Looking back from a 21st century perspective, it is often difficult to relate to the sensation Haydn caused in London, especially in 1794. The only modern equivalent is pop music, but even that doesn't quite work, since 'pop[ular]' really is aimed at being a musica populum, while art music in the 18th century had yet to make an attempt in that direction. The fact that the three symphonies of this season accomplished this goal is a direct reflection of Haydn's particular genius for using music to speak for him. His mastery of the concept of rhetoric in music was completely congruent with 18th century ideas about what music was and how they listened to it.
We have already seen the great approbation brought on by the première of the E flat symphony at the opening concert of the year. What about the other two? They both debuted in March of this year, and will give us a chance to see what a sensation really is!
By late February, Haydn was all settled in at his new, posh digs at No. 1 Bury St., close by to the Prince of Wales at Carlton House, St. James Palace, and a mere ten minutes walk from Becky Schroeder's house. Even though Haydn didn't see fit to transcribe all or any of Rebecca's notes this trip, there is absolutely no reason to believe their, ummm, friendship didn't continue as before. And some reasons to believe it did, as we shall see. So all told, the stage was set, the competition defeated, it was time to get to work.
One of the many reasons for the great success of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, was the role of 'Osmin' having been taken by the great bass singer, Ludwig Fischer. Mozart was delighted with Fischer's vocal prowess; he added a major aria to the first act of Die Entführung, Solche hergelauf'ne Laffen, explaining to his father by letter (26 September 1781) that "one must make good use of such a man"; and adding "the new aria would provide an opportunity for Fischer's 'beautiful low notes' to glow."
By 1794, Fischer had left Vienna and was touring major cities. This was his first time in London (though not his last), so he came as something of a surprise to the natives, once they discovered he really was the greatest bass singer of his time, it wasn't just advertising hype. He arrived in London in time for Concert Three on 24 February, and was a runaway hit. So now, with Haydn, Fischer, Viotti, Dussek, Mara, Salomon and Harrington on oboe, along with the abundance of Paris' refugees, all the pieces are in place for what will be perhaps the finest concert season in London to date, or for years to come.
The Oracle, The Public Advertiser, The Morning Chronicle, &c. 3 March
The Subscribers are respectfully acquainted, that the Fourth Performance will be THIS EVENING:
Overture, Kozeluck [sic]
Aria, Madame Ducrest, [by] Zingarelli
(Madame Mara continuing still indisposed)
New Concerto, Oboe, Mr. Harrington
Aria, Mr. Fischer, [by] Righini
Concerto, Piano Forte, Mr. Dussek
New Grand Overture (M.S.) Haydn
Cavatina, Madame Ducrest, [by] Sarti
Concerto Violin, Mr. Viotti
Duetto, Madame Ducrest , and Mr. Fischer, [by] Ferrari
Finale, Chaconna, [by] Fiorillo
Looks like a pretty nice evening out for the 'Nobility and Gentry', and by all accounts it was a good time enjoyed by all. The review in the 'paper was rather more than positive about the entire thing, doting on Mr. Harrington's oboe, Viotti's superb violin and Mr. Fischer's dexterous voice. When we come to the pièce de résistance, however, the ooh's and aah's are rather more off the scale:
The Morning Chronicle, 5 March
… But as usual, the most delicious part of the entertainment was a new grand Overture by Haydn ; the inexhaustible, the wonderful, the sublime Haydn! The first two movements were encored ; and the character that pervaded the whole composition was heartfelt joy. Every new overture he writes, we fear, till it is heard, he can only repeat himself ; and we are every time mistaken. Nothing can be more original than the subject of the first movement ; and having found a happy subject, no man knows like Haydn how to produce incessant variety, without once departing from it. The managements of the accompaniments of the Andante, though perfectly simple, was masterly ; we never heard a more charming effect than was produced by the trio to the minuet. – It was Haydn ; what can we, what need we say more?
The Oracle, 10 March
Haydn, like Virgil's fame, vires acquirit eundo (gets stronger as it goes along), has latterly written a symphony, which the connoisseurs admit to be his best work.
A palpable hit, it would seem. And even though he is now nearly two years older than in his last full season here, there is no mention now of the old man who has written himself out. What was this magical work?
Way back in 1775, we looked at a Symphony in Bb, No. 68, in which Haydn wrote a very long slow movement, Adagio cantabile, where he experimented for extended sections with developing an ostinato in the accompaniment which gave a definite character to the movement. Now, nearly twenty years later, he revisited this idea in the Andante which gave the name to one of his finest works; The Clock Symphony.
There has been some philosophical discussion within the last few decades (Charles Rosen, Calvin Stapert, David Schroeder &c.) which hearteningly demonstrates a newfound appreciation for an 18th century listening ethos. In this particular case, for example, the simplest means, the ticking of a clock, may very well stand for something a lot more profound than simply an ostinato bass accompaniment. And indeed, a lot of time had passed for Haydn, of which no one was more aware then he, having now reached an age when losing friends had become almost routine. We frequently read of Haydn's perpetually cheery outlook, which he himself confirms when discussing his late Theresienmesse. He defended the cheeriness of the Dona Nobis Pacem section, the words of which mean "grant us peace", which he set in a rather celebratory way compared to the settings of most composers. When asked why he often set the Dona this way in his masses, he replied, "because, when I think of God, it makes me happy." Even if you or I do (or don't) share this outlook, it would be doing a disservice to ourselves and to Haydn to ignore the fact that he was a True Believer. Which brings us back to the philosophical thought of Haydn meaning the use of the clock motif in a symbolic yet very real way, to represent the Tempus fugit reality of life. And the fact that it is cheerful nonetheless, is the very essence of Haydn, long-lived child of the Enlightenment, which was also winding down in a most unmistakable way by 1794.
There is more to this symphony in D than just its Andante though; many musicologists just take that in passing, while moving on to the bigger ideas Haydn had developed during his Eisenstadt sabbatical. Apparently, one of the things which Haydn decided during his first trip to London was that the audience was quite well educated. Despite the abundance of extracurricular activity, and the social aspects of attending the concerts, there were a surprising number of connoisseurs, Kenner, and cognoscenti who really understood what was happening inside the music. If you know the code words and phrases of such things, then the newspaper articles and reviews hit all the right notes in terms of "sublime" and "tragedy and pathos" to have shown Haydn that this was so. And so, when he returned with a complete symphony and two more partially completed and sketched out, the first two, now called No.'s 99 & 101, are both very much in the vein of 'learned'.
One of the things we learn from the review above about our Morning Chronicle reviewer: his lack of any mention of the finale of this work demonstrates that in fact, he didn't get it. And right after I said he would! In No. 101, we are presented with the longest introduction of any symphony to date. Up to now, in the symphonies with introductions, Haydn has been presenting us with thematic material early on, which is then developed during the course of the first movement. So he has spent several years creating expectations which can easily be justified by history. When this work arrives with an extended introduction, then, we have every right to expect to hear these themes again in the Presto. So what do we get? Not a note, not a figure, not a rhythm, nothing which can be traced back to the intro. Expectations dashed, a Haydn hallmark if there ever was one! OK, maybe he decided to move it back to the second movement, that rascal. But no, the second movement is just that damned 'ticky-tocky' thing, great in its own way but unrelated to the introduction for certain. Alright then, the minuet for sure. And sure enough, there it is, the little theme that drove the introduction. If we recall, the minuet was the movement which was already known to be complete when Haydn arrived in London. So in fact, the theme didn't carry forward TO the minuet, it went backward FROM the minuet! And maybe this was what gave Haydn the idea to begin with. But as it turns out, it isn't the minuet which will satisfy the need for logical completion; it is the finale, one of the finest finales of any of the London symphonies. Here, we not only find a full development of the intro theme, but also a big expansion of the rhythmic disruption and imbalance which we first heard in the intro. In short, everything which we had convinced ourselves we would hear in the first movement was saved for the last. I have pointed out several times along the journey how Haydn started very early in his career to try and shift the balance of a multi-movement work from the beginning towards the end; now, it seems, he had finally succeeded in establishing parity.
There were repeats of this symphony at the next few concerts. It excited greater interest and understanding of itself every time played. Shortly after Concert Seven, on March 24, this little blurb appeared in the Journal des Luxus und der Moden, a Weimar arts journal:
…but what would you now say to his new symphonies composed expressly for these concerts, and directed by himself at the piano? It is truly wonderful what sublime and august thoughts this master weaves into his works. Passages often occur which render it impossible to listen to them without becoming excited. We are altogether carried away by admiration, and forced to applaud with hand and mouth. …
In every symphony of Haydn, the Adagio or Andante is sure to be repeated every time, after the most vehement encores. The worthy Haydn, whose personal acquaintance I highly value, conducts himself at these times in the most modest manner. He is indeed a good-hearted, candid and honest man, esteemed and beloved by all. [translation from Hadden]
I like to look back, as Haydn himself might have done, to the scurrilous rhetoric heaped upon him twenty years and more earlier, from the 'Berlin Gentlemen', and reflect that so far down the road, they finally seem to have caught up with him.
We saw above the appearance of Ludwig Fischer, a name which will be forever associated with Mozart, the creator of 'Osmin' and composer of the Scena de concert in f minor, K 421a, Così dunque tradisci / Aspri rimorsi. Now in Concert Six, on 17 March, we are treated with yet another performer who is remembered more for association with Mozart than for her own talent, prodigious though it may have been.
Marianne Kirchgeßner (Kirchgessner) met Mozart in 1791, in the summer before his death. Intrigued with the possibilities of the Glass Harmonica she played, although certainly not to the degree that Haydn was with instrumental oddities, he produced what is probably the finest piece of music ever written for it, K 617, the Adagio & Rondo in c & C for Glass Armonica, Flute, Oboe, Viola & Cello. As well, he wrote a solo work for it, K 617a the Adagio in C for Glass Armonica. Kirchgeßner, was now touring Europe featuring these and other works, something she would do for the rest of her life.
The Morning Chronicle, 17 March
The subscribers are respectfully acquainted, that the Sixth Performance will be on Monday next, the 17th instant.
Overture, Piehl (Pichl)
Song, Mr. Florio
Concerto, Violoncello, Mr. Damen, jun.
Aria, Madame Mara
Terzetto, Madame Mara, Mr. Florio and Mr. Fischer
Grand Overture (M.S.) Haydn; (The Clock redux)
Aria, Mr. Fischer
Quintetto on the [Glass] Armonica, Mademoiselle Kirashgessner [sic],
(being her first appearance in this Country)
Cavatina, Madame Mara
The Morning Chronicle, 18 March
…novelty of the evening was the performance of Mademoiselle Kirch Gessner [sic] on the Harmonica. Her taste is chastened, and the dulcet notes of the instrument would be delightful indeed, were they more powerful and articulate ; but that, we believe, the most perfect execution cannot make them. In a smaller room, and an audience less numerous, the effect must be enchanting …
Thomas Bloch on Armonica
The benefits of microphones are apparent!
If Marianne had spoken to Haydn first, she would have known to use two or three forte chords at the beginning as a noise-killer… however, she did end up well, since she took a small room and gave daily performances to small groups, where the haunting beauty of the Franklin Armonica could show its stuff.
George Dance the Younger was one of the finest architects produced by England in the 18th century. The son of an architect, he became one of the four founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768. A proponent of true Neoclassical Style, yet with a bit of Italianate flair, his buildings were popular well beyond his homeland. In addition to his work, Dance employed his drawing skills for his pleasure, which was making pencil portraits of prominent people of his time. It is not certain that Haydn paid him more than one visit, although it is likely, since there are two versions of this famous drawing. The finished one above (Version B) is most certainly the one which Haydn sat for just a few days after the Kirchgeßner concert. Version A, shown at bottom, is almost certainly a first draft. Version B hangs today at the Royal Society of Musicians. Haydn claimed it was the best of all portraits of him. Salomon also had a portrait done by Dance, it is dated 19 June 1794, so it seems likely he saw Haydn's portrait and decided on one of his own.
And so, we aren't even done with March yet, the best is yet to come. Hard to imagine! Next time the dogs of war are loosed. Figuratively, of course.
Thanks for reading!
undated, but probably
George Dance the Younger