Josph Haydn - George Upton

In London

After the death of his beloved Prince, Haydn went to Vienna. He was offered the leadership of Prince Grasselkowitch's orchestra, but declined it, for he had determined not to serve any new master, but to live and die as the Esterhazy chapel-master, if only in name.

It has already been mentioned that Haydn's fame had spread beyond the confines of Austria. His music was known and admired not only in Germany, but also in France and England, where his orchestral works were very popular and often played. In 1783 there was a leading society in London, called "The Concerts of the Nobility," because many leading noblemen were among the patrons. The audience, of course, was drawn from the higher circles of society. The orchestra, which included leading virtuosos from various cities, was composed of thirty-six players, an unusual number at that time. Haydn's symphonies were frequently played in these concerts with great success. Notwithstanding these inducements, Haydn steadily declined all invitations to go to London, nor did 125) ?> he yield to the entreaties of his friends. He would not forsake his Prince.

Meanwhile, Gallini, a well-known impresario, had organized a new concert scheme in London, with which Salomon, the violinist, a native of Bonn, was prominently identified. The latter had already sought to secure Haydn's services for the undertaking, but the negotiations had proved fruitless, for reasons already stated. A short time afterwards, while seeking for Italian singers to appear in the concerts, he heard, in Cologne, of the death of Prince Nicholas Joseph. He hastened to Vienna, and renewed his attempts to secure Haydn, but the latter objected because of his age (he was then fifty-eight), his inexperience in travelling, and his ignorance of the English language.

Salomon tried to overcome these objections, and offered Haydn three thousand gulden for every opera he would write for Gallini, and two thousand gulden for twenty other compositions which he was to write for as many concerts. It was a tempting offer to one in Haydn's straitened circumstances, but before he could accept it he informed Salomon he must obtain the consent of the new Prince; for, although he was only nominally in his service, yet, out of gratitude to the house of Esterhazy, he would not take such a step without the Prince's permission. "If my Prince is willing," he said to Salomon, "I will go to London with you."

The Prince, of course, freely gave his consent, and, after signing the contract with Gallini's representative, Haydn began making preparations for the journey. Some of his friends, who had vainly advised him in his earlier years to seek his fortunes abroad, were now apprehensive about his going, and sought to dissuade him because of his advancing age and the interruption it would cause in his regular routine of life. "I am still active and strong," was his reply to them. Mozart also warned Papa Haydn that it was too long and hard a journey for him to undertake; that he was not fitted to go out into the great world; and that he knew little about foreign languages.

"Oh!" replied Haydn, smiling, "my language is understood the world over."

The day of departure at last came.' Mozart dined with him that day and did not leave him a moment. Salomon also arranged upon this occasion that Mozart should go to London upon Haydn's return. At last the carriage drove up. Both Haydn and Mozart were deeply affected, and tears stood in their eyes. Overcome by his solicitude for the old master who was about to face an undertaking full of hardship and excitement, Mozart seized Haydn's hand and said: "I fear, my father, we are saying our last farewell." Mozart's presentiment came true, but not in the way he anticipated. Haydn entered the carriage and as it started, turned and waved his hand. Mozart was standing there alone. His best and truest friend had left him. He was never to see him again.

Haydn and his travelling companion, Salomon, reached Bonn and there met the Elector Maximilian, an Austrian archduke, who introduced him to his musicians as "the highly esteemed master." Thence they went via Brussels to Calais, where Haydn had his first sight of the sea—that "monstrous beast," as he afterwards called it. On New Year's Day they crossed the channel, and the next day they reached the bustling English metropolis.

Gallini had industriously advertised the news of Haydn's coming, and all London eagerly awaited the arrival of the famous German master. The musicians, who greatly admired his works, were especially anxious to see him, though, as always happens, jealousy and ill-will kept some of them aloof. In one of his letters to Frau Gerizinger Haydn tells her that he is overwhelmed with attentions at the very beginning of his London engagement, and adds: "For three days I have been the talk of the newspapers. Every one seems eager to make my acquaintance. I have been out to dinner six times, and could have accepted engagements every day, but I must be careful of my health and not neglect my work. I receive no visits except from my managers until about two in the afternoon, and at four I dine with Herr Salomon."

The concerts were given in the spacious Haymarket Theatre, the first in which Haydn participated taking place February 25, 1791. The sight of the famous master, who directed his compositions seated at the piano, had an electrifying effect upon the audience. He was the centre of all eyes, and the applause which greeted him was deafening. Instrumental music never before evoked such enthusiasm from the British public. The attendance steadily increased, and at last the Haymarket was not able to accommodate all who sought admission.

The rival concerts, originally called "The Concerts of the Nobility," but now known as "The Professional," suffered of course from Haydn's success in the Gallini concerts, and extraordinary efforts were made to stem the tide of their popularity. Among other schemes, they secured the services of the Italian pianist, Muzio Clementi, who wrote a new symphony for the Professionals, and it met with great success. With the hope of belittling Haydn, one of his old symphonies was placed in the second part of the programme. They expected that it would suffer by comparison with Clementi's new symphony, but found themselves mistaken; Haydn's old work was received with more favor than Clementi's new one, and the Italian, seeing his short-lived success turned into defeat, was not a little embittered against the German master.

Haydn's activity in London was incessant. He composed no less than twelve grand symphonies especially for these concerts. Their cordial recognition inspired him to still greater efforts. With the larger and more capable orchestra at his command, he acquired new ideas in the construction of instrumental music, recast his earlier works, and presented them in new form to the London public.

Naturally enough, there were some among the patrons who attended these concerts because it was the fashion rather than from a real love of music. The most of these had partaken of late dinners, after the English custom, and when they took their seats in the hall, they were often lulled to sleep by the magic of the music. This was bad enough, but it was still worse when the sleepers disturbed the music by their nasal performances, and by their scandalous intermezzos interfered with the enjoyment of those who came to hear the music. Their conduct greatly annoyed Haydn, and in resentment at this slight to his music he composed a new symphony at the first performance of which the sleepers realized they were not in bed but in a concert hall. The symphony began with a cheerful Allegro, followed by a tender Andante in which the string instruments were played at times muted and again pizzicato. The volume of tone was unusually gentle and soft. It almost seemed like a slumber song murmured by a choir of spirits. Suddenly the kettledrums crashed, the basses increased the thunderous din, and the whole orchestra repeated the passage fortissimo. Haydn had previously instructed his drummers to heighten the effect by pounding as hard as they could, and his instructions were conscientiously obeyed.

The sleepers jumped up from their seats as if doomsday had come, and stared about them with wide-open eyes and blank faces. They understood Haydn's hint, put on as innocent looks as they could, and joined in the universal laughter which followed the ludicrous incident. The innocent, however, often suffer with the guilty, and so it was in this case. One emotional young woman, who was passionately fond of Haydn's music, was so absorbed in the tender Andante that the nervous shock of this rude awakening was too much for her. The poor woman swooned and had to be hurriedly carried out into the fresh air. The accident led one fault-finding critic to say that Haydn before that time had conducted himself gallantly, but now he had shown himself uncivil. This symphony with the beautiful Andante is called the "Surprise Symphony."

Haydn's winter in London was marked by a series of brilliant successes, accompanied by hard work and exciting events. As Gallini had engaged him for the next season, he remained in England and employed his leisure during the summer in recuperating his strength. He spent a part of the time in the country as the guest of a music-loving banker. He writes to Frau von Genzinger about this time: "The home in which I am living is like your own, and I can be by myself as absolutely as if I were in a cloister. Except for my rheumatism I am in good health, thank God. I am working hard, and every morning as I walk in the woods with my English grammar I think of my Creator and of all the friends I have left behind me, among whom I esteem you the most highly."

In this letter Haydn speaks of his rheumatic affliction only, but he also suffered much from the nasal polypus which he inherited from his mother. While at Eisenstadt, he frequently applied for relief to the surgeon of the Brothers of Charity, so difficult was it for him to breathe. In London he had an opportunity to rid himself of his hereditary tormentor. The famous English surgeon, John Hunter, who was a good friend of Haydn's, was desirous of removing it; but when Haydn, in conferring with him about it, found that an operation would be necessary, he declared he would rather take his unwelcome guest with him to the grave.

In the middle of June Haydn visited the celebrated astronomer Herschel, at Slough, his country seat, near Windsor. A musician at one time himself, Herschel was one of Haydn's warmest admirers. He was born at Hanover in 1738, and at the age of fourteen was oboist in a Prussian regiment. Later, he went to London with his brother and made a reputation for himself by his piano, organ, and harp-playing. The Earl of Darlington employed him to train his musicians. Afterwards he taught music and was engaged as organist and conductor at Leeds, Halifax and Bath, his leisure hours being spent in mathematical and astronomical studies. As he could not afford to buy a telescope for his observations he made one himself, and worked so skilfully in perfecting it that at last he succeeded in constructing a reflecting telescope of a size and accuracy hitherto unknown. By the aid of this fine instrument he devoted himself to observations of the nebulae and the satellites and at last discovered Uranus, two of the secondary stars near it, and the second satellite of Saturn. Encouraged by the successful results of his labor, he pushed his investigations still further and gave new impulse and direction to the science of astronomy. In recognition of his important services George the Third remunerated him so generously, that he was enabled to devote his entire time to study at his country seat, where he lived with his brother Alexander and his highly gifted sister Caroline, who made many important discoveries herself.

Shortly after his visit to the great astronomer, Haydn was publicly honored and introduced to the world of letters. On the eighth of July as the central figure in a great assemblage at the University of Oxford, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Music. The dignity was conferred upon him with appropriate ceremony. After he had seated himself in the doctor's chair, arrayed in a white silk gown with red sleeves and a little silk cap, a musical programme was given in which Gertrude Elizabeth Mara took part. She was the great German songstress of the eighteenth century, whom Goethe, while a student at Leipsic, poetically called "The Queen of Song." At the close of the programme, the newly made doctor rose and said in a loud voice in English to the assemblage, "I thank you." Quite surprised at his knowledge of the language the audience enthusiastically applauded him and greeted him with cries of "You speak very good English." At the close of the ceremonies Haydn went into the organ loft and played one of his own compositions.

Upon the same evening the exercises of the annual commemoration began in the University Theatre, the principal feature of the programme being a grand musical performance. There was not a vacant seat in the spacious auditorium, which accommodated four thousand persons. The students were in full dress, and the invited guests, ladies and gentlemen of the highest Oxford circles, appeared in their finest toilettes. All eyes were turned to the orchestra, which consisted of the leading London virtuosos and the Regal chapel from Windsor, besides the most famous singers of the Italian opera.

As the moment approached for the concert to begin, the audience grew more and more excited, and when at last the hero of the hour appeared in his doctor's gown, escorted by Professor Hayes, the cry, "Doctor Haydn!" was heard on all sides. Among the programme numbers were two of Haydn's compositions, a cantata and a symphony, which were performed by the orchestra with great success and aroused a storm of applause. With regard to the dress which Haydn wore when the degree was conferred upon him, he subsequently wrote to a friend: "It all seems very ridiculous to me, and, what is worse, I was obliged to wear it for three days in the streets; and yet the doctorial dignity carries great weight with it in England, for which I am thankful, since, by means of it, I have made the acquaintance of many prominent people and secured the entree to great houses."

Haydn returned to London in October, for a new season was about to begin. The managers of the Professionals, who had vainly tried to weaken his popularity in the previous winter season, now made him handsome offers, but he refused to break faith with Gallini and Salomon. Seeing that they could not tempt him with money they subsidized newspaper critics, who asserted that he was too old and feeble to produce new works; that he had written out, and was only repeating himself. As they had secured Clementi in the previous season, so now they secured another musician who was sure to eclipse him, they thought. This was no other than Pleyel, who, as will be remembered, studied three years with Haydn in Eisenstadt.

Pleyel came to London, bringing with him many new compositions, and the newspapers announced that a fresh piece of his would be performed at each concert; but the same papers had to announce also that Haydn had written twelve new symphonies. The old master was victorious again. Pleyel was enthusiastically received, but the new works by his former teacher eclipsed his own. Good Papa Haydn, however, cherished no unkindly feelings toward his pupil, although the latter had come to London for the purpose of dethroning him. His attachment to Pleyel was not weakened in the least. He made it a point to attend every one of his concerts, and invariably led the applause.

An accident happened at one of the Haydn concerts which might have had disastrous results. As the master appeared and took his seat at the piano to conduct one of his symphonies, many in the parquet left their seats and pressed farther forward so that they might more easily watch the leader. Hardly had they left their seats when the great chandelier, hanging above the parquet, fell and was smashed into a thousand pieces. The people were greatly alarmed, but no one was injured. When they realized their fortunate escape there was a general cry of "miracle, miracle." In fact it was marvellous; and as Haydn reflected that he had been the agency by which so many lives had been spared, he clasped his hands together and silently thanked God. The symphony performed 137) ?> in that concert is now known in England as "The Miracle."

Many of Haydn's compositions have been similarly named, not because of their musical contents, but from circumstances connected with them. A minuet which he wrote for the wedding of a butcher's daughter in Rohrau is called "The Ox," because the bride's father made him a present of an ox as compensation for it. The music publisher Bland once called upon him in London, and just as he was admitted Haydn was in the act of shaving. "Ah! Mr. Bland," he remarked to his caller, "I would give one of my best compositions for a good razor." The publisher rushed home at full speed and brought him his best pair, which he presented to him. Haydn kept his word and gave to his helper in time of trouble an important quartet, which now bears the name of the "Razor Quartet."

Melancholy tidings reached Haydn in the midst of his London triumphs, and plunged him into the deepest grief: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was dead. "I was almost beside myself for a long time," he wrote to his friend Pachberg, "and could hardly believe Providence had so soon summoned this man to the other life. His place cannot be filled."

Thus Mozart's sad presentiment, which he uttered when Haydn was leaving for London, was fulfilled. They would never see each other again in this world. The strong old master was fortunate enough to survive the fatigues of a long journey, the exacting strain of incessant production, and the excitements of musical rivalries and envious cabals; but the younger man was attacked by a fatal illness at the very height of his activity, and was cut off in his thirty-sixth year.