Wednesday, November 5, 2008



(excerpts from the book, Bach, Beethoven and the Boys by David Barber)

Through his connection with Porpora, Haydn soon got a job as a composer to the court of Count Morzin, a Bohemian nobleman.  From there he was offered the job he stayed at for the rest of his life, as court composer and Kapellmeister to Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, a Hungarian nobleman.

Paul Anton didn't last long and was soon replaced by his brother, Nicolaus the Magnificent.  Nicolaus was a kind man and a decent musician, even if he did have a penchant for flashy clothing.  Haydn's own uniform was blue with gold trim.  Later it was red with gold trim.

Nicolaus liked to play an instrument called the baryton, which is a sort of cross between the cello and a guitar.  Nobody makes them anymore.  But if you wanted to learn it, Haydn wrote about 160 chamber pieces for the baryton, which ought to keep you busy for awhile.

Not content with the family palace at Eisenstadt, Nicolaus decided to build a splendid new castle, which he named Esterhaza.  He had it built in a swamp in the middle of nowhere because he was fond of duck hunting.

Esterhaza was a classy place, but Haydn and his musicians didn't like being stuck in the boondocks, so far away form Vienna, not to mention their wives and children.  The quarters were mostly single rooms.  Haydn had one of the few apartments with room for his wife, not that he spent anymore time with her than he had to.

This situation led Haydn to compose one of his best-known symphonies, No. 45 in F-sharp minor, known as the "Farewell" Symphony.  The joke comes at the end of the final movement when as the instrumental parts drop away, each player was instructed to snuff out his candle and leave the stage.  By the end there were only two violins playing, Haydn and Luigi Tomasini. Nicolaus got the message and everyone packed to leave the next day.

Haydn's compositions have more nicknames than those of any other composer in the history of music.  When you consider that he wrote, for example, at least 22 symphonies in D major, the nicknames become useful.  Altogether, he wrote about 107 symphonies, a dozen Masses, 52 piano sonatas and about 84 string quartets.  He had to have something to keep him out of the house at nights.

Even though his marriage was a disaster, Haydn had plenty else to be happy about.  He was well respected by his contemporaries, including Mozart and Beethoven, who both studied with him.  The members of his orchestra called him "Papa."  He had stubby legs and a big nose and a mischievous sense of humor.

When Haydn died in 1809, there was a simple funeral, since Austria was rather busy being invaded by Napoleon's troops.


healthily sanguine said...

We do nicknames too! Like "Missa Smitha"...the next best thing to being creative yourself is to mooch on someone else's creativity by adding a nickname. :)

healthily sanguine said...

Coincidentally, currently listening to Haydn's Keyboard Trio in C Major.