University Musical Encyclopedia/Great Composers: A Series of Biographical Studies/Joseph Haydn
The story of Haydn's early life is the record of a triumph of determination and enthusiasm over opposing circumstances. It has been said of him that his childhood ended with his sixth year. Certain it is that almost from that time began a struggle with hard fortune; but an indomitable cheerfulness and devotion to his art carried Haydn safely through troubled waters.
His father who was a wheelwright, and a typical hard-working, independent Austrian peasant, lived in the village of Rohrau, where on March 31, 1732, Franz Joseph Haydn was born. His father had learned to play the harp by ear, and was fond of singing the old peasant Lieder to its accompaniment.
Gradually he noticed that his little Joseph was attracted by musical sounds; and when one day he came upon him sitting outside the schoolhouse window scraping two pieces of wood together in imitation of the schoolmaster, who was playing the violin within, he made up his mind that his son was to be a musician. In time he might even become a choir-master, like his cousin Johann Mathias Frankh at Hainburg. Frau Haydn had cherished the idea of his becoming a priest, and was at first bitterly opposed to her husband's plans, but her scruples were gradually overcome. The boy was delighted at the prospect before him; and the matter was decided by a visit from Cousin Frankh, who tested his voice and offered to take him to Hainburg and train him with his other choristers.
From Frankh the young Haydn received, as he afterward wrote to a friend, "more blows than victuals," and he mentioned how distressed he was "to find himself becoming a dirty little urchin" for want of his mother's care. But he had inherited a stock of common sense, and his buoyancy of disposition, coupled with his fixed resolve to become the best singer in the choir, helped him to struggle on.
It was to the sweetness of his voice that Haydn owed his first advancement; for when he was eight years old his singing attracted the attention of Reutter, the choir-master at the Church of St. Stephen in Vienna, who was recruiting for the trebles. His offer to admit the boy into his choir obtained the ready consent of his parents, and Joseph went off hopefully to Vienna with his new master. The work there was very hard, but worse than that was the fact that though he had more than enough of vocal training, he could get from Reutter no instruction in composition, his longing for which was fast becoming a passion.
He covered with attempts at masses and anthems every piece of paper upon which he could lay his hands, but his timid endeavors to induce Reutter to look at them were only met with ridicule. He was not to be daunted, and a small gift of money from his father was laid out in the purchase of some text-books of musical composition. "The talent was in me, he afterward wrote, "and by dint of hard work I managed to get on." For ten years this state of things continued, Haydn always persevering with his music, and even deserting the games of his companions for it.
Unfortunately for Haydn, Reutter took a strong dislike to him, and lost no opportunity of showing it. Haydn's mischievous spirit no doubt led him to adopt an attitude which, though commendable, was impolitic; and eventually, in 1749, after some boyish escapade of Haydn's, Reutter seized upon the pretext for discharging him.
Haydn was now only in his eighteenth year, and found himself turned out in the streets of Vienna on a winter's night, with nothing to call his own except his beloved books. He would not go back to his parents; for, if he did, unless he were to become a mere burden upon them he must given up all idea of a musical career. Fortunately he found a friend in need, in the person of another poor musician; and with his help, and a share in his wretched garret, Haydn struggled through the winter, gaining a slender pittance playing the fiddle at balls and entertainments, and giving music-lessons for miserable pay. At last he enlisted the sympathies of a good-natured tradesman of the name of Buchholz, who lent him 150 florins; and with this sum, which seemed to him a fortune, Haydn made a start.
He was able to hire a room to himself—only an attic, but in the same house where dwelt the Italian poet Metastasio, who became interested in him and introduced him to Porpora, the most eminent master of singing of his time, and from this day Haydn's fortunes began to mend. Porpora was a surly old fellow, and at first little inclined to bestow any attention upon Haydn. Indeed, it was only when he found that the young enthusiast was ready to perform the most menial offices for an occasional crumb of instruction, that he treated him kindly and gave him a few regular lessons in composition. This episode in Haydn's life is introduced in a charming manner by George Sand in her romance "Consuela," the best story of artistic life that has ever been written.
Haydn was now in the way of obtaining more profitable introductions, and by the time he was five-and-twenty he was to be seen at some of the best houses in Vienna in the capacity of accompanist at musical soirées. For his services he received a small sum and a meal at the servants' table. Music was at this time the fashionable craze at Vienna, and a private concert the form of entertainment most affected; but the social position of the artist was that of an upper servant. However, at these houses Haydn made the acquaintance of musicians—among others of Gluck, who had been attracted by his performances; and after a time he found that his position not only enabled him to obtain what seemed to him magnificent payment for his lessons, but also—and this was a matter nearer his heart—to induce publishers to accept his compositions. Slowly but surely his genius raised him above the level of his fellows, and influential people began to interest themselves in him; the happy result of all being an appointment (in 1759) as kapellmeister, or master of music, in the establishment of a wealthy Bohemian noble, Count Morzin.
Connected with Haydn's early years in Vienna is the unhappy story of his first love. Its object was a beautiful girl who was his pupil; but she, unfortunately for Haydn, did not in any way reciprocate his affection, and was bent upon life in a cloister. She was the younger of two sisters, and her father, determined to secure this young genius as his son-in-law, spared no effort to induce Haydn to turn his attention to the scornful lady's elder sister. Haydn, in an evil moment, consented to marry the elder girl, a decision of which he bitterly repented when it was too late. Her slight infatuation for him soon wore off, and her nature was wholly ill-suited to his. After some years of domestic wretchedness spent with this woman—with whom no sympathy was possible, and to whom, as he said, it was all the same whether he were an artist of a cobbler—Haydn made an arrangement which virtually amounted to a formal separation.
Soon after Haydn's marriage, which took place in November, 1760, the Morzin household was broken up, but the Count found his protégé another post, that of kapellmeister to Prince Anton Esterhazy, the representative of one of the oldest and noblest Hungarian families. Prince Anton died about a year after the appointment was made, and was succeeded by the Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy, whose lavish patronage of the arts has made his name famous.
Now began for Haydn that prolific period—more than thirty years—of restful and congenial happiness to which the musical world owes so much. Many of his best symphonies, several small operas, much Church music and a mass of chamber music of every description, were the outcome of his activity during this time. Add to this his duties as sole controller of a large orchestra, manager of all the concerts, and instructor of the vocalists, and we may well believe that his time never lay heavy on his hands; albeit the life at Eisenstadt and Esterhaz, his patron's two seats, was sometimes irksome to him from its very quiet. Haydn was loyal to his patron, and refused more than one proposal that he should throw up his post and accept lucrative concert engagements; for his compositions had come by this time to be widely known and admired. Whatever irksomeness he may have felt in his life of service to the Prince vanished when he was asked to leave him. "My dearest wish," he wrote to a friend, "is to live and die with him."
The original form of agreement between Haydn and Prince Esterhazy gives us an idea of the position held in such a household by the kapellmeister, at a time when the artist was the dependent of the great man, and, as often as not, on a social level very little higher than that of a lackey. "The said Joseph Haydn," runs one clause, "shall be considered and treated as a member of the household. Therefore his Serene Highness is graciously pleased to place confidence in his conducting himself as becomes an honorable official of a princely house." He is "to appear in the antechamber daily, and inquire whether his highness is pleased to order a performance of his orchestra." It is also enjoined upon him that he is "to abstain from undue familiarity, and from vulgarity in eating, drinking and conversation; not dispensing with the respect due to him, but acting uprightly and influencing his subordinates to preserve such harmony as is becoming in them, remembering how displeasing the consequences of any discord or dispute would be to his Serene Highness."
In common with his orchestra, Haydn wore a prescribed dress; and it is specially noted in his instructions that, when playing before company, all the performers are to appear "in white stockings, white linen, powdered, and either with a pigtail or a tie-wig." For his services Haydn received 400 florins (about $200) annually, and his board at the officers' table. This salary was eventually almost doubled by the Prince's generosity.
Haydn's works were now selling well, and his reputation had spread far beyond the narrow sphere to which his duties were confined. His musical methods were much discussed; for while the beauty of his work was freely admitted, evidences of unusual power recognized in its unconventionality. A Viennese journal of the year 1766, in a notice of various prominent musicians, speaks of "Herr Joseph Haydn, our nation's favorite, whose geniality speaks through all his work. His music has beauty, style, purity, and a delicate and noble simplicity which commends it to every hearer."
Till he was fifty-nine Haydn remained faithful to his post with the prince at Eisenstadt, in Vienna, and at Esterhaz—the miniature Versailles built by the prince on the banks of the Neusiedler See. The retirement in which much of his life was spent, rather than any unusual rapidity of composition, explains the remarkable number of Haydn's works. In the symphonic form alone he completed sixty-three works during this period. The extend of his industry will appear if we realize that he found time for original work without any neglect of his official duties, comprising the complete arrangement of the daily music, two operatic performances and two or three concerts weekly, besides fêtes given in honor of distinguished visitors.
On September 28, 1790, Prince Nicolaus died—a great loss for Haydn, who really loved him. He left his kapellmeister, on condition of his retaining the title, an annual pension of 1000 florins, as a mark of esteem and affection. To this sum his successor, Prince Anton, added another 400 florins, but deprived Haydn of his occupation by dismissing the whole chapel, except for the few members necessary to keep up the services in church. Haydn now fixed his abode in Vienna, but had hardly done so before Johann Peter Salomon, a German-English musician, appeared on the scene. He had heard of the Prince's death at Cologne, on his way to England, and immediately returned, hoping, now that Haydn was free, to persuade him to visit London. Haydn gave way and began to make preparations for the journey. His last hours in Vienna were enlivened by the company of Mozart, who had come to see him off.
Leaving Vienna on December 15, 1790, Haydn and Salomon proceeded to London. Haydn first put up at the house of Bland, the music-seller, but soon removed to rooms prepared for him at Salomon's. Here he found himself the object of every species of attention; ambassadors and noblemen called on him, invitations poured in from all quarters, and he was surrounded by a circle of the most distinguished artists. All the musical societies eagerly desired his presence at their meetings. His quartets and symphonies were performed and he was enthusiastically noticed in all the newspapers.
Before leaving Vienna Salomon had announced his subscription concerts in the "Morning Chronicle," for which Haydn was engaged to compose six symphonies, and conduct them at the pianoforte. The first of the series took place on March 11, 1791, in the Hanover Square Rooms. The orchestra, led by Salomon, consisted of 35 or 40 performers. The "Morning Chronicle" gave an animated description of the concert, the success of which was most brilliant, and insured that of the whole series.
About this time Haydn was invited to the annual dinner of the Royal Society of Musicians, and composed for the occasion a march for orchestra, the autograph of which is still preserved by the society. He also attended the Handel Commemoration in Westminster Abbey. He had a good place near the King's box, and never having heard any performance on so grand a scale, was immensely impressed. When the "Hallelujah Chorus" rang through the nave, and the whole audience rose to their feet, he wept like a child, exclaiming, "He is the master of us all."
In the first week of July he went to the Oxford Commemoration, for the honorary degree of Doctor of Music, conferred at Dr. Burney's suggestion. Three grand concerts formed an important feature of the entertainments; at the second of these the "Oxford" symphony was performed, Haydn giving the tempi at the organ; and at the third he appeared in his doctor's gown, amid enthusiastic applause. He sent the University as his "exercise" a composition afterward used for the first of the "Ten Commandments," the whole of which he set to canons during his stay in London.
Haydn was in great request at concerts, and at these many of his own compositions were performed, some of them being "received with an ecstasy of admiration." The concerts over, he made excursions to Windsor Castle, Ascot Races, and Slough, where he stayed with Herschel, of whose domestic life he gives a particular description in his diary. The only son, afterward Sir John Herschel, was then a few months old. He went also to the meeting of the Charity Children in St. Paul's Cathedral, and was deeply moved by the singing. "I was more touched," he says in his diary, "by this innocent and reverent music than by any I ever heard in my life."
During his absence his wife had had the offer of a small house and garden in the suburbs of Vienna (Windmühle, 73 Kleine Steingasse, now 19 Haydn-gasse), and she wrote asking him to send her the money for it, as it would be just the house for her when she became a widow. He did not send the money, but on his return to Vienna bought it, added a story, and lived there from January, 1797, till his death.
Haydn left London toward the end of June, 1792, and reached Vienna at the end of July. His reception was enthusiastic, and all were eager to hear his London symphonies. In December, 1792, Beethoven came to him for instruction, and continued to take lessons until Haydn's second journey to England. The relations of these two great men have been much misrepresented. That Haydn had not in any way forfeited Beethoven's respect is evident, as he spoke highly of him whenever opportunity offered, usually chose one of Haydn's themes when improvising in public, scored one of his quartets for his own use, and carefully preserved the autograph of one of the English symphonies. But whatever Beethoven's early feelings may been, all doubts as to his latest sentiments are set are set at rest by his exclamation on his deathbed on seeing a view of Haydn's birthplace, sent to him by Diabelli: "To think that so great a man should have been born in a common peasant's cottage!"
Again invited by Salomon, under special stipulation, to compose six new symphonies, Haydn started on his second journey on January 19, 1794, and arrived in London on February 4. Haydn's engagement with Salomon bound him to compose and conduct six fresh symphonies; and besides these, the former set was repeated.
Among the numerous violinists then in London we must not omit Giardini. Though nearly eighty years of age, he produced an oratorio, "Ruth," at Ranelagh, and even played a concerto. His temper was frightful, and he showed a particular spite against Haydn, even remarking within his hearing, when urged to call upon him, "I don't want to see the German dog." Haydn retorted by writing in his diary, after hearing him play, "Giardini played like a pig."
After the exertions of the season Haydn sought refreshment in the country. An anecdote of this time shows the humor which was so native to him, and so often pervades his compositions. He composed an apparently easy sonata for pianoforte and violin, called it "Jacob's Dream," and sent it anonymously to an amateur who professed himself addicted to the extreme upper notes of the violin. The unfortunate performer was delighted with the opening; here was a composer who thoroughly understood the instrument! but as he found himself compelled to mount the ladder higher and higher, without any chance of coming down again, the perspiration burst out upon his forehead, and he exclaimed "What sort of composition do you call this? The man knows nothing whatever of the violin!"
During the latter months of his stay in London Haydn was much distinguished by the court. At a concert at York House the programme consisted entirely of his compositions, he presided at the pianoforte, and Salomon was leader. The King and Queen, the princesses, the Prince of Wales, and the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester were present, and the Prince of Wales presented Haydn to the King, who, in spite of his almost exclusive preference for Handel, expressed great interest in the music, and presented the composer to the Queen, who begged him to sing some of his own songs. He was also repeatedly invited to the Queen's concerts at Buckingham House; and both King and Queen expressed a wish that he should remain in England and spend the summer at Windsor. Haydn replied that he felt bound not to desert Prince Esterhazy, and was not inclined entirely to forsake his own country. As a particular mark of esteem the Queen presented him with a copy of the score of Handel's Passion Music to Brocke's words.
The second visit to London was a brilliant success. He returned from it with increased powers, unlimited fame, and a competence for life. By concerts, lessons, and symphonies, not counting his other compositions, he had again—as before—made £1200, enough to relieve him from all anxiety for the future. He often said afterward that it was not till he had been in England that he became famous in Germany, but which he meant that though his reputation was high at home, the English first gave him homage and liberal reward.
Haydn left London August 15, 1795, for Vienna. Soon after his return a pleasant surprise awaited him. He was taken by Count Harrach and a genial party of noblemen and gentlemen, first to a small peninsula formed by the Leitha in a park near Rohrau, where he found a monument and bust of himself, and next to his birthplace. Overcome by his feelings, on entering the humble abode Haydn stooped down and kissed the threshold, and then, pointing to the stove, told the company that it was on that very spot that his career as a musician began. On December 18 he gave a concert in the small Redoutensaal, at which three of his London symphonies were performed, and Beethoven played either his first or second clavier concerto.
Haydn had often envied the English their "God save the King," and the war with France having quickened his desire to provide the people with an adequate expression of their fidelity to the throne, he determined to compose a national anthem for Austria. Hence arose "Gott erhalt Franz der Kaiser," the most popular of all his Lieder. Haydn's friend, Freiherr van Swieten, suggested the idea to the Prime Minister, Graf von Saurau, and the poet Haschka was commissioned to write the words, which Haydn set in January, 1797. On the Emperor's birthday, February 12, the air was sung simultaneously at the National Theater in Vienna, and at all the principle theaters in the provinces. This strain, almost sublime in its simplicity, and so devotional in its character that it is used as a hymn-tune, faithfully reflects Haydn's feelings toward his sovereign. It was his favorite work, and toward the close of his life he often consoled himself by playing it with great expression.
High as his reputation already was, it had not reached its culminating point. This was attained by the two works of his old age, "The Creation" and "The Seasons." Shortly before his departure from London, Salomon offered him a poem for music, which had been compiled by Lidley from Milton's "Paradise Lost" before the death of Handel, but not used. Haydn took it to Vienna, and when Freiherr van Swieten suggested his composing an oratorio, he handed him the poem. Van Swieten translated it with considerable alterations, and a sum of 500 ducats was guaranteed by twelve of the principal nobility. Haydn set to work with the greatest ardor. "Never was I so pious," he says, as when composing "The Creation.' I knelt down every day and prayed God to strengthen me for my work." It was first given in private at the Schwarzenberg palace, on the 29th and 30th of April, 1798; and in public on Haydn's name-day, March 19, 1799, at the National Theater. The noblemen previously mentioned paid the expenses, and handed over to Haydn the entire proceeds, amounting to 4000 florins (about $1600). The impression it produced was extraordinary; the whole audience was deeply moved, and Haydn confessed that he could not describe his sensations. "One moment," he said, "I was as cold as ice, the next I seemed on fire. More than once I was afraid I should have a stroke." Once only he conducted it outside Vienna—March 9, 1800, at a grand performance in the palace of Ofen before the Archduke Palatine Joseph of Hungary. No sooner was the score engraved (1800) than "The Creation" was performed everywhere. Choral societies were founded for the express purpose, and its popularity was for long equaled only by that of "The Messiah."
As soon as "The Creation" was finished, Van Swieten persuaded Haydn to begin another oratorio, which he had adopted from Thomson's "Seasons." He consented to the proposition with reluctance, on the ground that his powers were failing; but he began, and in spite of his objections to certain passages as unsuited to music, the work as a whole interested him much, and was speedily completed. Opinions are now divided as to the respective value of the two works, but at the time the success of "The Seasons" fully equaled that of "The Creation," and even now the youthful freshness which characterizes it is very striking. The strain, however, was too great; as he often said afterward, "'The Seasons' gave me the finishing stroke." On December 26, 1803, he conducted the "Seven Words" for the hospital fund at Redoutensaal, but it was his last public exertion. In the following year he was asked to conduct "The Creation" at Eisenstadt, but declined on the score of weakness; and indeed he was failing rapidly. His works composed after "The Seasons" are very few, the chief being some vocal quartets, on which he set a high value.
Haydn's last years were passed in a continual struggle with the infirmities of age, relieved by occasional gleams of sunshine. When in a happy mood he would unlock his cabinet, and exhibit to his intimate friends the souvenirs, diplomas, and valuables of all kinds which it contained. He also received visitors, who cannot have failed to give him pleasure, and who came to render homage to the old man. Mozart's widow did not forget her husband's best friend, and her son Wolfgang, then fourteen, begged his blessing at his first public concert, on April 8, 1805, for which he had composed a cantata in honor of Haydn's seventy-third birthday.
After a long seclusion Haydn appeared in public for the last time at a remarkable performance of "The Creation" at the University on March 27, 1808. He was carried in his armchair to a place among the first ladies of the land, and received with the warmest demonstrations of welcome. Salieri conducted. At the words "And there was light" Haydn was quite overcome, and pointing upward exclaimed, "It came from thence." As the performance went on his agitation became extreme, and it was thought better to take him home after the first part. As he was carried out people of the highest rank thronged to take leave of him, and Beethoven fervently kissed his hand and forehead. At the door he paused, and turning round lifted up his hands as if in the act of blessing.
To one who loved his country so deeply, it was a sore trial to see Vienna twice occupied by the enemy—in 1805 and 1809. The second time the city was bombarded, and the first shot fell not far from his residence. In his infirm condition this alarmed him greatly, but he called out to his servants, "Children, don't be frightened; no harm can happen to you while Haydn is by." The last visit he received on his deathbed (the city was then in the occupation of the French) was from a French officer, who sang "In native worth" with a depth of expression doubtless inspired by the occasion. Haydn was much moved, and embraced him warmly at parting. On May 26, 1809, he called his servants round him for the last time, and having been carried to the piano solemnly played the Emperor's Hymn three times over. Five days afterward, at one o'clock in the morning of the 31st, he expired. As soon as his death was known, funeral services were held in all the principal cities of Europe.
On June 15 Mozart's "Requiem" was performed in his honor at the Schottenkirche. Among the mourners were many French officers of high rank; and the guard of honor round the catafalque was composed of French soldiers and a detachment of the Bürgerwehr. He was buried in the Hundsthurm churchyard, outside the lines, close to the suburb in which he lived, but his remains were exhumed by command of Prince Esterhazy, and solemnly reinterred in the upper parish church at Eisenstadt on November 7, 1820. A simple stone with a Latin inscription is inserted in the wall over the vault—to inform the passerby that a great man rests below.
It is a well-known fact that when the coffin was opened for identification before the removal, the skull was missing; it had been stolen two days after the funeral. The one which was afterward sent to the prince anonymously as Haydn's was buried with the other remains; but the real one was retained in the possession of the family of a celebrated physician.
During his latter years Haydn was made an honorary member of many institutions, from several of which he also received gold medals. Poems without end were written in his praise; and equally numerous were the portraits, in chalk or oils, engraved, and modeled in wax. Of the many busts the best is that by his friend Grassy.
A few remarks on Haydn's personal and mental characteristics, and on his position in the history of art, will conclude our sketch. We learn from his contemporaries that he was below the middle height, with legs disproportionately short. His features were tolerably regular; his expression, slightly stern in repose, invariably softened in conversation. His aquiline nose was latterly much disfigured by a polypus; and his face deeply pitted by smallpox. His complexion was very dark. His dark gray eyes beamed with benevolence; and he used to say himself, "Anyone can see by the look of me that I am a good-natured sort of fellow." The impression given by his countenance and bearing was that of an earnest, dignified man, perhaps a little overprecise. Though fond of a joke, he never indulged in immoderate laughter. His broad and well-formed forehead was partly concealed by a wig with side-curls and a pigtail, which he wore to the end of his days. A prominent and slightly coarse under-lip, with a massive jaw, completed this singular union of so much that was attractive and repelling, intellectual and vulgar. He always considered himself an ugly man, and could not understand how so many handsome women fell in love with him. "At any rate," he used to say, "they were not tempted by my beauty," though he admitted that he liked looking at a pretty woman, and was never at a loss for a compliment.
He habitually spoke in the broad Austrian dialect, but could express himself fluently in Italian, and with some difficulty in French. He studied English when in London, and in the country would often take his grammar into the woods. He was also fond of introducing English phrases into his diary. He knew enough Latin to read Fux's "Gradus," and to set the Church services. Though he lived so long in Hungary, he never learned the vernacular, which was only used by the servants among themselves, the Esterhazy family always speaking German. His love of fun sometimes carried him away; as he remarked to Dies, "A mischievous fit comes over one sometimes that is perfectly beyond control." At the same time he was sensitive, and when provoked by a bad turn for his kindness could be very sarcastic. With all his modesty he was aware of his own merits, and liked to be appreciated, but flattery he never permitted. Like a true man of genius, he enjoyed honor and fame, but carefully avoided ambition.
He has often been reproached with cringing to his superiors, but it should not be forgotten that a man who was in daily intercourse with people of the highest rank would have no difficulty in drawing the line between respect and subservience. That he was quite capable of defending his dignity as an artist is proved by the following occurrence. Prince Nicolaus (the second of the name) being present at a rehearsal, and expressing disapprobation, Haydn at once interposed—"Your Highness, all that is my business." He was very fond of children, and they in return loved "Papa Haydn" with all their hearts. He never forgot a benefit, though his kindness to his many needy relatives often met with a poor return. The "chapel" looked up to him as a father, and when occasion arose he was an unwearied intercessor on their behalf with the Prince. Young men of talent found in him a generous friend, always ready to aid them with advice and substantial help. His intercourse with Mozart was a striking example of his readiness to acknowledge the merits of others. He was the first to recognize the genius of Mozart, whom he warmly loved, and whose death he bitterly lamented. Throughout his life he was distinguished by industry and method; he maintained a strict daily routine, and never sat down to work or received a visit until he was fully dressed. This custom he kept up long after he was too old to leave the house. His uniform, which the Prince was continually changing in style, he wore only when at his post.
He was a devout Christian, and attended strictly to his religious duties. His genius he looked on as a gift from above, for which he was bound to be thankful. This feeling dictated the inscriptions on all his scores, large and small: "In nomine Domini" at the beginning, and "Laus Deo" at the end.
He sketched all his compositions at the piano—a dangerous proceeding, often leading to fragmentariness of style. When an idea struck him he sketched it out in a few notes and figures; this would be his morning's work; in the afternoon he would enlarge this sketch, elaborating it according to rule, but taking pains to preserve the unity of the idea. "That is where so many young composers fail," he says; "they string together a number of fragments; they break off almost as soon as they have begun; and so at the end the listener carries away no definite impression." He also objected to composers not learning to sing: "Singing is almost one of the forgotten arts, and that is why the instruments are allowed to overpower the voices." The subject of melody he regarded very seriously. "It is the air which is the charm of music," he said, "and it is that which is most difficult to produce. The invention of a fine melody is a work of genius."
Like many other creative artists, Haydn disliked estheticism, and all mere talk about art. He had always a bad word for the critics with their "sharp-pointed pens," especially those of Berlin, who used him very badly in early life. He had, of course, plenty of detractors, among others Kozeluch and Kreibig, who represented him to the Emperor Joseph II as a mere mountebank. Even after he had met with due recognition abroad he was accused of trying to found a new school, though his compositions were at the same time condemned as for the most part hasty, trivial, and extravagant. He sums up his own opinion of his works in these words: "Sunt mala mixta bonis; some of my children are well-bred, some ill-bred, and here and there there is a changeling among them. He was perfectly aware of how much he had done for the progress of art. "I know," he said, "that God has bestowed a talent upon me, and I thank him for it; I think I have done my duty, and been of use in my generation by my works; let others do the same."
Haydn's position in the history of music is of the first importance. When we consider the poor condition in which he found certain important departments of music, and, on the other hand, the vast fields which he opened to his successors, it is impossible to overrate his creative powers. Justly called the father of instrumental music, there is scarcely a department throughout its whole range in which he did not make his influence strongly felt. Starting from Karl Philipp Emanuel Bach, he appears forced in between Mozart and Beethoven. All his works are characterized by lucidity, perfect finish, studied moderation, avoidance of meaningless phrases, firmness of design, and richness of development. The subjects principal and secondary, down to the smallest episodes, are thoroughly connected, and the whole conveys the impression of being cast in one mold. We admire his inexhaustible invention as shown in the originality of his themes and melodies; the life and spontaneity of the ideas; the clearness which makes his compositions as interesting to the amateur as to the artist; the child-like cheerfulness and drollery which charm away trouble and care.
Of the symphony he may be said with truth to have enlarged its sphere, stereotyped its form, enriched and developed its capacities with the versatility of true genius. His later symphonies have completely banished those of his predecessors. The quartet he also brought to its greatest perfection. The life and freshness, the cheerfulness and geniality which gave the peculiar stamp to these compositions at once secured their universal acceptance. "It was from Haydn," said Mozart, "that I first learned the true way to compose quartets." Haydn's symphonies encouraged the formation of numerous amateur orchestras; while his quartets became an unfailing source of elevated pleasure in family circles, and thus raised the general standard of musical cultivation. Haydn also left his mark on the sonata. His compositions of this kind exhibit the same vitality, and the same individual treatment; indeed in some of them he seems to step beyond Mozart into the Beethoven period.
His first collections of songs were written to trivial words, and can only be used for social amusement; but the later series, especially the canzonets, rank far higher, and many of them have survived, and are still heard with delight, in spite of the progress in this particular branch of composition since his day. His canons—some serious and dignified, others overflowing with fun—strikingly exhibition his power of combination. His three-part and four-part songs are excellent compositions, and still retain their power of arousing either devotional feeling or mirth.
His larger masses are a series of masterpieces, admirable for freshness of invention, breadth of design, and richness of development, both in the voice-parts and the instruments. The cheerfulness which pervades them does not arise from frivolity, but rather from the joy of a heart devoted to God, and trusting all things to a Father's care. He told Carpani that "at the thought of God his heart leaped for joy, and he could not help his music doing the same." And to this day, difficult as it may seem to reconcile the fact with the true dignity of Church music, Haydn's masses and offertories are executed more frequently than any others in the Catholic churches of Germany.
Frequent performances of his celebrated oratorios have familiarized every one with the charm and freshness of his melody, and his expressive treatment of the voices, which are invariably supported without being overpowered by refined and brilliant orchestration. In these points none of his predecessors approached him.
When we consider what Haydn did for music, and what his feelings with regard to it were—the willing service he rendered to art, and his delight in ministering to the happiness of others—we cannot but express our love and veneration, and exclaim with gratitude, "Heaven endowed him with genius—he is one of the immortals."