, and for some years now it has been recognized that the Croatian folk-tunes he heard around him as a child constantly entered into his composition, either in body or in spirit.
The father and mother were unlettered musicians, and the boy soon showed musical leanings. A relative from the neighbouring town of Hamburg, noting this, took him there at the age of six, and entered him in his choir school. (` Almighty God, to whom I render thanks for all his unnumbered mercies, gave me such facility in music that by the time I was six I stood up like a man and sang masses in the church choir, and could play a little on the Harpsichord and Violin.’)
A further move occurred two years later, when the choirmaster of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, being on holiday in Hamburg, heard him and claimed him. At Vienna he had good teaching for Singing, Harpsichord, and Violin, but had to make shift as well as he could in the early attempts at Composition to which he felt impelled.
When his voice broke he was cast out. He took an attic, secured a few pupils, and spent hours in composition, basing his efforts on the Sonatas of J. S. Bach’s son, C. P. E. Bach, which embodied the new style, and were at complete variance with that of the older Bach. Invited to a nobleman’s country house, he found there a small orchestra and for it wrote his first Symphony, on the model laid down by C. P. E. Bach. Whilst he was about it he wrote, in the lavish wholesale manner of the time, eighteen such Symphonies, mostly, however, for Strings alone.
On returning to Vienna, he gradually became popular as a teacher, and at last, elevated to the lofty position of ‘ Herr Musikdirector and Kammercompositor’ to a Count in the neighbourhood, became passing rich on twenty pounds a year, and rashly married the daughter of his wig-makera step he ever afterwards regretted, since the lady proved to have as great a gift of fluent self-expression in words as he himself had in tones.
Later he took a simila1 position under Count Esterhazy, with the duty of controlling Orchestra, Choir, and Solo Singers, and directing the music in the private chapel and the private concert-room and opera-house. The opportunity of putting into performance his works as fast as they appeared was a stimulus both to production and to improvement. By the time he was forty his works were known to connoisseurs in most of the capitals of Europe.
On the death of his Prince, in 1790, Haydn was induced to come to London, where his reception by society, the larger public, and the press was most flattering. He fell in love with an English widow,. and but for that unfortunate wig-maker’s daughter (who showed no disposition towards decay, but, on the contrary, wrote to him. asking for money to buy a nice little house she had seen, which would be just the thing for her when she became a widow) there would have been an English Mrs. Haydn.
Another visit to England took place a little later. He got on splendidly with nearly every one he met in England except the Italian violinist, Giardini (Giardini said, in his hearing, I don’t want to see the German dog’ ; Haydn wrote in his diary, ‘ Giardini played like a pig’. Such are the amenities of musical life I). Haydn used to go to Carlton House to perform at the Prince of Wales’s parties, but he could not get his fee, and on his return to Vienna sent a bill for a-hundred guineas, which was at once paid by Parliament. Haydn’s finest Symphonies were written for London performance.
In his old age Haydn twice saw Vienna occupied by the enemy.. ‘The last song he heard was from a French officer, attached to the army of occupation, who came to sing him his own ‘ In Native Worth’, from The Creation, and the last music he performed was his own `Emperor’s Hymn’ (the `Austria’ of our hymn-tune books), to play which, a few days before he died, he had himself carried to the piano.
Haydn’s works are generally light and tuneful. Rarely does he attempt the expression of deep emotion. His Harpsichord and Piano works are of less account than his String Quartets and other Chamber works and his Symphonies. His oratorio The Creation has had a great popularity.
FURTHER READING. C. F. Pohl’s and Sir Henry Hadow’s admirable twenty-page article in Grove’s Dictionary ; Parry’s sketch in The Great Musicians ; Hadow’s Haydn, a Croatian Composer (Seeley, 3s. 6d.) ; Runciman’s Haydn (Bell, 2s. 6d.) ; extended passages in Parry’s Evolution of the Art of Music, and a long treatment in Colles’s The Growth of Music; passages in every history of music.
PRINTED MUSIC. Plenty of editions of nearly everything. The Symphonies make very enjoyable (and not difficult) solo or duet Piano practice.
PIANO-PLAYER ROLLS. Andante with Variations in F minor (one of Haydn’s deeper inspirations ; 65 note). Piano Sonata z, and first movement of 7 (65 note. No. 2 also done for 88 note) ; the Surprise Symphony cut from a four-hand arrangement (65 and 88) ; the God preserve the Emperor String Quartet (= `Kaiser Quartet’) (65 or 68); and other things.
GRAMOPHONE RECORDS. Two movements from Su brise Symphony, including the Andante, in which the ` Surprise’ (a sudden loud chord) occurs (H. M. V.) ; Thy Symphony, 2 movements (H. M. V.) ; Minuet in D (Elman, H. M. V.) ; another Minuet (Elman, H. M. V.) ; Gipsy Rondo, from First Trio (Sammons, Squire, Murdoch, C.) ; Andante in E flat (‘Cello, Squire, C.) ; Quartet in D, Op. 64, no. 5 (London String Quartet; z records, C.) ; Second Movement from Quartet in D, Op. 64, no. 5 (Flonzaley Quartet, H. M. V.)'; Largo from Quartet in D, Op. 76, no. 5 (Catterall Quartet, H. M. V.) ; Andante from Emperor Quartet (Elman Quartet, H. M. V.) ; first two movements from Quartet in B fiat, Op. 64, no. 3 (London String Quartet, V.) ; Andante Cantabile from Quartet in F (Léner Quartet, C.) ; Allegro from Quartet in G, Op. 76, no. I (Catterall Quartet, H. M. V.) ; With Verdure Clad, from The Creation (Soprano, Caroline Hatchard, V.) ; Rolling in Foaming Billows, from the same (Bass, Radford, H. M. V.).