A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Haydn, Michael

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HAYDN, Johann Michael, born, like his brother Joseph, at Rohrau, Sept. 14, 1737; was grounded in music by the village schoolmaster, and at eight became chorister at St. Stephen's, Vienna. His voice was a pure soprano of great compass, and his style so good that, as soon as Joseph's voice began to change Michael took all the principal parts. He played the violin and organ, and was soon able to act as deputy organist at St. Stephen's. He was fond of history, geography, and the classics. In music he aimed at originality from the first, and formed a sort of society among his school-fellows for detecting plagiarisms. Like his brother he had no regular instruction in composition, but taught himself from Fux's 'Gradus,' which he copied[1] entire in 1757. His first known mass is dated Temesvar, 1754; other works were composed at Warasdin and Belenyes; but how he came to be in Hungary is not known. In 1757 he was Capellmeister at Grosswardein to the bishop Count Firmian, whose uncle Archbishop Sigismund of Salzburg appointed him, in 1763, his director and concertmeister. In 1777 he also became organist at the churches of Holy Trinity and St. Peter. On the 17th of August, 1768, he married Maria Magdalena Lapp, daughter of the cathedral organist, and a singer at the archbishop's court, who took the principal parts in several of Mozart's juvenile operas, and is mentioned by him as leading a peculiarly strict life. They had one child, a daughter, born 1770, died the following year. The wife lived to be 82, and died in June 1827. Michael's salary, at first 300 florins (£24) with board and lodging, was afterwards doubled; and this modest pittance was sufficient to retain him for the whole of his life at Salzburg. His attachment to the place was extraordinary, one attraction being the proximity of his great friend, a clergyman named Rettensteiner. In 1783 the then archbishop, Hieronymus Count Colloredo, commissioned him to compose some vocal pieces to be used instead of the instrumental music between the Gloria and Credo at high mass. Michael selected words from the Roman Missal, and his first Graduale—first of 114—was performed on Dec. 24. In 1798 he visited Vienna, and was cordially received by his brother, and by Eybler, Sussmayer, Henneberg, Hummel, and von Reich the amateur, who pressed him to settle among them, but in vain. In Dec. 1800 he lost his property through the taking of Salzburg by the French, but his brother and friends came liberally to his assistance. The Empress Maria Theresa[2] hearing of his losses commissioned him to compose a mass, which he presented to her in person. The performance took place at Laxenburg, Oct. 4, 1801, under his own direction; the Empress sang the soprano solos, rewarded him munificently, and commanded another mass for the Emperor and a requiem. Accompanied by his friend Rettensteiner he visited Eisenstadt, where for the first and only time in their lives the three Haydns spent some happy days together. Michael much enjoyed the canons which decorated the walls of Joseph's study in Vienna, and asked leave to copy some of them, but Joseph replied, 'Get away with your copies; you can compose much better for yourself.' Michael however carried his point, and even added a fourth part to 'Die Mutter an ihr Kind.' Prince Esterhazy commissioned Michael to compose a mass and vespers, and offered him the vice-capellmeistership of his chapel, but he twice refused, in the hope that the chapel at Salzburg would be reorganised and his salary raised. His hopes were deceived, but meantime the post at Eisenstadt had been filled [3]up, and he wrote to his brother complaining bitterly of the disappointment. Joseph thought Michael too straightforward for Eisenstadt: 'Ours is a court life,' said he, 'but a very different one from yours at Salzburg; it is uncommonly hard to do what you want.' At this time Michael was elected a member of the Academy at Stockholm, and sent in exchange for his diploma a Missa Hispanica for two choirs (comp. 1786), and other church works. In Dec. 1805 he finished his last mass, for two sopranos and alto, written for his choristers. He made some progress with the requiem for the Empress, but was unable to finish it. While on his deathbed his beautiful 'Lauda Sion' was sung at his request in the next room, and soon after, on August 10, 1806, he expired. The requiem was completed by portions from his earlier one in C minor, and performed at his funeral. He lies in a side chapel of St. Peter's Church. A well-designed monument was erected in 1821, and over it is an urn containing his skull. In the tavern of St. Peter's monastery is still shown the 'Haydn-Stübchen,' his almost daily resort. His widow received from the Empress 600 florins for the score of the requiem; from Prince Esterhazy 30 ducats for the opera 'Andromeda and Perseus,' and an annuity of 36 gold ducats for all his MS. compositions. His brother several times sent him money, and in his first will (1801) left 4000 florins to him, and in his second (1809) 1000 to the widow. His likeness, with regular, steady features, exists in many oil-portraits, engravings, lithographs, and drawings.

In character Michael was upright, good-tempered, and modest; a little rough in manners, and in later life given to drink. His letters show him to have been a warm-hearted friend, and that he was devout may be inferred from his habit of initialling all his MSS. with 'O. a. M. D. Gl.' (Omnia ad Majorem Dei Gloriam). As a composer he was overshadowed by the fame of his brother. His own words 'Give me good librettos, and the same patronage as my brother, and I should not be behind him,' could scarcely have been fulfilled, since he failed in the very qualities which ensured his brother's success. On the other hand, Joseph professed that Michael's church compositions were superior to his own in earnestness, severity of style, and sustained power. They are however very unequal; many are antiquated from the monotony of the accompaniment, while others—the Mass in D minor, the Graduale 'Tres sunt,' the 'Lauda Sion,' the well-known 'Tenebrae' in E♭, etc.—are still highly esteemed. Leopold Mozart, a man who disliked his manners, wrote to his son 'Herr Haydn is a man whose merit you will be forced to acknowledge.' This refers to his sacred works, several of which Wolfgang scored for practice; he also sent for them to Vienna, and endeavoured to make them better known, especially introducing them to Van Swieten. In 1783, when Michael was laid aside by illness, Mozart composed two string duets for [4]him. Franz Schubert visited Michael's grave in 1825, and thus records his impressions: 'The good Haydn! It almost seemed as if his clear calm spirit were hovering over me. I may be neither calm nor clear, but no man living reverences him more than I do. My eyes filled with tears as we came away.' Ferdinand Schubert composed a striking chorus to words in praise of Michael Haydn. Among his numerous pupils we may mention C. M. von Weber, Neukomm, Wölfl, and Reicha. There exists 'Biographische Skizze,' a very warm-hearted pamphlet written by Schinn and Otter (Salzburg, 1808).

Of his compositions comparatively few have been printed. His modesty was excessive, and prevented his ever availing himself of the offers of Breitkopf & Härtel. The following list of his works is complete.

Instrumental—50 short organ pieces for beginners, consisting of preludes, etc. in all the 8 Church tones (published at Linz); 30 symphonies, [5]and Partiten, 1 sextet, 3 [6]quintets, serenades, marches, 12 minuets for full orchestra (Augsburg, Gombart), 1 violin concerto, etc.

Vocal—about 360 compositions for the Church, including 2 requiems,[7] 24 masses, 4 German masses,[8] 114 [9]graduales, 67 offertoires, 8 [10]litanies, 11 vespers, 5 Salve Regina, 8 Responsorien, 3 Tenebræ, Regina Cœli, etc. etc.; and several German sacred songs. A great many oratorios[11], cantatas, operas (including 'Andromeda e Perseus,' 1776), mythological operettas, a [12]pastoral 'Die Hochzeit auf der Alm,' 2 collections of 4-part songs (Vienna, Eder, 1799; Salzburg, Hacker, 1800); several single ones, 'Karl der Held, Erzherzogvon Oesterreich,' etc,; 6 canons in 4 and 5 parts (Salzburg, Meyer, 1800).

Theoretical—'Partitur-Fundament,'[13] edited by Martin Bischofsreiter. In the Imperial Library is an Antiphonarium romanum with figured bass, finished in 1792.

[ C. F. P. ]

  1. The MS. copy, like the autograph of his first mass, 1754, is in the Hofbibliothek.
  2. Second wife of Francis II.
  3. The Vice-Capellmeistership was bestowed on Johann Fuchs, violinist in the chapel, and afterwards Haydn's successor. He died Oct. 29, 1830.
  4. Afterwards published in Mozart's name. (Kochel's Catalogue Nos. 423 and 424.)
  5. Artaria published three.
  6. One in C was printed under Joseph's name as op. 88.
  7. The second, in B♭, is unfinished. (Kühnel.)
  8. His first High Mass (German), 'Hier liegt vor deiner Majestät,' in C (Haslinger), is very popular.
  9. 42 in score (1–20 and 41–62) in the 'Eccleslastlcon.' (Spins.)
  10. 'Litaniæ de venerabili sacramento.' (Breitkopf & Härtel.)
  11. The oratorios performed in Lent were generally joint-compositions by various authors; for instance, 'Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes' (1766) of which Mozart (aged 10) wrote the first part, Michael Haydn the second, and Adlgasser, Court-organist, the third.
  12. Vocal score, Falter & Son, Munich 1862; often ascribed to Joseph.
  13. Reprinted by Ober of Salzburg 1833. The score Is among the MSS. of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde.