Haydn would be 62 years of age at the end of March, 1794. Some argued he was too old to work and travel. None of them knew him, as we shall see shortly. Life expectancy at the time ranged from 65 to 80 (that is, if you were among those who managed to reach 21), so if he wasn't old, he could see old age pending from where he stood! Relevance? In early January, Prince Anton Esterházy argued quite vociferously against Haydn making another London journey. Of course, age wasn't the only factor; the situation with France hadn't improved very much, either. Travel through the West to England was simply too dangerous. But in the end, Haydn's sense of duty, his promise to Salomon writ large, prevailed over caution, and maybe good sense. So, the morning of 19 January saw him, along with his brilliant copyist, Johann Elssler, doubling as valet, climbing into the very comfortable long-distance travel coach provided by Baron van Swieten, and heading for Calais yet again.
|Frontispiece from 'The Abate Metastasio'
by Charles Burney
Haydn's trunk for the trip was not nearly as empty as it would have been if he had indeed gone a year earlier. For a certainty, he had Keyboard Trio in G, Hob. 15:32, and very likely he also had at least the outlines, if not the fully completed compositions, of Hob 15:18-20. Symphony No. 99 was complete, and the minuets (and possibly the sketched outlines) of No.'s 101 & 100. The six London Quartets which we saw last time were complete, and also the Piccolo divertimento (Hob. 17:6) for keyboard. Finally, to complete a promise to Dr. Burney, the very best portrait prints available in Vienna of Metastasio, one of which would serve as the frontispiece for the biography Burney was writing. So, time to make some music!
Getting there, as it turned out, was relatively uneventful. They avoided places like Bonn, which were still potential hotspots. Haydn told Dies about staying the night in Wiesbaden. From his room, Haydn heard someone playing the Andante from the Surprise symphony on the pianoforte. Figuring the player would be well-disposed towards him, he found a group of Prussian officers whom he engaged in discussion. Finding they were great admirers of his music, he introduced himself. They refused to believe he was really Haydn, saying "impossible, you are too old to be Haydn, there is too much fire in your music". Finally he had to show them a letter he had with him, from their King, Friedrich Wilhelm. That was the convincer, and they all became great friends, sitting up past midnight playing music. So we see here, profoundly illustrated, the dichotomy which still baffled the English as well as those at home: how can someone of such apparent age simply continue to write music like a thirty-year-old?
Who knows? This may well have happened on the night of another major change in Haydn's life. A mere three nights after he left Vienna, Haydn unknowingly became the employee of yet a fourth Esterházy prince.
The Wiener Zeitung, 25 January:
On the 22nd inst. died here in his 56th year of his age, from the sudden bursting of a pus sack in his rib cage, Anton Prince of the Holy Rom. Emp. Esterházy von Galantha, Lord of Forchtenstein, Knight of the Golden Fleece, and of the Grand Cross of St. Stephan… &c &c &c… The body will be conveyed to the princely Esterházy family vault at Eisenstadt.
What sort of irony derives from yet another close acquaintance of Haydn, like Mozart, preceding him in death so suddenly? Of all of the Princes of Esterházy, now going on four, for whom Haydn worked, Anton is the one, closest in age, who seems to have actually had a personal interest in him, beyond whatever accrued from employing the world-famous composer. Not that there is any documentary evidence of that, it is just an impression from reading what there is to read about the two of them, it seems like friendliness and mutual respect. It must have been a shock on arrival in London to discover this totally unexpected event.
What else may have been shocking, just a year and a half after leaving? Probably the single biggest thing, since it affected the success of the entire series, came in this announcement, released while Haydn was on the road still:
The Oracle, 25 January, 1794 in the column CONCERTS, SINGERS &c.
The Professional is dropt, - in consequence Salomon will be entirely unopposed until after Easter, when the promised Concert at the Opera House will be given.
Thus, the Hanover Square will have had ten nights performance completely unrivalled. Haydn is to be at the Piano Forte, and every nerve is to be exerted to leave an impression deeper than ever of this excellent band. [snip]
The Doctor has been writing with all his original fancy and fertile combination; and the present winter will perhaps give us works, which shall advance even the higher celebrity of Haydn.
Viotti has been selecting some fine thoughts for his concerto playing, which for sublimity and simplicity is unequalled – Duetti, so much admired between Salomon and himself, will of course be pursued…
Well, isn't this special!? The 1792 season, which had cost them a fortune to enlist musicians like Pleyel, had been the tipping point for financial stability for the Professional Concerts. Even with Haydn stuck in Vienna in 1793, that year hadn't gone well either. Cramer had attempted to persuade Salomon into an alliance, but possibly remembering the times a few years earlier when the shoe was on the other foot, Salomon declined to be a savior. It was generally recognized at this point that with Haydn and all his new and recent works in hand, Salomon had the advantage over any other concert promotion in London. In addition, Salomon was a smart businessman, and he understood that with the financial cycle on the downturn, he needed to cut costs, which he did by hiring many of the excellent, displaced foreign musicians who were swelling the ranks of London's musical rolls, and at discount prices. Meantime, even with Cramer's outfit struggling, he kept his longtime orchestral musicians, who adamantly refused to bow to reality and take a pay cut. After attempts to align with the King's Theater fell through, Cramer had no choice but to call it quits. Salomon now had a clear field, which he promptly demonstrated by moving the series from the Friday night doldrums to the choice spot on Monday night. Now, if only Haydn would show up!
Aside from the music business, there have been a few other changes. Many have to do with the events in France which we have been looking at recently. Hard to know exactly what people looking back now at those times might have expected in terms of favor or opposition to the Reign of Terror, in fact many of Haydn's friends were quite split on the matter. Burney, an ardent Royalist, wrote "is this the end of the 18th cent., so enlightened & so philosophical? And To shake hands with chimney sweeps, coal-heavers, churls, clodpolls, soldiers & sailors & assure them that they are our true sovereigns," no. Not going to happen. William Shield, another prominent composer and Haydnfreunde, whom we met last time while discussing the Handel Festival, was of a different mind. He wrote to a friend "I thought it degraded the race of men too much to suffer them to carry me in a sedan [chair] over this immense mountain: in consequence of which we had mules; and after riding about a mile, reflection told me I was shortening the life of the animal… and as I saw women walking I resolved to do the same". This philosophical difference between two of Haydn's best friends says more to me than anything else about how the end of the 18th century brought also the end of The Enlightenment and is an obvious precursor of the social upheaval which would follow in the 19th, and even the 20th, centuries.
Here, James Gillray, pioneering political cartoonist we met earlier, captured a scene right out of Charlotte Papendiek's journal. We learn from the irrepressible Mrs. Papendiek how the people at large were grappling with the power of the King and reacting to the ideas being presented from across the Channel:
In almost every town and borough societies were formed, against government authority, of different ranks and classes of people. In London some of these meetings were called 'Debating Societies', [or] 'Corresponding Societies', 'Nights of the People', &c… [and so] The militia was embodied, attendance was required for practice a given number of days in each month, and they were kept in constant military order so as to be also ready [on] call if required.
Other friends of Haydn were equally adamant, on one side or the other, and so it could well have made for some uncomfortable moments for Haydn, who now spoke enough English to have been aware of the friction in midst of a debate, if indeed such would occur. Perhaps he would be wise enough to not mix Shield and Lord Abingdon into the same party as Burney and Stephen Storace! I don't see Haydn as heavily political, at least not in some other country's affairs. But I do see him as torn in his beliefs. He was unabashedly a man of the people, he was proud to be the son of a wheelwright from Rohrau and most comfortable, as he said, in the presence of his peers. On the other hand, he was intensely loyal to his Prince and Emperor, and favored civil order. So like all of us, if pressed he would have had some hard choices to make. Fortunately, history spared him that. Unlike Parson Woodforde, great friend of Burney, who managed to unite great international affairs with daily life and dreadfully accurate prophecy in a most unique way in his diary;
Dinner today Souse, Veal Pye and Calf's Heart, ro[a]sted. Billy Bidwell's people brought our newspaper from Norwich. The King of France, Louis 16 inhumanly and unjustly beheaded on Monday last by his cruel, bloodthirsty subjects. Dreadful times I am afraid are approaching to all Europe.
So it is against this background that one of the most successful years of concertizing is set.
News release, in all the 'papers between 31 January and 3 February:
Mr. Salomon most respectfully acquaints the Nobility and Gentry, that Dr. Haydn's and Mr. Fischer's arrival in this country having been unexpectedly retarded, he has by the advice of many respectable friends been induced to postpone the opening of his Concerts from Monday next [the 3rd] to Monday se'nnight the 10th of February, when the performance positively will take place.
Drat! Clearly Haydn was on the slow coach to Calais, comfortable or not. However, the wait was soon over;
The Oracle, 6 February:
The celebrated Haydn's arrival was yesterday announced in the musical circles.
Followed in short by this general announcement in all the 'papers;
The Oracle, 8 February:
Mr. Salomon most respectfully acquaints the Nobility and Gentry, that his First Concert will be on Monday next, the 10th instant.
Grand Overture, Rosetti
Aria, Mr. Florio, jun.
(being his first performance
at these concerts)
New Concerto, Piano Forte, Mr. Dussek
Scena, Madame Mara
New Grand Overture, Haydn
Aria, Madame Mara
New Concerto, Violin, Signor Viotti
Scena and Duetto, Madame Mara and Mr. Florio
Dr. Haydn will direct his composition at the Piano Forte.
Leader of the Band - Mr. Salomon
N.B. Mr. Salomon is extremely sorry, that Mr. Fischer is not arrived yet ; but he flatters himself that nothing will prevent his performing at the next concert…
Some familiar names on the list, and some unfamiliar ones too. We see Madame Mara, the erstwhile star of the Professionals, now come over to Salomon. We will be looking at her, and others of these singing ladies soon. Dussek is back, not having lost an iota of popularity. The new Big Name (for us anyway) is 'Signor Viotti'. If you aren't familiar with Viotti's most famous works, the 29 violin concertos, you owe it to yourself to have a listen. From 1785 to 1800, he was perhaps the leading composer in the genre. In later life he would go on to be considered the founder of the French Violin School, the preeminent musical flavor of the 19th century. But for now, he was just another refugee from the Reign of Terror. He had gone to France from Italy in 1782 to play at the Concert Spirituel, and ended up at Versailles as the violinist of the Royals. Even though he left there to become an opera impresario in 1788, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by betting that people had forgotten his past association with the King, and so in 1792 he went to London. In 1793, when Haydn couldn't make it from Vienna, he served as Musical Director of the Salomon Concerts, and now, he shared those duties with Haydn. It was an extremely amicable relationship, Viotti was the perfect foil for the other stars of the show.
The Morning Chronicle, 11 February
This superb concert was opened last night for the season, and with such an assemblage of talents as to make it a rich treat to the amateur. The incomparable Haydn produced a new Overture of which it is impossible to speak in common terms. It is one of the grandest efforts of the art that we have ever witnessed. It abounds with ideas, as new in music as they are grand and impressive ; it rouses and affects every emotion of the soul. – It was received with rapturous applause.
Viotti produced a new Concerto, in which his own execution was most delicate and touching ; nothing could be more exquisite than his tones in the second movement. We have no doubt that both these pieces will be called for again ; for they are to be ranked among the finest productions of which music has to boast.
Dussek had also a new concerto upon the piano forte, in his best manner ; and Madame Mara sung divinely.
So apparently, it was liked. The 'New Grand Overture' was No.99 in Eb, which other adjectives piled onto it included "most exquisite, rich, fanciful, bold and impressive". One thing which Salomon had improved since 1792 was his instrumental forces. Since the Eb symphony was already complete when Haydn arrived in 1794, he and Salomon must have had enough communication between them to have set Haydn up with his first symphony with clarinets! And the key of Eb really allows Haydn to maximize the instruments available. This was the first time he had composed a symphony in this key for a very large orchestra. Not just the clarinets, but 2 Flutes, Trumpets and Timpani. There is no doubt, this is a work which brought down the house!
February brought one more concert which we will mention here, this one on the 17th brought a repeat of the "New Grand Overture", and also the first opportunity for London to hear one of the new London Quartets.
The Morning Chronicle, 19 February
[big snip] …but the richest part of the banquet, as usual, was due to the wonderful Haydn.
His new quartetto gave pleasure by its variety, gaiety, and the fascination of its melody and harmony through all its movements : and the overture, being performed with increasing accuracy and effect, was received with increasing rapture. The first movement was encored : the effect of the wind instruments in the second movement was enchanting ; the hautboy and flute were finely in tune, but the bassoon was in every respect more perfect and delightful than we ever remember having heard a wind instrument before. In the minuets, the trio was peculiarly charming : but indeed the pleasure the whole gave was continual ; and the genius of Haydn, astonishing, inexhaustible and sublime, was the general theme.
So we are ready to move on. Bigger and better things? You bet; you ain't heard nothing yet!
Next time we will listen to an old idea made new again, and have a look at a little bit of London outside of Hanover Square.
Thanks for reading!