Flatterers are the worst type of enemy. — Tacitus

Josph Haydn - George Upton




Old and New Acquaintances

Haydn's life at this time was a quiet one. The years were spent in strenuous toil, and the great number of symphonies, quartets, sonatas, grand and light operas, and other compositions which he produced almost continuously in the prince's service testify to his unwearied industry and the inexhaustible freshness of his invention. He had already spent a long period in this service; the remainder of his life, which we are to describe, is the story of the master from his fifty-second to his seventy-seventh year.

Haydn was faithful in his devotion to the Prince, who was considerably older than he. He had promised to serve him until the death of one or the other should release him from the contract. He had frequently been advised to exchange his limited sphere of action for a more influential and advantageous position, but he declined even the most brilliant offers. Not for millions would he have left the Prince, to whom he was attached not only by his contract but by a sense of gratitude. This devotion became in time a veritable sacrifice. Now that he had worked his way up to the position of conductor and chapel-master, he realized that the field of his activity was limited and that further progress was impossible. He still more clearly realized the drawbacks of his situation when he went to Vienna and found what superior advantages that great city offered the musician. He was in a musical atmosphere there which became more and more like home to him. It made his return to Eisenstadt each year more difficult and only intensified his longing to remain in Vienna. The Genzinger home was the principal centre of attraction for him. There he met Albrechtsberger, the learned contrapuntist, who was at that time court organist and a member of the Musical Academy; also Dittersdorf, the distinguished violinist, famous also for his comic operas, which are full of charming humor and show marked originality. One of these operas, The Doctor and Apothecary," was very popular. It was also in the Genzinger home that he renewed acquaintance with Marianne Martines, his old-time little scholar. She had become a highly accomplished singer and pianist, and was also beginning to make a success as a composer. She displayed brilliant virtuosity in her piano sonatas. Her church compositions also, among them an oratorio, had been received with favor, and she had been honored with diplomas from the Philharmonic Academies of Bologna and Pavia. She was still unmarried and lived with her brother, who was librarian of the Royal Library, and who left her a considerable amount of property at his death. Her paternal guardian and excellent tutor, Metastasio, died in 1782. Notwithstanding the incurable maladies with which he imagined himself afflicted and which so embittered his life, he lived to the patriarchal age of eighty-four. Marianne's vocal teacher, the irascible old Porpora, whom Haydn served as a lackey in his youth, had returned to his southern home, and ended his troubled days there as leader of the Conservatory and chapel-master at the cathedral in Naples.

From time to time Haydn also met there his brother Michael, who had been concert master and musical director for the Archbishop of Salzburg since 1768. Among his many compositions his church music was especially prominent, and Joseph admitted his superiority to himself in his strong cadences. Michael was no happier than Joseph in his domestic affairs. He had married a once famous singer, but she was a chronic invalid who was continually doing penance, breaking out into loud praying at all hours of the night, and still further weakening her health by excessive fasting. It is not strange, therefore, that Michael sought consolation away from home over a glass of beer or wine. As his scanty pay did not allow him to indulge in such consolations very often he was glad to find them at the monastery of Saint Peter, whither his steps often turned. Its cellar was famous far and near, and the abbot, a hospitable, friendly soul, was always glad to sit down with the Salzburg concert master and have a good talk about music. Michael's portrait still hangs in the little Haydn room in the cellar which he visited so often.

At the Genzinger home, Haydn also met one at the Sunday dinners whose name, like his own, is immortal in the history of music. It was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He had already made brilliantly successful tours in England, Holland, and France; and since his marriage he had come to Vienna to live, and was now delighting the Viennese with his new opera, Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail." (His residence was in the Grosse Schulerstrasse, No. 853 (now No. 8), and his father, Leopold, from Salzburg, was visiting him there at this time. Upon the occasion of their first meeting the elder Mozart asked Haydn what he thought of Wolfgang's ability. Haydn replied: "I declare to you before God and upon my honor, your son is the greatest composer of whom I have personal knowledge. He has taste, and consummate knowledge of composition."

Haydn took advantage of every opportunity to hear Mozart's music, and frequently asserted that he learned much from it. In his old age, with tears in his eyes, he said: "I can never forget Mozart's piano-playing. It went to the heart." Mozart also greatly esteemed the old master. "It was from Haydn," he once said, "that I first learned the true way to write quartets." The cordiality of their relations is best shown by his dedication of six quartets to Haydn, in which he says he has given him "the fruit of long and laborious toil." He adds: "When a father sends his sons out into the wide world he should, I think, confide them to the protection and guidance of a highly celebrated man, who by some happy dispensation is also the best of friends. So to this famous man and most precious friend I bring my six sons."

All the other composers of that remarkable musical period, as well as Mozart, acknowledged the masterly qualities of the Haydn quartets. Indeed no one ventured to challenge his supremacy, though some, actuated by misunderstanding or jealousy, sought to depreciate the value of his service to instrumental music. Wenzel Muller, many years director at the Leopoldstadt Theatre, once introduced a friend to Haydn. The stranger was profuse in his praises, which Haydn, in his customary modest manner, quietly deprecated. The vain Muller, who had a very high opinion of himself, was vexed that he too was not appreciated, and said: "Oh! yes, Herr von Haydn, of course no one can equal you in quartets." To this Haydn good-naturedly replied: "It would be sad, my dear Herr von Miller, if I had learned nothing else." Mozart always had an answer ready for the assailants of his dear Papa Haydn. To one critic who tried to belittle him, he said: "If we were all melted down together there would not be enough of us to make one Haydn." Mozart once attended a performance of a new Haydn quartet with a well-known composer. Coming to a place in which Haydn's droll fancy was expressed by a bold transition, Mozart's companion asked in a sneering manner, "Would you have written that so?" "Hardly, nor would you. But, do you know why? Because neither you nor I could have hit upon such an idea," was his reply. The personal intercourse between the two composers was extremely cordial. Mozart used to call Haydn "Papa," and notwithstanding the great difference in their ages both used the familiar "thou" in their intercourse.

Haydn's winter stay in Vienna (1789–1790) was unusually short. Instead of being in that city at the beginning of November as he had hoped, he did not get there until the latter part of January, and on the third of February the Prince ordered him to return to Esterhaz. Haydn always dreaded the loneliness of this summer residence in winter and longed to get back to the delightful fare of the Genzinger kitchen as did the children of Israel to the flesh pots of Egypt. In his characteristic humorous way he wrote to Frau von Genzinger:

"Here I sit in solitude, like a wretched orphan, almost without human society, sadly recalling recollections of past happy days—yes! past, alas! And who can say when those happy days will return, those pleasant gatherings where all were of one heart and soul, and those musical evenings which can only be imagined, not described? Where are they all? Gone, all gone, and for a long time, perhaps.

"Do not think it strange, gracious lady, that I have delayed so long in sending my thanks to you. I found everything at home in confusion. For three days I was uncertain whether I was chapel-master or chapel-servant. There was no comfort anywhere. My entire apartment was upset. My piano, which I love so much, was unsteady and uncertain, and only vexed instead of calming me. I was so disturbed by dreams that it was difficult to sleep. When I dreamed of listening to 'The Marriage of Figaro' a fatal north wind awoke me and blew off my nightcap. I lost twenty pounds in three days because I did not have the nice Vienna fare. When I am forced to eat in my restaurant a piece of thirty-year-old cow instead of choice beef, an old ram and yellow carrots in place of a dainty ragout and meat balls, a tough grill in place of a Bohemian pheasant, a so-called grand salad in place of nice juicy oranges, and dried apple slices and hazelnuts instead of delicatessen, I say to myself, ' Would that I now had many a morsel which I did not care for in Vienna.'

"Here in Esterhaz no one asks me, 'Do you like chocolate with or without milk?' 'Will you take your coffee black or otherwise?' 'Will you have vanilla or banana ice?' O that I only had a piece of good Parmesan cheese, especially on fast days, so that I could swallow more easily the black dumplings! I have just ordered our porter in Vienna to send me half a pound. . . ."

Shortly after this letter was written, the princely house of Esterhazy met with a sad loss. Marie Elizabeth, the Prince's wife, died February 25, three years after the celebration of their golden wedding. The old Prince was disconsolate. Haydn wrote to Vienna that he should do all in his power to allay his sorrow. I am preparing some chamber music to be given after the first three days, but no vocal music. The poor Prince fell into such deep melancholy after hearing the first piece, my favorite adagio in D, that I had to abandon that style of music. On the fourth day we gave an opera, on the fifth a comedy, and after that the daily spectacle as usual. I have also ordered rehearsals of Gossmann's old opera, 'L'Amor artigiani,' as the Prince a short time ago expressed a desire to hear it."

The Prince survived his faithful wife but a few months, and died September 28. His death made a radical change in Haydn's life. The Prince's successor, his oldest son, Paul Anton, discharged the chapel, but looked after Haydn's interests. The deceased Prince Nicholas Joseph left his loyal chapel-master, who had served him faithfully for twenty-eight years, and had reflected so much glory upon the name of Esterhazy, a life pension of a thousand gulden a year. His son added four hundred to it, and only required of Haydn that he should retain the title of chapel-master at Esterhaz.