Copyright
J. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) Hadden.

Master musicians; a book for players, singers and listeners online

. (page 4 of 17)
Online LibraryJ. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) HaddenMaster musicians; a book for players, singers and listeners → online text (page 4 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


as a player. When some one applauded his wonderful
dexterity he said : " There is nothing wonderful about
it ; you have only to hit the right notes at the right
time and the instrument plays of itself." He would
say to his pupils when they complained of difficulties :
" You have five as good fingers on each hand as I have."
As an organist he was himself without rival in his own
time. It was written of him that " with his two feet he
could perform on the pedals passages which would be
enough to provoke many a skilled clavier player with
ten fingers." There is a story, legendary, no doubt, that
he would go into churches disguised as a poor country
schoolmaster, and, asking the organist to let him play,
would improvise in such a wonderful manner that the
listeners exclaimed : " This must be either Bach or the
devil." And yet this great master of the organ at no time
possessed an instrument really worthy of his powers.

Bach can never be what is called a " popular " com-
poser. The " popular " musical mind does not under-
stand him or appreciate him. The popular musical
mind is here in the same case as the lady who, at the
close of a concert at which John L. Hatton, the



48 MASTER MUSICIANS

composer of the famous song " To Anthea," had played
two of Bach's finest fugues, described Hatton as " the
man who came in between the parts to tune the piano."
Sir Walter Parratt, master of the King's Band, has an
ideal composer in Bach, but does not get everybody
to agree with him. He once asked a young lady why
she had not attended a certain performance of Bach's
music. In a moment of stupendous honesty she re-
plied : " Because I did not care about it." Sir Walter
gazed in sorrowful silence, and then quietly said :
"You're a little donkey." Mendelssohn had better
luck with a pretty girl to whom he gave lessons at
Diisseldorf. He converted his young pupil from Herz
to Bach, and the grateful father, who loved Bach him-
self, rewarded Mendelssohn with a parcel of cloth. " I
could scarcely believe it at first, but the parcel really
contained enough of the finest black cloth to make an
entire suit. This savours of the Middle Ages," wrote
Mendelssohn. These anecdotes are significant.

But Bach has his following even among the
amateurs, and the following will be greater as time
goes on. Then will be fully understood the meaning of
that remark of Schumann, that Bach was a man to
whom music owes almost as great a debt as religion
owes to its founder. " To me," said Goethe, " it is
with Bach as if the eternal harmonies discoursed
with one another." So it has been, and so it will be,
to multitudes besides.



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN

Sound immortal Music sound !
Bid the golden Words go round !
Every heart and tongue proclaim
Haydn's power, and Haydn's fame !

BARRY CORNWALL.

So much for the first pair of great composers. They
can be followed chronologically and conveniently by
another pair Haydn and Mozart. Though Bach and
Handel never met, Haydn and Mozart often did. They
had a sincere regard for each other too. It was Mozart
who, recognising his brother composer as his foster-
father in music, called him by the fond title of " Papa
Haydn," which sticks to him yet. We also, though
for other reasons, may well call him " Papa." He was
the father of most of the instrumental forms of music
which are regarded as fixed forms to-day the sym-
phony, the sonata, the string quartet, and the like.
That is to say, he wrote works in these departments
which every composer feels to be the right sort of
models to follow ; just as in writing a novel one might
follow the model of Scott, or Dickens, or Thackeray.
Haydn came into the world exactly at the right time.
Music, before he began to write, had descended to the

49 E



50 MASTER MUSICIANS

dead level of the commonplace, for the best days of
Bach and Handel were over, and the other living com-
posers were but pigmies by comparison. It was Haydn's
province to give music a fresh direction, and to raise up
from the old foundation a new style at once pleasing
and ennobling.

Francis Joseph Haydn began his career, to use his
own phrase, as " a poor devil," lived to enjoy a comfort-
able competency, and died heavy alike with years and
honours. He was born at Rohrau, a village on the
confines of Austria and Hungary, on the 3ist of March
1732. The home was a humble thatched structure of
one story, with a barn attached. Though rebuilt (for
it had been swept away by a flood), it still stands,
much the same as it did when Haydn, then a celebrity,
returned to Rohrau in 1795, and knelt down on its
threshold and kissed the ground. Beethoven was
shown a picture of it when lying on his deathbed.
" Strange," he said, " that so great a man should have
had so lowly an origin." Haydn was proud of his
lowly origin because he had, as he put it, " made some-
thing out of nothing." His people were certainly poor
enough. The father was a wheelwright, and the mother
had been a nobleman's cook. But both, luckily, were
musical. The father was village organist : " a great
lover of music," his famous son said, " and played the
harp without knowing a note of music."

By and by the little Joseph, to give the composer
the Christian name he usually bore, began, in his own
childish fashion, to assist in the domestic concerts by



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 51

pretending to play the fiddle with two pieces of stick.
These " wooden " performances were not thrown away.
One day a neighbouring schoolmaster named Frankh
happened to look in, and seeing the boy sawing bravely
with his sham fiddle, offered to take him into his house
and educate him. The wheelwright was delighted,
and the mother gave her reluctant consent.

Frankh did fairly well by the boy, teaching him to
read and write and to play on a real violin and several
other instruments besides. Stories are told of his getting
flogged when he should have got fed. But he was a
cheerful fellow, and in play hours he revenged himself
by transferring the master's blows to a big drum on
which he practised a lot. There is a funny story told
in illustration of his expertness with this same instru-
ment. A drummer was wanted for a procession, and
Frankh fixed on Haydn. Haydn did not mind, but he
was so small that the drum had to be carried before
him on the back of another boy, who happened to be a
hunchback. The effect must have been comical enough.
Haydn retained his early skill on the drum. When
rehearsing a concert during his second visit to London,
the regular drummer was found to be absent. " Can
any one here play the drum ? " Haydn asked. " I
can," promptly replied young George (afterwards Sir
George) Smart, who was sitting among the violinists.
But Smart somehow failed to satisfy the conductor,
who, in fact, took the drumsticks from him, and after a
practical illustration remarked, " That is how we use
the drumsticks in Germany." " Oh, very well," replied



52 MASTER MUSICIANS

the unabashed Smart, " if you like it better that way,
we can also do it so in London."

When Haydn was nearly nine he had a second piece
of luck. The choirmaster of St. Stephen's, Vienna,
came to see schoolmaster Frankh. The musical prodigy
was of course produced. He sang a song, and when it
was finished the pleased visitor cried " Bravo ! " as he
flung a handful of cherries into Haydn's cap. " But,
my little man," he asked, " how is it you cannot do
the shake ? " for there was a trill in the song which
Haydn had ignored. " How can you expect me to
shake when Herr Frankh himself cannot shake ? " was
the bold reply. The result of this interview was
Haydn's being carried away to Vienna as a chorister
in St. Stephen's, where he was to spend the remaining
years of such formal study as he ever passed through.

He tells us that he " learnt singing, the clavier, and
the violin from good masters," besides writing and
ciphering, and a little Latin and theology. His instinct
for composition now began to assert itself, and he
covered every scrap of music paper he could lay hands
on. He would write for twelve voices as readily as for
two, innocently believing that " it must be all right if
the paper be nice and full." His masters seem really
to have paid little attention to him, but he had the art
of picking up things quickly, and by dint of hard work
he managed to get on. " When my comrades were
playing," he says, " I used to take my little clavier
under my arm, and go out where I would be undis-
turbed so as to practise by myself."



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 53

It must not, however, be supposed that he was un-
like other boys in the matter of fun and mischief. Thus
we find him scrambling about the scaffolding when some
additions were being made to the Imperial Chapel.
The Empress had caught the St. Stephen's choristers
at this game more than once, but the boys paid no heed
to her threats and prohibitions. One day when Haydn
was balancing himself aloft, far above his schoolfellows,
the Empress saw him from her windows and sent a
Court official to "give that fair-haired blockhead a
good thrashing." Many years afterwards, when he
was bandmaster to Prince Esterhazy, the fair -haired
blockhead had an opportunity of thanking the Empress
for this mark of royal favour.

Haydn got on very well at St. Stephen's until his
voice began to break. So far the Empress had been
pleased with his singing, but now she declared that
" young Haydn sings like a crow." As if he could help
his voice breaking ! The opinion of the Empress was
law to the choirmaster ; so he began to look for an
opportunity of getting rid of the boy. It came soon
enough, and unfortunately it was Haydn himself who
provided it. Always fond of practical joking, he one
day tried a pair of new scissors on the pig-tail of a
fellow chorister. The pig-tail was clean removed, and
the joker was condemned to be caned. In vain Haydn
begged to be let off, declaring he would rather leave
than submit to the indignity. The choirmaster said
he would have to leave in any case, but he must first
be caned. So it was : at the age of sixteen Haydn



54 MASTER MUSICIANS

was thrown out on the world, with "three wretched
shirts and a worn-out coat," an empty purse, a keen
appetite, and practically no friends.

He got himself housed in a miserable garret with an
acquaintance named Spangler, and looked about for
any and every means of earning a living. " For eight
long years," he says, " I was forced to knock about
wretchedly, giving lessons to the young." He did more
than that. He sang in choirs, played at balls and wed-
dings and baptisms, made arrangements of musical
works for anybody who would employ him, and even
took part in street serenades by playing the violin.
Presently he gathered about him a few pupils, who
provided him with at least the bare necessaries of life.
Every spare moment he devoted to the study of com-
position. To his dingy attic he brought, one by one, as
he could afford them, all the known theoretical works,
and thoroughly mastered them without help. Ulti-
mately he did get some assistance when he became
accompanist to Niccolo Porpora, a famous singing-
master of the time, whom Handel, who had some rivalry
with him, used to call " Old Borbora." It is odd to read
of Haydn acting as a lackey to Porpora : blacking his
boots and trimming his wig and brushing his coat and
running his errands and playing his accompaniments.
But Haydn apparently thought nothing of it. He
wanted to fit himself for his profession, and he had to
get his instruction as he went along, at whatever cost
to his dignity.

Luckily his pecuniary affairs soon improved greatly.



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 5$

He raised his terms for pupils, and was fortunate
enough to be appointed music director to the Bohemian
Count Morzin, who kept an orchestra at his country-
house. His salary from the Count amounted to about
20, with board and lodgings. It made in reality his
only fixed and assured income. But he must have a
wife, whatever his income ! Up to this time he had not
seemed to be " built for love." It is told of him that he
got wildly agitated when he was accompanying a young
Countess whose neckerchief became disarranged for a
moment. But Haydn had several love affairs. For the
present his fate was sealed. He had been giving lessons
to the youngest daughter of a wig-maker named Keller.
As often happens in similar circumstances (Mozart was
a victim), he fell in love with his pupil, but for some
unexplained reason she decided to wear, not a bride's
but a nun's veil. " Never mind," said the wig-maker to
Haydn, "you shall have my other daughter." And
Haydn did have the other daughter, though she was
three years his senior.

Her name was Anna Maria, and he married her, in
November 1760, not for better but for worse. Frau
Haydn, as some one has described her, was " a regular
Xantippe ; heartless, unsociable, quarrelsome, extrava-
gant, and bigoted." Carpani says she was " not pretty
nor yet ugly." Her manners, he adds, " were immacu-
late, but she had a wooden head, and when she had
fixed on a caprice there was no way to change it." She
had an excess of religious piety which took forms that
greatly disturbed her husband in his work. For she had



56 MASTER MUSICIANS

the house always full of priests, and gave them grand
dinners and suppers and luncheons, to which Haydn's
thrifty soul objected. Haydn said she did not care a
straw whether he were an artist or a shoemaker. She
used his music manuscripts as curling-papers and
underlays for the pastry ; and once when he was away
from home she wrote to him that if he should die there
was not enough money in the house to bury him.
She even told him when he was in London that she
had seen a charming house which would make her
"such a nice widow's residence," and asked him to
send the cash to buy it. Frau Haydn saw out her
seventy years without getting a taste of the widowhood
she longed for. Haydn survived her nine years. He
bought the house she had coveted, "and now," he
wrote in 1806, "it is I who am living in it as a
widower." That house (it stands in a suburb of Vienna)
has been preserved by Haydn's admirers almost as it
was, and has been turned into a kind of museum con-
taining portraits and mementos of the master, the
original manuscript of the Creation, and other inter-
esting relics. What would Frau Haydn have thought
if she could have foreseen all this ?

For a long time Haydn tried making the best of it
with her ; but there came a day when he realised that
to live entirely apart was the only solution of the
problem. He made his wife a sufficient allowance, and
he had the approval of his own conscience, which is
all a man need think about. His was a childless union,
and that no doubt embittered the situation. After the




HAYDN



HANFSTAEN<;L COLLECTION



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 57

separation he fell in love with a married woman, an
Italian singer named Polzelli, aged nineteen. She was
not happy with her husband, and he had found his
wife impossible ; and they confided their sorrows to
each other, and solaced themselves with flirtation.
Haydn wrote to Polzelli that " if only four eyes were
closed" they would get married. But the four eyes
were long in closing, and by that time Haydn was
disillusioned and too old to marry.

The composer's engagement with Count Morzin
soon came to an end, but he was almost immediately
secured as musical director to the Esterhazy family,
in whose service he remained for thirty years. Great
families kept a band of their own in those days, and
the Esterhazys were able by their wealth and vast
possessions to maintain a sort of regal magnificence.
The Esterhazy whom Haydn was engaged to serve
was a man of extravagant tastes, who went about in a
diamond-embroidered coat. He had an opera-house
and a concert-room attached to his palace, and he
gathered about him a large company of first-class per-
formers, over whom Haydn was now set in command.
To some natures the post would have proved tedious
and irksome. But Haydn was a man of philosophic
contentment, inclined to look rather at the advantages
than the disadvantages of his situation. " As con-
ductor of the orchestra," he says, " I could make
experiments and observe effects, and was thus in a
position to improve, alter, add, or omit as I pleased.
It is true that I was cut off from the world, but I was



$8 MASTER MUSICIANS

safe from intrusion, and thus was I forced to become
original."

At any rate, there was always plenty for the band-
master to do. Royalties, nobles, and aristocrats were
constantly at Esterhaz, and the band was daily in
request. The Prince was very proud of his musical
establishment, and would have it regarded as the best
of its kind in Europe. This meant for Haydn un-
tiring rehearsal and drilling, besides arranging works
and writing original compositions. During his tenure
of office he composed a large number of symphonies,
operas, masses, concertos, trios, quartets, and other
vocal and instrumental works. Gradually his music
got to be known far and wide, and publishers were
ready to bring out his compositions almost as fast as
he could put them on paper. Invitations came to him
to visit Paris and London, but for a long time he
would not be drawn from his seclusion.

At last, in 1790, a violinist named Salomon made
him promise to visit London. " My name is Salomon,"
he bluntly announced, as he was shown into Haydn's
room one morning. " I have come from London to
fetch you. We will settle terms to-morrow." Three
years before -this, a London music publisher named
Bland had gone over to Vienna to try and coax him.
When he called, Bland found him shaving, and com-
plaining loudly of the bluntness of his razor. " I would
give my best quartet for a good razor," he exclaimed
impatiently. Bland took the hint and hurried off to
fetch a better tool. Haydn was as good as his word.



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 59

He presented Bland with his latest quartet, which is
still commonly known as the Razor Quartet.

Well, Salomon succeeded where Bland had failed :
Haydn agreed to go to London. The arrangement
was that he should have 300 for six symphonies and
200 for their copyright ; 200 for twenty new com-
positions to be produced by himself at the same
number of concerts ; and 200 from a benefit concert.
This was tempting, yet Haydn was not quite happy
about going. A long journey was not to be lightly
^undertaken in those pre-railway days, and Haydn was
nearly threescore. Moreover, he felt parting with his
friends, especially with Mozart, " a man very dear to
me," as he said. It was a beautiful thing, this regard
of the two greatest composers of their time for each
other. Haydn called Mozart " the most comprehensive,
original, extraordinary musical genius ever known in
this or any age or nation." Once he wrote : " I only
wish I could impress upon every friend of mine, and
on great men in particular, the same deep musical
sympathy and profound appreciation which I myself
feel for Mozart's inimitable music ; then nations would
vie with each other to possess such a jewel within their
frontiers. . . . Forgive my excitement ! I love the man
so dearly." And Mozart loved him. A new string
quartet of Haydn's was being rehearsed, when Kozeluch,
a popular composer who was jealous of Haydn, leaned
forward to Mozart at a certain bold passage and
whispered : " I would not have done that." " Nor I,"
promptly rejoined Mozart ; " and do you know why ?



60 MASTER MUSICIANS

Because neither you nor I would have had such an
idea." And now, when Mozart thought of parting with
Haydn, he was sadly concerned. " Oh Papa," he said,
" you have had no education for the wide, wide world,
and you speak too few languages." When it came to
the actual farewell, the tears sprang to his eyes, and
he said affectingly : " This is good-bye ; we shall never
meet again." The words proved true. A year later
Mozart was lying in a pauper's grave. Haydn was in-
consolable at the loss. When he started for home at
the end of his London visit, his saddest reflection was
that there would be no Mozart to meet him. His
shrewish wife had tried to poison his mind against his
friend by writing that Mozart had been disparaging
his genius. " I cannot believe it," he cried ; " if it is
true, I will forgive him." As late as 1807, he burst into
tears when Mozart's name was mentioned, and then,
recovering himself, remarked : " Pardon me ! I must
ever weep at the name of my Mozart."

Haydn did not like London so well as Handel
and Mendelssohn did. His landlord charged him too
much. Everything was " terribly dear." The fogs
gave him rheumatism and made him wrap up in flannel
from head to foot. The street noises worried him ;
and so on. But London made up for all this by its
flattering reception of the visitor. He received so many
invitations that he wrote home : " I could dine out
every day." Poets praised him in doubtful verse ;
musical societies of all kinds made him their guest.
He was introduced to no end of notabilities. One was



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 61

Herschel, the great astronomer, who had been a poor
musician before a lucky marriage put him in the way
of fame. " His landlady was a widow," Haydn tells.
" She fell in love with him, married him, and gave him
a dowry of 100,000." Haydn was surprised at the idea
of a man sitting out of doors to study the stars " in
the most intense cold for five or six hours at a time."
More interesting to him was Mrs. Billington. There
is no more familiar anecdote than that which connects
Haydn with Sir Joshua Reynolds's portrait of this
distinguished vocalist. Haydn one day found Mrs.
Billington sitting to Reynolds, who was painting her
as St. Cecilia listening to the angels. " It is like," said
Haydn, " but there is a strange mistake. You have
painted her listening to the angels, whereas you ought
to have represented the angels as listening to her."
Could compliment be more charming ? At St. Paul's
Cathedral the visitor heard 4000 Charity Children sing,
and was " more touched by this innocent and reverent
music than by any I ever heard in my life." He went
to Oxford to be made a Doctor of music, and grumbled
at having to walk about for three days in his gorgeous
robe of cherry and cream coloured silk. These excite-
ments contrasted strangely with the quiet drowsy life
of Esterhaz ; and although Haydn evidently felt
flattered, he often expressed a wish to escape from so
much attention in order to get peace for work.

His concerts were a great success, though he was
not altogether pleased with his audiences. Fresh from
the dinner-table, they sometimes fell asleep during the



62 MASTER MUSICIANS

slow movements of his symphonies, and naturally he
did not like it. He had a keen sense of humour, and
he thought of a little joke, which resulted in the well-
known Surprise symphony. The slow movement of
this symphony opens and proceeds in the most sub-
dued manner, and just at the moment when the audi-
ence may be imagined to have comfortably settled for
their nap, a sudden crashing fortissimo chord is intro-
duced. " There all the women will scream," chuckled
Haydn. It certainly gave them a " surprise ! " If
Haydn's audiences occasionally fell asleep, they at least
paid their money ; and, on the whole, he was perfectly
satisfied. After his benefit concert, on May 16, 1791,
he made the following graceful acknowledgment in the
Morning Chronicle : " Mr. Haydn, extremely flattered
with his reception in a country which he had long been
ambitious of visiting, and penetrated with the patronage
with which he has been honoured by its animated and
generous inhabitants, should think himself guilty of
the greatest ingratitude if he did not take the earliest
opportunity of making his most grateful acknowledg-
ments to the English Public in general, as well as
to his particular friends, for the zeal which they have
manifested at his concert, which has been supported
by such distinguished marks of favour and approbation
as will be remembered by him with infinite delight as
long as he lives."

Thus ended the composer's first visit to London.
He came again in 1794, when a series of pre-arranged
concerts brought him something like 2000, which



PAPA AND MAMMA HAYDN 63

made him comfortable for the rest of his days. During
this visit the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV.,
"commanded" his attendance at Carlton House no
fewer than twenty-six times. At one concert George
III. and Queen Caroline attended, and Haydn was
presented to the King. " You have written a great


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryJ. Cuthbert (James Cuthbert) HaddenMaster musicians; a book for players, singers and listeners → online text (page 4 of 17)