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History Of Music:
George Frederic Handel
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Romantic Composers
Development Of The Piano
Famous Operas And Their Composers
Wagner And His Music Dramas
Tristan And Isolde
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The Golden age of German instrumental music begins with Joseph Haydn. Born in Hungary, near the border of Austria, he inherited the characteristics of both countries. His parents were poor peasants and unable to give the boy musical advantages, although the love of song was always fostered in the humble home.
Fortunately, Joseph possessed a beautiful voice and, coming under the notice of a musician in Vienna, was admitted to the St. Stephen choir school; there he remained eight years, studying and singing. When he was sixteen his voice changed and he was no longer desired as a choir-boy; he was consequently turned adrift in the streets of Vienna, penniless, and with no friend to whom he might turn. After wandering all one November night, he chanced upon a former school friend,
a tenor by the name of Spangler. He was older than Haydn and, out of compassion for the friendless lad, invited him to share his garret, which offer Haydn gratefully accepted.
He at once set about to earn a living, and because of his talents and genial manner soon procured a few pupils. In a few years he was able to rent his own humble lodgings, where he luckily fell under the kindly protection of Metastasio, writer of opera texts, who aided him in many ways.
When Haydn was still struggling amid great adversity, he happened to make the acquaintance of a wig-maker by the name of Keller. He was a frequent visitor at the Keller home and fell desperately in love with the younger daughter. A little later she entered a convent, and the father urged him to marry the other daughter, who was three years older than Haydn and most unattractive. Perhaps the young man felt indebted for the kindness that had been shown him by the family; at any rate, in a strange and sudden impulse, he consented to marry the girl. It was not long before they both discovered the unhappy mistake.
"The partner he had taken for life was a vixen, foulmouthed, quarrelsome, a bigot in religion, reckless in extrava-gance, utterly unappreciative of her husband's genius and, as he complained, `did not care whether he was an artist or a cobbler.' . . . Naturally genial and affectionate and peculiarly fitted for a happy domestic life by his peaceful and amiable temperament, it is not surprising that he soon wearied of the woman who made existence a torture to him. . . . They lived apart during the greater portion of their married life, but were not formally separated until thirty-five years later.""
In 1759 Haydn was given the position of musical director to a Bohemian nobleman. It was the custom for nobles of means to maintain private orchestras and choruses under the leadership of some talented musician. These private directors were obliged to write a vast amount of music for different occasions, and, although it afforded excellent practice for a young composer, much of it was necessarily routine work. The musicians were compelled to follow the taste of their masters, who looked upon them as upper servants.
In this capacity Haydn two years later entered the princely house of Esterhazy, where he remained for thirty years. It gives us an insight into the social condition of musicians of that day to know of his bargain with the Esterhazys. It was stipulated that Haydn should be temperate, and abstain from vulgarity in eating, drinking and conversation; that he must take care of all the music and instruments and be held responsible for any neglect of the same; and when summoned to play in company he and the members of his orchestra should appear in "white stockings, white linen, powder, and either with a pig-tail or tie-wig." For this he was to receive a salary of 400 florins, which is about $180 in our money. Nothing offensive was intended by these absurd regulations, and they were not so considered by the musicians themselves. It was thought that the musician was brought into being to make life more attractive for those in quest of entertainment, and the poor artist was unable to change existing conditions. Not until the concert system was established was the musician independent of the aristocracy, and judged according to his true merits.
Haydn always expressed the greatest admiration for Count Esterhazy, and he, on his side, was not blind to the talents of his music-master, bestowing a pension upon him after he left his service. His experience with this noble family may be said to be preparatory, his best work being done after he was fifty.
By 1791 he was well known all over Europe and was called to London to direct some of his own works. England has always welcomed foreign composers, and this is partly the cause of her having no distinctly national school of music. I-Iaydn's success in London was great; he was granted the degree of Doctor of Music from Oxford University, and the Queen offered him apartments in the palace if he would remain, but at the end of a year and a half he returned to the Esterhazys. His last years were spent in Vienna, where many of his greatest compositions were written. He died on May 31, z809.
Haydn's work cannot be justly estimated unless we understand the forms in which he wrote. He has been called the "Father of the sonata, symphony and quartet," but this is an exaggerated statement; many contemporary composers were working along the same lines. He saw the possibilities of the sonata form and developed it to a state of artistic completeness.
By musical "form" is meant the unity of conception in a composition and the relation of its parts to each other and to the whole. In the seventeenth century the word sonata did not refer to any certain form, but simply meant a piece for several instruments. The sonata form as used by Haydn consisted of four movements or sections-the first movement containing the principal and secondary themes; the second, usually in slow time, might be called the working-out section, and the third consisted of a minuet (the fashionable dance of the time) or set of variations, while the fourth movement was more brilliant than the others and contained the coda or closing section.
This form has been modified in modern times, but it still retains much of its early character. When it is applied to composition for single instrument, or for piano and other instrument, it is called sonata; when arranged for piano and orchestra it is called concerto; trio when written for three instruments, quartet for four, quintet for five, etc. The word symphony literally means "sounding together," and was originally given to a variety of pieces. Later it came to mean the overture to Italian operas; then composers began to write in this form apart from operas. The symphony is an enlarge ment of the sonata form written for orchestra. Haydn began writing symphonies at the age of twenty-seven and produced in all one hundred and twenty-five.
Next in importance to his symphonies come his quartets. In them is shown his great ability as a part writer. The stringed quartet, while not admitting of the varied treatment of a symphony, is perhaps the most refined form of music. It is harder to write a great quartet than a great symphony, for no one instrument must be allowed to stand out above the other three; there must be a perfect balance of the parts, which is far more difficult to maintain than might be imagined. The quartet is played by a first and second violin, viola and cello.
The influence of the common people from which he sprang is noticeable in the sprightly dance-themes in much of Haydn's music. None of the pathos and struggle of his life is reflected in his writing, which may be described as cheerful and full of hope.
Haydn's oratorios compose an important class of his compositions. The greatest is his "Creation," the text being taken indirectly from Milton's "Paradise Lost." In this the com poser is at his best. As Handel excelled in the chorus, so Haydn surpasses in his arias. The chorus, "The Heavens are telling the glory of God," however, is as well known as any of Handel's. Haydn's last public appearance was at a performance of the "Creation." As he entered the hall there was great applause and a burst of trumpets. He was seated by the side of Princess Esterhazy. It is said that at the chorus, "And there was light," the applause was terrific and so affected the aged man that he had to be carried from the hall. The "Seasons," telling of pastoral life in different seasons of the year, has much charm, but is not so masterly a work as the "Creation."
His masses are full of beauty and are frequently used in the Catholic church. The charm of Haydn's compositions does not lie in rich harmonies, but rather in pure melody and bright, optimistic tone. There is a sunny naturalness in his writing that sets him apart from all other composers of his own or later times.
CLASSIFIED LIST OF HIS WORKS
Vocal works: Four oratorios, twenty operas, many arias, songs and masses. Instrumental works: Fifty-three piano sonatas, seventy-seven string quartets, 125 symphonies, thirty string trios, thirty-eight piano trios, and concertos.