Josph Haydn - George Upton

Great and Little People

Prince Nicholas Joseph did not enjoy the stir and bustle of the imperial city, and was always reluctant to leave the castle, where he was absolute in authority and could carry out his artistic plans without interference. As one of the highest magnates of the realm, however, he could not remain away long from the court, and indeed he had to reside there two of the winter months irrespective of his own wishes or purposes.

Since 1767 he had regularly taken his chapel-master with him to the Residence, which was much more agreeable to the latter than to the prince, since it revived old memories. The Genzinger family made Haydn's stay in Vienna that year unusually pleasant. Doctor von Genzinger was universally esteemed as a gentleman and a practitioner, and besides was physician-in-ordinary to Prince Nicholas Joseph. He frequently visited Eisenstadt in this capacity, and not only became well acquainted with Haydn, but so intimate that while in Vienna the latter was always a welcome guest at his house. Haydn was also a great admirer of the Doctor's gifted wife, and she no less admired him as a great artist and a delightful man. The family were devoted to music. The daughter was an excellent singer, and Haydn was enabled by his valuable experience to assist her. Frau von Genzinger was a most accomplished musician herself. She played the piano in a masterly manner and delighted Haydn by her performance of his music. The hospitable home was the resort of the most distinguished musicians in Vienna and Haydn's quartets were often played there, the master himself sometimes taking part. It may well be imagined how hard it was for him to tear himself away from the Genzinger family and follow the Prince back to monotonous Eisenstadt.

Haydn was well known in Vienna by his early achievements there and was personally very popular. His first dance pieces appeared the year previous. They consisted of fourteen minuets for violin, bass viol, flute, oboe, bassoon, and horn, and proved so popular that they were played all over Vienna. One day as Haydn and one of his chapel associates were going along a street in Vienna, they stopped to listen to some music in a beer cellar. The musicians played dreadfully. "Surely," said Haydn, good-naturedly, "that is my minuet. Let us have some sport with these bunglers." He and his companion went into the cellar, ordered some beer and listened awhile. Then Haydn went up to the players and asked the fiddler: "Whose is this minuet?"

"Joseph Haydn's," was the reply.

"So? Well, it is miserable stuff," said Haydn.

The outcome of his criticism was somewhat rougher than Haydn had expected. The musicians were furious and told him that Haydn did not write his music for sheep-heads, and that people like himself and his friend had better stick to their cow-horns. This was followed by a torrent of the choicest Viennese scurrility. When Haydn and his friend presumed to laugh at their abusive correction, the fiddler seized his instrument by the neck and would have beaten them over their heads with it had they not made a precipitate exit.

Haydn's name was now known far beyond the limits of Vienna and the imperial domains. In 1780 he received a letter from an officer's daughter at Coburg, wherein she informed him that she with her betrothed (a captain) and his friend went for a short walk not long before the date of her writing. Her lover had his poodle with him—an animal which was famous for its sagacity and thorough training. During the walk he declared to his friend that he could hide a thaler under a bush, then go home and send the poodle back for it, and it would fetch it every time. As his friend doubted it, they made a wager. The captain took a thaler and placed it under the nearest bush. When they reached home the captain called to his poodle, "Go and find what I have lost." The dog bounded off at once in the direction they had taken, and reached the bush. A wandering journeyman tailor in the meantime had sat down in the shade of the bush to rest, and noticing the glitter of the thaler, appropriated it, congratulating himself upon his good luck. When the poodle came up to him, it at once scented its master's property in the fellow's breeches-pocket. As the dog began sniffing about him, he regarded it as an indication of the animal's friendliness. Overjoyed at finding both a thaler and a dog at the same time, he took the latter back with him to his tavern in the city, the poodle offering no resistance. During the night the dog kept a sharp eye on the sleeper's clothes, and when the door was opened in the morning it seized the breeches in its mouth, made off with them, and brought them to its master, who found his thaler in the pocket.

This little adventure was made the subject of a poem, entitled "The Smart and Useful Poodle," which the officer's daughter sent to Haydn with the request that he would set the poem to music. She enclosed a ducat in the letter and apologized for not sending more, saying that she could not afford it, but had made bold to send the one ducat because she had heard so much about his generosity.

Haydn was much pleased with the story and began at once to immortalize the epic of the poodle in music. He sent the composition to the young lady and returned her ducat, saying that it had given him much pleasure to devote his ability to the service of an amiable lady, but as a punishment for her assumption that such work could be purchased, he should fine her a pair of braces. The officer's daughter paid the penalty and sent him a pair of red and white silk ones, decorated with a garland of forget-me-nots. Haydn carefully preserved them among his souvenirs, of which he already had a goodly store given him by his admirers. The poodle composition had a wide circulation later, and a new edition of it appeared in 1806.

A widely different commission was given him by the canon of the cathedral in distant Cadiz. After the old custom, a special ceremonial was observed there on Good Friday. The inside of the church, as well as the windows, was heavily draped. A large hanging lamp in the centre diffused a dim light in the darkened hall. At the beginning of the service the doors were closed, so that late corners should not disturb it. Then the bishop entered to preach upon "The Seven Words of our Saviour on the Cross." After pronouncing one of the words, he briefly discoursed upon it. When this was ended, he left the chancel and knelt at the altar below. Then he reentered the chancel and discoursed upon the next word, at the close of which he offered silent prayers at the altar. In this manner the meanings of all seven words were conveyed to the congregation by preaching and prayer.

To make the ceremony still more impressive, it was decided that the intervals during which the chancel was vacated should be filled in with instrumental music for the purpose of heightening the effect of the preceding discourse. It was no easy matter to compose seven successive adagios which should not weary the hearers, especially without the underlying text, and to give each of the Seven Words a musical significance which should inspire the devotion of the listeners; yet Haydn undertook the task and succeeded so well that it is considered one of his best works. Some years later a clergyman in Passau adapted words to the music, thereby confirming the assertion of a critic that the meaning of every one of Haydn's compositions can be expressed in poetical form.

Only one of a deeply devout nature, capable of appreciating the uplifting ceremony in the Spanish cathedral, could have done this. It is well known that Haydn, when his ideas flagged, would take his rosary, and pacing up and down the room say a few Aves. His soul was always strengthened by it, and Heaven never failed to send him good and fresh thoughts. He was the devoutest of Catholics. In his childhood the example of his religious parents had inclined him toward piety. His experiences as he grew up, their close affinity with the church, and the solemn ceremonials which first inspired and then nurtured his musical endowment, at first in the humble church at Hainburg and then in the cathedral of Saint Stephens, made a lasting impression upon his young nature and influenced his whole career. The natural result of this was his simplicity. He considered his musical ability not as due to his own efforts, but as the gracious gift of Heaven, and that it was his sacred duty to show his gratitude for it.

Haydn was passionately fond of children. As he had none of his own he found his consolation in those of others. He never went out for a walk without first filling his pockets with sweets, which he liberally distributed among the little ones, who clung to him gratefully and affectionately, and called him their Papa Haydn." Some of his most cheerful compositions were inspired by his love for children.

A yearly fair was held at Eisenstadt, which Haydn never missed, and on one such occasion he strolled among the rows of booths, enjoying the noise and bustle. There was always a motley crowd present, for the fair was patronized not only by the townspeople but also by the country people, who came from far and near. The eager solicitations of salesmen, the haggling of those who wished to purchase, and the wordy controversies made a deafening Babel of voices. Many necessary purchases were put off to fair time, because things could be bought cheaper and every one could find what he wanted. Great piles of kettles, dishes, jugs, cups, saucers, and other domestic utensils tempted housewives. Boys treated themselves to pairs of boots, but did not forget the girls, for whom they selected gay ribbons or gingerbread hearts. Husbands remembered their wives, wives their husbands, and both, their children; so that no one went home empty-handed. And there was no lack of children in the happy throng. They stared at the wonders offered for sale, but they were never satisfied until they had spent their pocket money for something which would make a noise. There were plenty of toy musical instruments to satisfy them. One was seen making the cuckoo call, a second blowing a trumpet, a third had selected the quail-call, and another was clashing the cymbals, but the drum and the ear-piercing whistle were heard above all the rest.

Haydn thoroughly enjoyed himself among the little ones flocking around him, and gladly took out his purse and supplied them with the instruments they wanted. After quieting them he purchased a complete outfit for himself and took it home with him. Then he placed his instruments in a row, took paper and pen, and wrote a piece giving impressions of the fair, in which the cuckoos, quails, trumpets, whistles, cymbals, and drums were employed. He also added a triangle, and the violins and bass furnished the foundation. As soon as it was finished he ordered a number of his players to attend a rehearsal of an unusually important work the next morning. At the very beginning, these musicians, who were usually so correct in every way, broke down. Convulsions of laughter forced them to stop several times and begin over again. Rarely has a rehearsal lasted as long as that of the now universal favorite, the Children's Symphony."