Enjoy a performance of one of Haydn's iconic concertos at the end of the episode! We talk about Haydn's hardship to stardom life, and why he ended up writing all kinds of music, from symphonies, and concertos, to music for clocks. 

Show Notes

Show Notes

The "Haydnsaal" concert hall where Haydn premiered many works for the Esterhazy estate

A view of Haydn's concert hall at Esterhazy. The walls are white with gold leaf, frescos on the ceiling, and red chairs for the audience.

The unusual Baryton instrument

Haydn's music for clocks!




John Banther: I'm John Banther and this is Classical Breakdown. From WETA Classical in Washington, we are your guide to classical music.

In this episode, I'm joined by WETA Classical's Evan Keely, and we are diving into the fascinating life and music of Franz Joseph Haydn. He was such an influential composer, but also lived a lot of his life isolated. We uncover details about his life, like his daily routine and early hardships. And we explore his music, from why he's considered the father of the string quartet and the symphony, to writing music for clocks.

Plus, stay with us to the end to hear a full performance of one of his iconic concertos.

Franz Joseph Haydn is a composer I've come to really like more and more over the years. He's a composer I've actually never really had to perform, being that he died before my instrument was even created. But there's so much more to his life story I think, than meets the eye at first glance.

He seems at least, Evan, to be a composer who seemed to really live a more balanced life compared to most composers.


Evan Keely: He wrote a lot, he lived a long life. And I find that the more I explore both the man and his music, the more I love both.


John Banther: And we're going to hear a full work of Haydn's at the end of the episode, one that was lost and then discovered in 1961.

But actually, let's take a quick look at the earliest known work we even have from Haydn, composed when he was a teenager. This earliest known work is a Missa brevis, a short work written for religious services. He wrote this in 1749, 1750. He's still a teenager. And this would also be a work that actually contains his last compositional activity too. So stay with us to the end to hear about that.

But Evan, this Missa brevis, it sounds so mature, right at the tail end of what we consider today the end of the Baroque Period. I almost wish we had something more immature, something really early from Haydn.

But let's go ahead and look at his early life, where he was born, when, and all of that.


Evan Keely: Haydn was born in 1732, just a couple of weeks after George Washington was born, by the way. 1732, the year of his birth, born in Rohrau, a small town in Austria.

Family was of modest means. His father was a wheelwright and also had a leadership role in their community, something of a sort of a village elder or a mayor, at one point.

But one of the interesting things about Haydn, John, is he's one of the great figures of Western music, and yet there is no evidence at all that any ancestor of his was ever any kind of musician. He seems to have come out of nowhere with this incredible musical talent.

His father did own a harp and they liked to sing around the hearth, like a lot of families did, but didn't read music, no musical training. And yet here's Joseph Haydn, this meteoric superstar in the history of music, comes out of nowhere.

Haydn leaves home at the age of six. And at that point never again lives with his parents, although he remained close to them for the rest of their lives.

A relative of theirs, a distant cousin or uncle, I'm not sure of the exact relation, was the choir master in another town, Hainburg, which is a bigger town, but still a small town. And he took six- year- old Joseph to be a choir boy because everybody noticed that he had a good voice and he seemed to have some talent for music.

And so he got to sing in the choir there, and he got something of an education there. Wasn't great, not a whole lot of theory and composition, which is something he really wanted. But singing lessons, certainly, some instrumental lessons as well.

But a difficult life for this child, Joseph Haydn. Often not well- fed. And often his clothing was quite threadbare and dirty, and those things were humiliations and suffering that he never forgot for the rest of his life. He remembers the hardships of his childhood. We'll talk more about how that shapes his character and his life's aspirations.

1740, he's eight years old, and then he finds himself in Vienna. Another choir director had discovered him. And he gets to go to Vienna and sing at St. Stephen's Cathedral, which is, St. Stephen's Cathedral is kind of to Vienna what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It's this sort of recognizable landmark that represents Vienna.

And even in the 18th century, it was a very important cultural and a religious, and even political center for Vienna and for the Austrian empire, and that part of the world at that time.

And Gaog von Reiter is the choir master, the kapellmeister at St. Stephen's, takes Haydn under his wing. Still not getting a lot of instruction in theory and composition, which young Haydn is longing for. But continues to grow as a musician, as a performer.

And of course he's at the cathedral in Vienna, where he gets to perform some of the music of the most prominent composers of the era, German and Austrian and Hungarian and other composers, whose music is being performed there. So he's being exposed to a lot of great musicians and a lot of great compositions. And you can imagine, that must have shaped him as well.

And then 1749 as a teenager, I think he's about 17, 18 years old, he gets kicked out of the choir. Probably glad to be leaving at that point because I think he had learned all he was going to learn.

But he's literally out on the streets, out on his own. He has three shirts and pretty much nothing else to his name. No money, no means of a livelihood, and he has to figure out how to survive.


John Banther: What a story, even just so far. One, unusual, no musical family at all. That's usually how someone gets introduced into music. And then already living and learning these hard lessons. He's going hungry. His clothes are not clean, or they're torn, from what I've also read. And he's already going from one place to another, never to live with his parents again. And he's only 10, 12 years old, and then kicked out when he's about 18.

And he goes from there into a career that still exists today. And that is being a freelance musician. And I'm sure if Haydn could be reanimated or come back in some way, he would not be surprised at just how brutal being a freelancer still is.

So just to give some context for this and what life is like, being a freelance musician, it means you have to be able to fit into any playing situation as needed.

You might be playing with an orchestra one week, a chamber group another week, and then, or a solo in between, or all happening at once. You have to sight- read so well. Even for myself, it's not uncommon when you get called to fill in for a group that's younger, maybe students, they just say, " Come to the concert," and you just sight- read the concert.

And you book yourself so busy that you have no time. And that's because you also have to become a debt collector oftentimes after a gig to get the money that you are actually owed. So a lot of the negatives describe right there, there's a lot of positives too. But that's just to say, it's a hard life.

And Haydn is continuing this hard life, living as a freelance musician. And he struggles through all of this, performing and also teaching privately, and in the evenings when he can, composing and arranging.


Evan Keely: Right. And still not receiving a whole lot of instruction in theory and composition. So he decides to teach himself. And he gets his hands on a lot of these treatises that have been written over the generations.

And after a long day of running around doing gigs or whatever, he'd be sitting in his room by a candlelight, reading these treatises. Maybe he had a keyboard there to kind of look over things. Also studying scores. Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach is a composer that he really admired. So he's really a building on his own education, as well as working very hard to survive as a freelancer.

But he's also growing, his reputation is growing. People are starting to notice, he's actually quite a good musician. He's willing to work hard. And he's someone that people like to work with. He's an agreeable personality. He's hardworking, he's dependable, he's honest. And things start to look, slowly, start to look better and better for him.


John Banther: Yes. I see he's like 20 years old, and he becomes this personal valet and also accompanist to the composer, Nicola Porpora. And apparently not an easy composer to live with, but Haydn stayed, he saw it through.

This was probably also a big step forward for his education, just learning, being in proximity to this composer. But I think maybe today we might have a more rosy view of what that might be like, a personal valet. It was not I think very glorified work. It was probably difficult, and probably kind of dirty too.


Evan Keely: Probably not an agreeable job. And Porpora, a contemporary, by the way, of Johann Sebastian Bach, born a year after JS Bach, in 1686. An older man at this point, had quite a reputation. And he actually does teach Haydn some composition and theory.

So Haydn gets to study with this great composer who's also like, " Hey, bring me my coffee." Or, " Hey, brush my jacket for me."

And Haydn seems to grin and bear it, because he gets a lot out of the experience, even though it's also quite hard.


John Banther: So I guess the next question would be, well, how does someone move on from this to maybe moving forward as a composer or a musician? What's the path out of this?

And it's, well, getting a position at an estate or a royal court, either as a musician or, as we've said before, the word kapellmeister. And that is a word that we use to describe, I think what we would call today a music director. A kapellmeister would be in charge of musical activities, conducting, which often meant you're playing an instrument like violin leading from the orchestra. You're composing, you're arranging, teaching. It depends on the post and how much money they even have.


Evan Keely: Right. If you're a musician, a composer in Austria in the mid- 18th century, you want to earn a living in music, you're going to do it through the church and/ or through aristocratic patronage.

And Haydn ends up, because he's been able to grow his reputation as someone who's a very skilled musician and a good person to work with, he's gradually able to insinuate himself into these situations, where he's able to start really supporting himself.


John Banther: Yeah. It sounds like he had a couple of smaller positions, starting in 1756. And then landing a rather big position in 1761 as vice kapellmeister for the Esterhazy estate.

But in the few years prior to his arrival at the Esterhazy Estate, Haydn stumbled into a musical form. And in these early years for him, really influenced music, really into the 20th century. And that is with the string quartet. I say it so often myself, and I hear others say it too, we often call Haydn the Father of the String Quartet.


Evan Keely: Right. He didn't invent the form, but it was a new form when he was among those who were contributing to its development. And his contributions to the development of the string quartet are probably more significant and of lasting consequence than any other composer of his time.


John Banther: So we have a good bit of evidence here from one of his early biographers, Georg August Griesinger. And this I think sums it up well. I'm going to quote, it's also paraphrasing here for better context for us. But writing, " The following purely chance circumstance had led him to try his luck at the composition of quartets. A Baron Furnberg had a place in Weinseral, several stages from Vienna. And he invited, from time to time, his pastor, his manager, Haydn, and a cellist friend, in order to have a little music."

Now, this sounds pretty normal so far. Someone plays an instrument, they've got some money and resources, so they get people together to play and write some music.

Continues, " Furnberg requested Haydn to compose something that would be performed by these four amateurs. Haydn took up this proposal and so originated his first quartet, which immediately, it appeared, received such general approval that Haydn took courage to work further in this form."

And actually, his Opus 1, the Opus 1 of Haydn, would be a set of string quartets. But as you said, Evan, he wasn't looking to change or develop existing forms from scratch or something. He was writing for the instruments that were available in the situation.


Evan Keely: Right. And of course, as we were saying, he was a freelance musician early in his adulthood. Playing on the streets, you don't have a harpsichord or an organ as you're roaming the streets.

One of the things these freelancers would do is serenades, they would literally perform on the street. This was a very popular activity in mid- 18th century Austria. You could make some halfway decent money doing it.

But if you're just playing, like you have nothing but strings, in that era, having music without a continuo, without a keyboard instrument to fill in the harmony, was still rather exceptional.

But you can imagine how Haydn's ear is being attuned to the possibilities of different combinations of instruments and what they can sound like.

And this is an era in which the continuo of the Baroque style is starting to fade away. And Haydn is actually playing a pretty significant role in that musical development.


John Banther: He really is. I think especially with his Opus 20 set of quartets. We're actually hearing number four right now. This set really solidified his legacy in in string quartet writing.

It reminds me of things, or discoveries, well, sometimes they're by accident. Think of Archimedes and the Eureka moment, or when microwave ovens came about because of a melting chocolate bar, something like that.

So a few years later, 1761, he starts that vice kapellmeister position at the Esterhazy Estate. And the word vice in front of kapellmeister might tell you this was a rather wealthy estate. They had so much money, they had a kapellmeister and a vice one as well.

For Haydn, this meant he was actually in charge of everything but the church music, that was reserved for the older kapellmeister. Haydn would take over everything with a full position a few years later in 1766.

And then, Evan, it sounds like he was there for decades. This was a long, long- standing commitment.


Evan Keely: Long- standing commitment, 1761 is the beginning of a decades long relationship between Haydn and the Esterhazy family. In fact, the prince who hired him then died not too long thereafter. And Nicholas I was the next prince in the family line. And he and Haydn had a relationship until Nicolas's death in 1790.

The Esterhazys are one of the wealthiest families in Europe. They are spectacularly wealthy. And Nicholas I in particular, had a real enthusiasm for music. Which means among other things, he was willing to spend money on having musicians on his various estates.

And he builds this huge estate out in Esterhaze, becomes the name of the town. It was a hunting lodge. And he builds this enormous estate out there to rival the Palace of Versailles outside of Paris. And I think you might say he succeeded at that. It is a spectacular place. And the music that's going on there is of top quality.


John Banther: And with so much money and, well, such a powerful employer, you can imagine this shapes the music that Haydn would write.

And today, I think through, well, from our lens, hundreds of years later, things can kind of be misleading. So basically to explain that, Haydn wrote over a hundred trios featuring the baritone instrument. And this might be the first you've heard of this instrument, because we're not talking about a baritone singer, this is an actual instrument.

Looking back, you might think this was a popular instrument and that Haydn must have really liked it. He wrote over a hundred, after all. But the truth is, this instrument was already obscure back then as well. It was unwieldy. It was very difficult. There's two sets of strings. It just wasn't popular.

But the prince started playing the instrument, really liked it, and of course wanted Haydn to write music for it.

I can just imagine, Evan, Haydn coming into the office and the prince, " Look at this instrument, isn't this great? Write me a bunch of stuff for this. Can't you do that?" And Haydn, " Well, yeah, sure. Great."

And then kind of begrudgingly later, writing these trios for an instrument he doesn't like, and his boss probably didn't play all that well, I think.


Evan Keely: And we would probably have forgotten this instrument ever existed if Haydn hadn't wrote all this music for it.


John Banther: Oh, yeah.


Evan Keely: But it also says something about Haydn's character, that he's willing to adapt himself to his circumstances. So I agree with you that he probably felt like this is hardly the most exciting instrument to write for, but he rises to the occasion. He actually writes some delightful music for the baritone and other instruments, in ensembles, usually trios.

And he's demonstrating, once again, his willingness to do what he needs to do to survive, to ingratiate himself. But also more importantly, he's willing to be creative in the face of circumstances in which most of us would be like, " What the heck is this instrument? I don't want to write for this boring, annoying instrument that nobody likes."

Haydn sees it as a challenge, and he rises to the occasion, as he does throughout his life in similar circumstances.


John Banther: Yes, there's so many examples of artists producing great work, almost excitingly in some ways, I have no idea about Haydn, but in dealing with rules and self- imposed regulations. And, well, it forces you to be creative in different ways.

Now, he also got married. And this is something I knew so little about, Evan, until basically we started talking about this, that Haydn was even married. I never really hear anything about it.


Evan Keely: Yeah, it's a puzzle to me too, John, as I'm also continuing to learn about it, this is new for me as well. He gets married in 1760. Not really clear why he marries this woman. He had been in love with her sister, who then went into a convent, so couldn't marry her.

So he marries this woman, who doesn't seem to have much interest in music. Doesn't frankly seem to have a lot of interest in him. He later on remarked, " We grew very fond of each other, but I soon found out that my wife was very irresponsible."

And it also turns out that she was not able to have children, which in that era, in that culture, not a small thing. And he remarked that that made him, as he put it, " Less indifferent to the charms of other women."

And in fact, both of them were unfaithful in the marriage throughout the course of its duration, over the years. Despite that they lived together all those years. Divorce wasn't really an option socially or legally for most people. So they just kind of worked around it.

And it's a strange and puzzling connection. And it's very sad, because here's this very generous, very gentle, very loving man, and he's in this rather loveless marriage. And I think both of them probably deserved better, but that's how they ended up.


John Banther: Things were very different, to say the least. So as you said, Evan, the Esterhazy estate, very, very wealthy. This meant Haydn had great resources to compose, not just smaller works, trios, string quartets or whatever, but full symphonies with an in- house orchestra and rather his own lavish concert hall. We'll put pictures and things on the show notes page. It's quite spectacular.

But let's talk about his symphonies for a moment too, because Haydn is also sometimes referred to as the Father of the Symphony as well. He had such, I think a big part of its development, as we see, looking back at it, for this time period, the middle and the later part of the 18th century.

We learned all about the symphony and the history of it in episodes numbers 4 and 14. But looking at Haydn's, he started writing them even in the late 1750s, just before arriving at Esterhazy.

But these are not symphonies like the one by Mahler we did a episode on recently. These are much less developed, much less advanced, just for lack of a better word. They're pretty short, 10, 15 minutes, and still in three movements.


Evan Keely: Right. These are much more like opera overtures, as you learned about in episodes 4 and 14 of Classical Breakdown.


John Banther: And one thing you can imagine, well, Haydn wrote 104 symphonies in total, 106 if you really like to argue about things. And a lot of them, so many of them, they have a name attached to them, the Surprise Symphony, the London Symphony, things like that.

But Haydn did not actually give these nicknames himself. That was given either by publishers looking to differentiate or make something seem more exciting, or very often it was also given by audience members. Because how do you differentiate symphony, whatever from whatever.

Actually, even for myself, I forget the numbers all the time, but you tell me Farewell Symphony or Surprise or something like that, I know exactly what you're talking about.

I think we can do a little game here, Evan, because I have a little bit of a symphony here by Haydn, one of his earlier ones, comparatively. And we can kind of think here, as we listen to this, what would we call this? What would we call this if we didn't have a nickname for it already and it was just called Symphony Number 31?

Now Evan, I'm just going to, I don't know, give a wild guess here, but I think the nickname for this one might have something to do with the horn.


Evan Keely: Yeah, that's a good guess, John. Well, one of the things I like about that too is it not only gives us a hint as to the nickname that arose, but also a sense of Haydn's willingness to experiment with different instrumental combinations. And that's another thing we'll see, especially in his orchestral writing throughout his career.


John Banther: Yes. So that's Symphony Number 31, Horn Signal. I think today we might say something more like Horn Call, but Horn Signal, something more for their context back then.

That one was also very kind of surprising. Four horns in that, we don't really see that in a symphony until later on. Reminds me of Schumann's Konzertstuck for four horns and orchestra, just quite remarkable.

And another one, Evan, his Symphony Number 45, Farewell. This one seems even more unusual, the more I think about it, although I've heard it so many times. It's like a protest symphony. I don't know if there's one that happens before this.


Evan Keely: One of the interesting things about the Esterhazy Palace was, most of the musicians were not allowed to live there with their families. So they were there for weeks or months, however long the prince wanted to be out there.

And after a while, they really missed their families and they would want to go back to Vienna or Eisenstadt the other places where the Esterhazys would dwell.

And what we know is that Symphony Number 45 was written as a kind of protest, as you said, John. And it's called the Farewell Symphony. And in the final movement, after a couple of measures, some of the musicians start to leave. Haydn actually instructed them to blow out their candle and leave the stage.

And what's left is the two string players playing a little duet, and then they walk off the stage. And it was sort of a gentle joke to the prince, to say, " Hey, your Highness, we'd really like to go home." And apparently Prince Nicholas got the hint and decided that they would leave the following day.

So that also maybe says something about Haydn's relationship with his employer, that he was able to kind of rib him in this way and it would be received with a good spirit rather than with anger.


John Banther: And it's just another reason why, for me, I find symphonies by Haydn from this time period, it's so much more interesting to listen to, as an audience member and an orchestra, by knowing these things, and many orchestras perform, if they do, this Farewell Symphony, they do the same thing. Musicians start leaving the stage.


Evan Keely: Exactly. You can find videos online of performances of this, and they're often quite funny. And Haydn has a wonderful sense of humor. One of the many things I love about him so much is his humor is not only very funny, but he has this wonderful, there's a benignity to his humor. Like we were saying here, he's protesting, but he's doing it in a way that I think the prince was able to maybe even laugh at himself. That Haydn's jokes are never at someone's expense, where he's always laughing with us, never at us.


John Banther: Yes. So sometimes they're called, they get a nickname by a featured instrument, something happening literally like in the Farewell or something written in the music like Number 47, Palindrome, the music, there's this melody in the minuet that's played forwards and then literally played backwards, in reverse. So you get this palindrome effect, that we usually think of race card or Bob as words instead of music. But that's an interesting one.

Another one that I think kind of paints what's happening for Haydn, in my own imagination, at least, at Esterhazy, is the Symphonies Number 6, 7, and 8, Evan, Morning, Noon and Night.

Apparently this was his boss's idea. I can absolutely see Haydn coming into his office, and then to talk to his boss because he actually had to speak with the prince twice a day to assess any performance needs. I can imagine walking in and they say, " Well, you know how we do one symphony a week? How about we just do three in a day? Write me three symphonies, Morning, Noon and Night. Shouldn't be that hard."

I can see Haydn kind of walking out of that conversation a little less happy. But those are the kinds of circumstances Haydn's also facing.


Evan Keely: And leave it to Haydn to rise to the occasion and write these three symphonies, which we still enjoy today.


John Banther: Yes. His Surprise Symphony, one that is maybe his most iconic one. I like this one. I remember playing it even in middle school band.


Evan Keely: One of his best- known works. In the slow movement, there's this loud forte that comes out of nowhere. It's rather startling. And yet Haydn's music is full of these kinds of delightful surprises.


John Banther: Yes. His last symphony, we did an episode on that one as well. Number 104. It's amazing. You can see absolutely how Beethoven is literally standing on Haydn's shoulders for his own, for his symphonies. So quite a development when you examine these from beginning to end for Haydn.

But he was also writing concertos while at Esterhazy. And the soloists were musicians in the orchestra. I also read, Evan, that musicians would get some extra pay at times if they had difficult soloistic passages in a symphony.


Evan Keely: Haydn, one of the many things about Haydn to remember is that he's really good at standing up for his colleagues. He's a great advocate for his fellow musicians at Esterhazy.


John Banther: And because these were performed at Esterhazy, I think that's also a reason why several, many have been lost. One was rediscovered, his first cello concerto, which we'll hear at the end of this episode. Makes me wonder what else is missing from Haydn, because it was often, a concerto would be played once or twice, and then, well, what's the reason to play it again? We've got another concerto to enjoy next month.


Evan Keely: He tried to catalog his music at some point, and he had someone assisting him with that. But he wrote so much music, and maybe forgot about quite a bit of it. And yes, as you said, John, we're probably still going to continue to discover the occasional Haydn manuscript here and there.

And what a discovery, this cello concerto, lost until 1961, and now it's a standard of the repertoire. It's a great piece.


John Banther: Yes. Also his trumpet concerto, every trumpet player has played that one by Haydn. But Evan, looking at what Haydn was also under, in terms of rules at Esterhazy, initially he couldn't publish his music. Eventually that changed. But that would've been probably catastrophic for Haydn, if he could not publish his music at all.


Evan Keely: And eventually that was relaxed and he was able to do so. And as we'll discuss through this conversation, you'll see how his music becomes more and more widely known all over Europe as a result.


John Banther: As you were describing, the Farewell Symphony, we hear how isolated Haydn and his musicians could be, not just from their families, but from other musicians, other composers, other concerts, other operas, or whatever. This must have affected him in some way as well, being literally physically isolated.


Evan Keely: Esterhaze is definitely kind of out there in the middle of nowhere. Like I said, it was a hunting lodge. And the prince decided to build this sumptuous palace there.

So people would come to Esterhaze, including people like the Empress Maria Thereza. She once remarked, " If I want to hear a good opera, I go to Esterhaze."

So great music is happening there, but it is an isolated place. And like I said, a lot of the musicians were not allowed to live there with their families.

So unlike Haydn, who was there for decades, musicians would come and go. But if they worked with Haydn at the Esterhazy Palace, they got to know him, they got to know his music. They liked him. They recognized his genius as a composer. And then when they would leave, some of them would take some of these scores with them, like you were saying, John. Here's a concerto that got played once, and they would show these scores to somebody else. They would get published. Haydn would be able to publish those through the support of fellow musicians.

And pretty soon his music is being disseminated all over Europe, as a result.


John Banther: It's quite a thing to see that all play out. And I also imagine for Haydn, being isolated means he needs to be creative. He needs to develop his own sound, in that way.

And having the resources of an orchestra and musicians, it seems like a great situation for a composer. Being isolated, you can try everything almost free of judgment from critics or something, and you can tweak things. " You know what, last week this did not work in terms of the balance. What if I try this?"

So I think it opens that door a little bit, as opposed to he's in Vienna, he's got to make this one thing really sell out, and then he's got to be distracted creatively by the next piece or something.


Evan Keely: Exactly, John. And as we were saying, because he had these relationships with these musicians he was working with, he knew how to write for them. He knew what their strengths were, and he knew how to play around with that.

He made a remark late in life, I want to read you this quote, which is relevant to what we're talking about. He says, later in life, looking back on his years in Esterhaze, he says, " My prince was satisfied with all my works. I was praised as head of an orchestra. I could experiment, observe what heightened the effect and what weakened it. And so could improve, expand, cut, take risks. I was cut off from the world. There was no one near me to torment me or make me doubt myself. And so I had to become original."

And I really think that sums up Haydn's life in so many ways.


John Banther: We talked before about being a freelancer and how flexibility was an absolute necessity. And we see how it's played out as a quality for Haydn, being kapellmeister at Esterhazy.

So there are other things that are I think in your job description when it comes to being kapellmeister for such a wealthy estate. And here's something, Evan, I had no idea about. Haydn had to write, of course, marches, duos, whatever for the estate. But he also wrote music for clocks, a mechanical clock. You know how the old clocks, they chime or play a tune when the hour changes? Haydn had to write music for this kind of auto- mechanical organ that would be fit inside of a large ornate clock at the palace.

And this organ could be programmed, I guess similar to a piano roll in some way, but programmed to play different music. I'll put a video on the show notes page, because recently they got it working and I think it's one that Haydn was actually physically in the room and even participating in. And they have it working now.

But that's how far his job goes as kapellmeister, he's writing symphonies one day that we still play, and the other, he's making sure there's a pleasing tune for the prince when the clock strikes three.


Evan Keely: Really gives you a sense of his flexibility and his open- mindedness about his circumstances.


John Banther: And we'll get into opera and some relationships he had with other composers, right after this.

Haydn, being so flexible and willing to take on any challenge, he of course also took on opera, right, Evan? But unlike Mozart, who is premiering operas in actual big opera houses, huge casts, ornate, I think even, set designs and things like that. Haydn's operas, they're being played at the actual, well, the palace where everything else has been going on.


Evan Keely: Right. And these Esterhazy performances had multiple performances, but they're still there at the palace. People are coming from far and wide to hear these performances.

A lot of them are very intimate works. A good example is, just to throw out one of them, L'isola disabitata, The Deserted Isle, was an opera that Haydn wrote in 1779 to be performed at the Esterhazy Palace.

It's a good example. Four people in the cast. Very simple plot, very small cast, very intimate staging. It's a shorter piece. Maybe it's under two hours. And it was probably never performed again, except for that one time in 1779.

In fact, like we were saying before about these concertos and so forth, things got performed once and then a lot of them got forgotten about. This opera was lost and then rediscovered in the 1970s. And we hear it today on WETA, VivaLaVoce and other opera companies and so forth are recording it and performing it.

And Haydn's operas are slowly being rediscovered. Some of them having not been performed for 200 years or more.


John Banther: Wow. I should definitely try to see some of these, because it's even more intriguing as you're explaining it, it's more intimate, it's at the palace. There's four people on stage, small orchestra.

I imagine even there were times where there were more people playing than listening. People came from far and wide, but there were also times where it was just the prince or his family or whatever.

I wonder what it's like to watch it today, how that intimate nature plays out when you have just a few musicians and a small audience. I just wonder how that relates, as opposed to, you think a huge opera by Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, that's bigger than life itself. How does this play out compared to that? When you're geared towards an audience of just maybe a few rather than a thousand?

Haydn did meet with other composers. One was Mozart. It sounds like they met in 1781. Mozart, much younger. He was 25 and Haydn was 49, Evan?


Evan Keely: That's right. And what a fascinating encounter that must have been, and the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Two totally different personalities, different in age, as we pointed out.

Think about their life stories. Haydn, his hard scrabbled existence as a freelancer, as a young man and so forth. Unlike Mozart, the wunderkind who's touring all over Europe before his voice changes.

And yet by all accounts, they loved each other. They admired and respected each other as composers. They had a deep personal friendship.

And I wonder if that's one of the reasons why Haydn didn't dedicate more energy to composing opera, because he became aware of Mozart as an opera composer and felt like, " Well, there's no way I could possibly be as good a composer for opera as Mozart is."

In fact, Haydn received a request from someone in Prague, where Mozart's operas were very popular in the 1780s, to write an opera for an opera house there. And Haydn responds by saying, " Well, I could never possibly write an opera as good as Mozart's, so I think I'll pass. Thank you very much all the same."

And there's this abundant evidence of the immense respect and love and devotion these two men had for each other, as composers and as human beings.


John Banther: I love that they got along. That's great to hear. You often hear of composers clashing, or getting along for a little bit, and then a fight ends at all and they don't speak until one of them dies. Well, then they don't speak at all. But one regrets then that it was kind of left that way.

Operas, not so much, compared to Mozart, understandably. He wrote a lot of keyboard sonatas as well. And these are still played, but they're not as big in the repertoire as some other keyboard works.

He often, Haydn that is, dedicated these to students, people, or performances outside of the palace. I imagine a lot of this was playing for himself, playing and writing this music for himself at the keyboard.

Some are quite challenging, like the one we're hearing a little bit of, from 1780, his 20th sonata. These aren't as huge as Beethoven sonatas, but they're definitely worth listening to as well. Especially this one.

Things start to change, right, Evan? All things come to an end eventually. Haydn has been really on a roll for decades. It's now 1790, and now this Prince Nicholas Esterhazy dies.


Evan Keely: Nicholas Esterhazy, the first known as Nicholas the Magnificent, who had been hiding this patron for so many years, from 1761 to 1790, at the time of the prince's death. He dies, his son Anton becomes the next prince. And Anton doesn't have his father's enthusiasm for music.

He starts to cut some costs at the palace. He removes most of the orchestra and musicians and so forth. He reduces Haydn's salary, reduces his obligations. Haydn also has a pension that had been established under Nicholas Esterhazy.

So this is a time of change for Haydn. And maybe a time for some new possibilities and new opportunities. He's in his late fifties at this point. He's been there in the service of the Esterhazy family for decades. Now he has a chance to consider some other possibilities.


John Banther: I don't know why, I love this point in Haydn's life. I feel like he must have had, or I hope, like a whole new lease on life. Haydn now in his late fifties, he has these pensions. It seems like, it's now, it's Haydn's big city era.

He leaves the country and he's now in the city, and maybe he's living it up in so much of, in terms of, I don't know, good food, good coffee, I think at this point. But I'm sure he had a new lease, a new love for life.

And actually, we can take a look at his daily schedule, from basically around this time later into his final years. There is a book I highly recommend. It's called, I believe, Daily Schedules or Daily Rituals. But I'll put a link on the show notes page. It's a book that contains rituals and schedules of artists over the centuries, musicians, composers, writers, sculptors, painting, everything.

So this came later in life. But Haydn's assistant wrote down the routine for Haydn in this Vienna suburb where he spent his final decade.

He said, " In the summer, he always rose at 6: 30 AM. His first task was to shave, which he did himself until he was 73. After shaving, he completed dressing." And just to stop there for a moment, Evan. I think that's kind of important today. Yeah, he shaved and he got dressed, congratulations. But I think people of this wealth and this status, they had people doing that for them or helping them, much the same way he did for Porpora decades earlier.


Evan Keely: Sure. There's a modesty that Haydn never quite sheds. He does become literally internationally famous. He acquires quite a substantial wealth as a composer and as a musician. And he never becomes arrogant as a result. And these little intimate details of his daily life give us, I think, some insight into that.


John Banther: So far, so good. We're all like Haydn, got up, got ready for the day, got dressed. Continues, " If a people had arrived, he made him play his piece while the composer dressed. Mistakes were promptly corrected and a new piece for practicing was given to him. Perhaps an hour and a half would be spent in this way.

" Precisely at eight o'clock, breakfast was taken. Immediately afterwards, he would sit at the piano and improvise, making sketches of compositions until 11: 30. Then he received visitors or paid calls or went for a walk until 1: 30 PM.

" Between two and three, he dined, after which he attended to domestic matters or returned to his music. Then he took the sketches he had made in the morning and scored them in the evening. At 8: 00 PM he would go out, returning home at nine, to orchestrate or read a book until 10 o'clock.

" At 10, he had a supper of bread and wine. He made it a rule never to eat an evening meal of anything but bread and wine, except when he was invited out. At half past 11, he went to bed. In old age, even later."

A long bit there about just his daily schedule. But I think we can glean some things. There's probably some aspects here he did most of his life, in terms of eating, this habit of wine and bread as the only dinner basically. And also especially these walks that he would take. So many composers wake up, write, compose, and then take long walks.

Actually, most artists do this very same thing. That's probably, I imagined even started at Esterhazy, taking walks around the beautiful palace gardens.


Evan Keely: Very likely. But this also gives us some wonderful insight into his discipline. And we see this throughout his life. He's willing to have a structure to his life. I don't think that he's really neurotic about it. I just get a sense that he has a sense of how to structure his life, and how to live with integrity. And he sticks to it.

And you see the ways in which it benefits him. Here he is, we're talking about 1790 and changes in the Esterhazy family and so forth. He could rest on his laurels. He's in his late fifties. He's got international renown. He's made some good money. He could just sort of retire and enjoy life.

And in fact, this is the beginning of one of the most creative periods of his life.


John Banther: And also, Evan, Beethoven. We learned a little bit in the episode on Beethoven's life that there was this interaction, even relationship with Haydn.


Evan Keely: Well, we're going to be speaking in a moment about his first trip to London. But before we get into the details of that fascinating episode of his life, he's on his way there, he is traveling through Europe, and he passes through Germany. And he gets to meet this young man, Ludwig van Beethoven, who is showing quite a lot of promise. He's about 19, 20 years old at this point.

There's a possibility that he shows Haydn a cantata that he's been working on, which may be the cantata for the death of the Emperor Joseph II, Beethoven wrote when he was 19. Haydn's very impressed. He's very interested in getting to know this young man a little better. He's on his way to London. And they sort of informally agree that when Haydn gets back, at some point, that they will perhaps continue to work together.

Which is in fact what happened. And when Haydn returns, he goes back to Vienna. Beethoven is living there in the 1790s. He's in his twenties. Haydn is in his late fifties, early sixties. And became Beethoven's teacher for a time.

Seems like they had a complex relationship. And that Beethoven as a young man maybe didn't really appreciate Haydn all that much.

But we also know that toward the end of Haydn's life, Beethoven, and toward the end of Beethoven's life, Beethoven spoke of Haydn with great reverence and appreciation.


John Banther: I wonder how much of this relationship was influenced in one way or another by Haydn's own relationship with Porpora when he was younger. And perhaps there was maybe some complexities to their relationship as well. I wonder if he saw some things and thought, " You know what, if I have a student coming to me like that, I'm not going to do X, Y, and Z."


Evan Keely: I really wonder that as well. I really wonder that as well, John. And I think Haydn wants to be the kind of teacher that he himself maybe didn't often have. And I suspect he was that for Beethoven in many ways, whether or not young Beethoven really appreciated it, another story.


John Banther: Yes. So now we get to what I'm kind of referring to, Haydn's big city era. He goes to London, you just mentioned a moment ago, that was part of his journey in meeting Beethoven. But he goes to London. And he has already become popular there.

He becomes basically one of the most popular composers in Europe. And in London, he seems to be universally loved.


Evan Keely: Yes. So as we were saying earlier, John, his music has been spreading all over Europe, even though Haydn himself is doing very little traveling up to this point. So his music is traveling a lot more than he is.

And one of the places, as you said, John, where he's very popular, is London. Johann Peter Salomon was a German- born impresario and violinist and conductor. In fact, coincidentally, born in the same house in Bonn that Beethoven would be born in later on.


John Banther: Wow.


Evan Keely: That's a whole other story. Yeah, incredible coincidence there. Salomon is this very skilled concert promoter. He's an impresario. He manages musicians and arranges concerts and so forth. He's very good at it.

He goes to London, probably in the early 1780s. So by the time he comes to Austria to collect Haydn and bring him to London, he's already been in Britain for almost 10 years.

And he really knows the scene. He's a very shrewd businessman. And he knows the tastes of the London music- loving scene. So he really knows how to arrange things for Haydn in a way that's going to be beneficial to himself and to Haydn, and to also music lovers in Britain.

And so there's these incredible opportunities for Haydn going to a place like London, where the music scene is quite different from anything Haydn has experienced.

I was saying earlier, if you're in Austria in the mid to late 18th century and you want to earn a living as a composer, as a musician, you're going to work through the church and/ or you're going to have an aristocratic patron.

London isn't really like that. You certainly see that to some extent. But London, you have much more of sort of a mercantile economy in the music scene, where things like concert subscriptions and opera houses and so forth are, it's a much more free kind of environment, where composers and musicians can earn a lot of money if they are popular.

And Haydn, under the auspices of Salomon's impresario- ship, if that's a word, is able to be quite successful with these concerts that they promote, because the public loves him. And he's so fired up creatively to respond to this opportunity that he creates some of his greatest masterpieces.


John Banther: And it's on these two journeys to London in this decade in the 1790s, that he presents his last 12 symphonies, which we call collectively, often, the London symphonies.

And these feel like, really, Haydn has figured things out. He has spent decades working on the symphony, all those experimentation things we talked about. And now it is like the tipping point where he's just writing symphony after symphony that is just even better than the one that came before it.

For me, my favorite one is still, one of my favorites, really, is his last one, number 104. And he made a lot of money, didn't he? He made, people could really make out in music at this time in London, if they were popular, and they had someone like Salomon, who really knew how to sell the music.


Evan Keely: Yes, that's right, John. And as you were saying, we were talking earlier about him being the so- called Father of the Symphony, which is a bit of an oversimplification. But nevertheless, Haydn's contributions to the symphonic genre, and especially in these last 12 symphonies, the London symphonies, just extraordinary genius and creativity and imagination.

And he really is setting the standard for what a symphony should be. And that template, I think, that he establishes, more than any other single composer, in my opinion, becomes what the symphony will be for the next 200 years, to some extent.


John Banther: Yeah. And like all things and all stories of composers that we talk about, things do start to wind down. He has these wildly successful journeys to London. He has a lot of great things happening in the last 15 years, basically, of his life. But things start to wind down.

He settles in Vienna, I believe, right? And he has another work actually, thinking of kind of the tipping point for music, he's done all this stuff. He's experimented.

He has another huge work after his final symphony, from 1795, the Creation.


Evan Keely: The Creation. The oratorio, the Creation, one of his great masterpieces. The libretto was prepared by Gottfried van Swieten. Apparently a German translation from a libretto that Handel was thinking of setting but never got around to, but we're not sure about that.

Gottfried van Swieten was the director of the Imperial Library in Vienna. And this libretto draws from scripture, mostly Genesis and the Book of Psalms. And also from a German translation of Milton's Paradise Lost.

The Creation had its first performance privately in 1798, and then there was a big public concert the following year in Vienna.

Hugely popular. A really fascinating and marvelous piece. One of the things about it that's remarkable is the overture, which is a musical depiction of the chaos that precedes creation. The Bible says that the universe was without form and void.

Now, this is an era in which an overture, like an opera overture, an oratorio overture, is very structured. So Haydn comes along and he writes this thing that has no structure at all, deliberately. And it's just this wild, sort of rhapsodic, weird, thrilling journey through this sort of darkness and chaos.

And then the choir comes in, there's a recitative of solo voice, and the choir comes in, describing, and then there was light, and there's this sudden forte.

And suddenly there's a sense of order and possibility. And it's just one of the most incredible moments in music, from my perspective.


John Banther: I think you're right. It is, the more you look at it, this overture that should be so strict in everything, and very, I don't want to say formal, but very much there are expectations that would come with it. And without the form, without the void, it sounds like, as he's pushing into the 19th century, still borrowing from some sounds from the Baroque period in creating this.


Evan Keely: Yeah. Haydn, when he had been, he goes to London twice in the early 1790s. And one of the things he experiences is the music of George Frideric Handel, which is still widely performed in Britain, especially in London.

He gets to see these massed choirs, hundreds or even thousands of voices performing these Handel oratorios. He gets to hear Messiah. People in places like Vienna didn't really know this music so well.

So he's very fired up to this whole idea of the possibilities of choral music, which of course Haydn's been writing his whole life, as we said at the beginning of the episode. One of his earliest pieces is a Mass setting. He's writing for the church, he's singing in the church as a little boy.

And he has this whole new view of what choral music can be, thanks to these trips to London, hearing the music of Handel.

And yet he takes that form, a very old Baroque form, and he brings it not only through the Classical period, but even the beginnings I think of Romanticism. Especially with this-


John Banther: Yes.


Evan Keely: Wild overture to the Creation. Really looking both backward and forward in this incredible music.


John Banther: Now into, he's 70, early seventies, his health, illness, things start to set in. People came, people traveled far and wide to come and give their respects.

His energy was very weak. He had very weak energy. He could not play much. He could not compose much. And just think of the journey Haydn has been on. Since leaving home at age six, never to live with parents again, hunger, threadbare clothes. Everything he's done with composing.

And you think about his last tasks. What were the last things he did as a composer? And he ended as he began, revising and editing that Missa brevis that he composed so many decades earlier, in like 1749. I find that quite heartwarming and in some way sad at the same time, Evan. Revising and editing the thing he started with, that would be the very last thing he did, very full circle.

And then the very last thing he actually played was the Emperor Hymn. It's part of a string quartet. So beautiful. But he would play that on the keyboard, I've seen that written, that he would do that time to time when he had the energy.

One day, it was May 26th, apparently, he went to the keyboard and he played the Emperor Hymn once, twice or so, and then he collapsed. And just days later, May 31st, 1809, he would die.


Evan Keely: He dies in 1809 when Vienna is under occupation by Napoleon's forces and the city's being bombarded. And he's playing this patriotic music in his last moments.

And today that tune is still, I think, one of the best remembered things that Haydn has composed. It's a church hymn in many circumstances. And of course, the music is the national anthem of Germany today.


John Banther: So Haydn lived quite a life. The more I listen, the more I learn about him, the more I like his music even more. He had such a place in history, and such unusual but common and just interesting circumstances.


Evan Keely: Haydn was generous. He was pious. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He was self- confident without being arrogant. The hardships of his early years made him compassionate rather than bitter or self- pitying.

He was a very intelligent person. He was very shrewd in his relationships and his business dealing. But there's also a kind of ingenuousness about him. There's this strain of optimism and perseverance and endurance in him, I think, that was really irrepressible.

And I really wonder, John, I really wonder, if we listen to the music of Haydn, we perform it, we study it, we read about his life, we think about him, talk about his music. I really wonder how much of his personal qualities might infuse themselves into us. His goodness, his generosity, his courage, his curiosity, his creativity, his perseverance, his self- respect, his humility, his reverence, his dignity, his cheerfulness, his kind heart.

I hope so. We need that. We should admire Haydn's music, we should be grateful for his music, and we should learn about his life. And we should love his music and we should try to be like him.


John Banther: I agree, Evan. And it really does feel like after hearing all of this, for me it's even more clear, he was a composer who had his head on straight.

So now it's time to read your reviews from Apple Podcast. Classical Anne gave us five stars and said, " I thought Chevalier was an incredible movie to see. I am really looking forward to seeing it again. Joseph Bologne Chevalier was an incredible man. I also loved your podcast you did on his life. Thank you very much. I really enjoyed that."

Well, thank you, Classical Anne. She's referring to that movie about Joseph Bologne, and we did an episode on his life, number 80.

Okay, so now let's hear that work of Haydn's we promised earlier, his cello concerto number 1. This is cellist Pierre Fournier with the Festival Strings Lucerne and Conductor Rudolf Baumgartner.