Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/715

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
HAYDN.
703
 

him, and if he had any difficulty, his master's severity soon overcame it. In his old age he spoke with thankfulness of this hard probation, and of his cousin's discipline. 'I shall be grateful to that man as long as I live,' said he to Griesinger, 'for keeping me so hard at work, though I used to get more flogging than food.' On another occasion, when speaking in his modest way of his own talents and industry, he added, 'Almighty God, to whom I render thanks for all His unnumbered mercies, gave me such facility in music, that by the time I was 6 I stood up like a man and sang masses in the church choir, and could play a little on the clavier and the violin.' But the lad sadly missed his mother's care. He was neglected both in clothes and person (he already wore a wig, 'for the sake of cleanliness'), and the results of this neglect distressed him long and sorely. When quite an old man he said to Dies the painter—who, like Griesinger, visited him frequently with a view to his biography—'I could not help perceiving, 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.' Dies has preserved another anecdote of this period, in which Haydn figures. A drummer was wanted for a procession, and his master thrust him into the vacant office, first showing him how to make the stroke. The effect must have been comical, as he was so small that the instrument had to be carried before him on the back of a colleague of equal height, who happened to be a hunchback. Haydn retained his liking for the drum, and prided himself on his skill, with which indeed he once astonished Salomon's orchestra during his stay in London. The drums on which he performed at Hamburg on the occasion just named are still preserved in the choir of the church.

At the end of two years a decisive change took place in his life. George Reutter, Hofcompositor and Capellmeister at St. Stephen's, Vienna, was on a visit to his friend Anton Johann Palmb, pastor of Hamburg, and having heard Haydn's 'weak, sweet voice' (as he himself called it), put him through an examination, and offered him a place as chorister at St. Stephen's. To go to Vienna seemed to the boy an almost incredible piece of good fortune. His parents gave their consent; and with a joyful heart he bade farewell to Hamburg. His grandmother had died just before—May 17, 1739; Frankh lived to be 75, and died May 10, 1783, his wife Julie Rosine (who did not do her duty by Haydn) having preceded him in Jan. 1760. Of their two daughters, Anna Rosalia, born 1752, married Philipp Schimpel, usher of the school, and afterwards Chor-regent. Haydn showed his gratitude to the family by leaving the latter couple a sum of money and his portrait of Frankh, 'my first instructor in music.' They both, however, died before him, in 1805, and the portrait has disappeared.

It was in 1740 that Haydn entered the Cantorei of St. Stephen's, where he was to pass his remaining years of study. The house was one of a row which came close up to the principal entrance of the cathedral, and from his window he looked straight on the glorious spire. He tells us that, 'besides the regular studies, he learned singing, the clavier, and the violin from good masters.' The 'regular studies' included religion, a little Latin, writing, and ciphering. His singing-masters are said to have been Gegenbauer and Finsterbusch; the former, sub-cantor and violinist at St. Stephen's, probably taught him the violin as well; the latter was a tenor in the court chapel. No instruction seems to have been given in harmony and composition at the Cantorei; but this did not trouble Von Reutter (ennobled in 1740). Haydn could only remember having had two lessons from him all the time he was there. But the instinct for composition made him cover every blank sheet of music-paper on which he could lay his hands—'it must be all right if the paper was nice and full.' Reutter surprised him once sketching a 'Salve Regina' for 12 voices, and told him sharply he had better try it first in two parts—how, he did not take the pains to show—and further advised him to write variations on the motets and vespers he heard in church. In this way he was thrown back upon himself. 'I certainly had the gift,' he says, 'and by dint of hard work I managed to get on.' An anecdote of this time shows that as a boy he was not behind his comrades in fun and mischief. The choristers were frequently required to sing with the imperial chapel—which explains Haydn's statement that he had sung with great success both at court and in St. Stephen's. This generally happened when the court was at Schönbrunn. The palace had only just been completed, and the scaffolding was still standing—an irresistible temptation to boys. The Empress Maria Theresa 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-haired blockhead' (blonder Dickkopf), the ringleader of them all, got 'einen recenten Schilling' (slang for a 'good hiding'). When he was Capellmeister to Prince Esterhazy, 'the fair-haired blockhead' had an opportunity, at Esterház, of thanking the Empress for this mark of imperial favour.

In the autumn of 1745 Haydn had the pleasure of welcoming his brother Michael as a fellow-chorister at the Cantorei, and of helping him in his work. Michael made rapid progress, but a cloud came over poor Joseph's prospects. His voice began to break, and the Empress, who had before taken particular pleasure in his singing, remarked jocosely to her Vice-Capellmeister[1], that young Haydn's singing was more like the crowing of a cock than anything else.

  1. Von Reutter was advanced to the post in 1746.