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VOL. 2]

Famous Composers and
their Works

Edited by

John Knowles Paine
Theodore Thomas and Karl Klauser




J. B. Millet Company


Copyright, 1891, by


_Reproduction of a steel engraving by L. Sichling, after an oil portrait
by Röster._]

[Illustration: Haydn]



On the river Leitha, in Lower Austria, and some fifteen miles south-east
from Vienna, is a village so insignificant that it is not set down on the
ordinary maps. It is called Rohrau, and there, during the night of March
31, 1732, and descended from a long line of humble hand-toilers, was born
Franz Joseph Haydn, who was destined to make the family name immortal.
His father, Mathias Haydn, was a master wheelwright, whose father, Thomas
Haydn, had followed the same occupation. The mother of Franz, or Joseph,
as he is now called, was Maria Koller, daughter of the market inspector
of the locality, and a cook in the household of Count Harrach, the lord
of the village. The ancestry of the Haydns is undistinguished as far back
as it can be traced. This union of the wheelwright and the cook resulted
in a family of twelve children, of whom three developed into musicians.
They were Franz Joseph, the subject of this sketch, Johann Michael, the
church composer, and Johann Evangelist, a singer of no special excellence.
There is no record of musical talent on the side of either the Haydns
or the Kollers previous to its appearance in the family of Mathias, and
its sudden development in three of the offspring of this marriage is

In addition to his occupation as a wheelwright, Mathias Haydn officiated
as sexton of his parish. Both he and his wife were able to sing
sufficiently well to increase their scant earnings by singing in church on
Sundays and holidays, and at fairs and festivals. They also indulged in
music at home, after a rude fashion, the father accompanying the voices on
the harp, which he had learned to play by ear. The parents of the future
composer were hard-working people who feared God, and so thoroughly did
they instill their religious feelings into their children, that Haydn
felt the influence of this early discipline all through his long life. Of
his earliest years but little is known except that, while yet a tender
child, he began to manifest the musical instinct that was in him by
singing the simple tunes that his father was able to strum on the harp,
and by exciting wonder at the correctness of his ear and his keen sense of
rhythm. These gifts, however, are by no means rare in children, and the
possession of them does not necessarily insure that their possessors shall
develop into Haydns and Mozarts.

One day a cousin, a certain Johann Mathias Frankh, who lived in Hainburg,
paid the Haydns a visit, and his attention was called to young Joseph's
precocious musical talent. Frankh was a school-master and a good musician,
and in Hainburg he filled the offices of Chorregent and Schulrector.
Struck by the talents of the boy, he proposed to take upon himself his
education, musical and otherwise. The father eagerly accepted the offer,
but the mother hesitated, for it was her ambition that the youngster
should become a priest. Her objections, however, were overcome, and the
result was that Haydn, when six years of age, left his home never to
return to it again as an inmate. Frankh took him to Hainburg, instructed
him in reading and writing and in the rudiments of Latin. He also grounded
him in the elements of music, taught him to sing, and to play the violin.
The boy was an apt and zealous pupil, studied with unremitting industry
and progressed rapidly.

Frankh was not a lenient teacher, nor was he very conscientious in his
duties at the head of his school. He was addicted to gambling, and his
honesty was not above suspicion, for he was discharged from his position
for cheating with loaded dice, though later he was reinstated. In common
with the pedagogues of his time he was firm in the faith that what could
not be learned easily could be beaten into a pupil; consequently blows
were not lacking when the child proved dull of understanding, and a
lesson hesitatingly recited was followed by a vigorous thrashing, after
which the boy was sent to bed without his dinner. This severity, however,
was not unkindly meant, for the pedagogue was equally fond and proud of
his young charge, and the harshness was not without its good results, as
may be inferred from the fact, that many years afterwards, Haydn spoke of
his hard discipline, in which, according to his own words, he was given
"more beating than bread," with the warmest gratitude. Not only this, but
in his will, Haydn bequeathed to Frankh's daughter and her husband, one
hundred florins and a portrait of Frankh, "my first music teacher."

This rough teaching, nevertheless, soon reached a point beyond which it
was useless to persevere in it, for Frankh could flog no more knowledge
of music into the boy for the simple reason that he had imparted all
that he possessed. Haydn was now eight years old and had been studying
two years with Frankh, when, one day, George Reuter, director of music
at the Cathedral of St. Stephen, in Vienna, visited Hainburg. He was on
a tour having for its object the procuring of boy voices for his choir,
and meeting with Frankh, that worthy grew eloquent in the praise of his
precocious pupil, and eagerly solicited Reuter to hear the youngster sing.
The Capellmeister consented, and was astonished at the proficiency of the
boy and delighted with the sweetness of his voice. The outcome of the
hearing was that Reuter offered to take Haydn as one of the boy choir at
St. Stephen's and to look after his musical education; and so, in 1740,
Haydn bade farewell to his hard, but well meaning master, and went to
Vienna. The parting was not without tears on both sides, and Haydn was
never forgetful or unappreciative of the benefit he had received from

At St. Stephen's an entirely new life opened to him. The school, an
ancient foundation, consisted of a Cantor, a Subcantor, two ushers and
six scholars. They dwelt under the same roof and ate together. The city
paid for the board, lodging and clothing of the scholars, but not too
liberally, and the youngsters were never under the doctor's care for
over-eating and had no occasion to pride themselves on the quantity or
the quality of the clothing given them. Reading, writing, arithmetic and
Latin were among the studies taught in addition to music. In the art to
which his life was now devoted, Haydn received instruction in singing and
on the violin and clavier. Harmony and composition were also supposed to
be taught by Reuter, but Haydn could never recall more than two lessons
in theory imparted to him by the Capellmeister. The boy was therefore
thrown on his own resources, for he had no money with which to pay for
lessons from other teachers. The music that he now heard opened a new
world to him and filled him with an unappeasable desire to produce such
music himself. He was soon absorbed in every book on musical theory, to
which he had access, and he never put it aside before he had completely
mastered all that it had to tell him. In the meanwhile his attire became
shabbier and shabbier; his shoes were worn down at the heels, and his
appearance gradually merged into what he long afterwards described as
that of "a veritable little ragamuffin." He wrote home for money to renew
his apparel, and when his father sent him six florins for that purpose he
bought Fux's "Gradus ad Parnassum" and the "Vollkommener Capellmeister,"
by Mattheson. The former was his constant companion, and he even placed it
under his pillow when he went to bed. When his companions were at play he
studied, and when they were over noisy and disturbed him he would, as he
said many years later, "take my little clavier under my arm and go away to
practise in quiet." Music had become his passion.

By and by he began to compose and was soon occupied in filling with notes
every sheet of music paper that came within his reach; the more notes he
was able to crowd on a page the more he was satisfied with himself, for
he "thought it must be right if the paper was sufficiently covered with
notes." The determination and industry of the lad were extraordinary, and
he very early began to illustrate that phase of genius which is a capacity
for hard work. One of his first compositions was a "Salve Regina" for
twelve voices. This was seen by Reuter, who dryly suggested that it would
perhaps be better to write it for two voices at first, and to learn how to
write music properly before he began to compose it; but he did not attempt
to show him how to do either. In fact, the boy had no other resource than
to rely on his own unaided efforts to acquire the knowledge for which he
so eagerly yearned, and hence, after his parting with Frankh he was wholly
self-taught. Such was his life until he became sixteen years old, when
his prospects, already dark enough, were to become still more clouded,
for his voice broke and he was no longer useful as a boy soprano. Reuter,
who had no special regard for the lad, resolved to take advantage of the
earliest opportunity that offered, to dismiss him. Before this, however,
Haydn's brother, Michael, had been accepted as a member of the choir, to
the great delight of the former. His voice was more powerful and of better
quality than was Joseph's, which gave indications of breaking. In fact, on
one occasion the empress said that "Joseph Haydn sang like a raven" and
requested that his brother might replace him. Michael was given a solo to
sing, and acquitted himself with so much tenderness and sweetness that the
empress sent for him and gave him twenty-four ducats. Reuter complimented
him on his good luck and the honor that had been done him, and asked
him what he was going to do with so large a sum. Michael replied: "I
shall send half to my good father and keep the other half until my voice
breaks," a resolution that Reuter approved warmly, and which he offered to
further by taking charge of the twelve ducats. Michael gave them to him,
but when his voice broke at last, the ducats were not forthcoming, and he
never saw them again.


The house still exists and is very little changed. The windows to the
right, the fence and the grass plot have disappeared. There is now a bench
under the windows at the left, and a rudely executed tablet inserted in
the wall.

Beethoven, on his deathbed, showed this picture to Hummel, saying with
great emotion: "See, dear Hummel, this is a present I received to-day and
it gives me a childish pleasure."]

Presently Haydn's doom was sealed. One day, in a spirit of mischief, he
cut off the pigtail of a fellow student and was sentenced by Reuter to be
whipped on the hand with a cane. Haydn pleaded, wept, and remonstrated,
but in vain; and at last he declared that he would sooner leave the
cathedral than suffer so humiliating and cruel an outrage. Reuter
cynically retorted that he had no objection to the alternative, "but you
shall be caned just the same, and then you can pack off, bag and baggage
as soon as you see fit"; and so Haydn was punished and then sent forth
into the streets of Vienna without a penny and with attire so worn and
dirty that he was ashamed to be seen. The world was now before him and his
outlook was dreary and discouraging enough. He was friendless, without
prospects and did not know which way to turn to make either. He could
return to Rohrau, where he was sure of a warm and tender welcome from his
parents, but he would not burden their scanty means with his support, and
besides, he had resolved to succeed by the talent that, from the first, he
"knew was in him." His life at the school had inured him to privation and
hunger, and if he could only earn enough to keep soul and body together he
would be content. His departure from his late home took place on a stormy
November evening, and he walked the streets all night hopelessly. Sunrise
found him still wandering and ready to faint with hunger and fatigue.
Utter despair had seized on him when he chanced to meet with one Spangler,
a chorister at St. Michael's, whose acquaintance he had made some time
before. The singer found it hard to win enough bread for himself and his
wife and child, but he took pity on the unfortunate boy and offered him
the shelter of the miserable attic in which he lived with his family.
Haydn gratefully accepted the kindness, and dwelt with his benefactor
through the winter, suffering, with him, cold and hunger. During this
sad time, the boy's courage faltered for the first time and his natural
buoyancy of spirits was dulled. He thought of finding some less precarious
means of earning enough to eat and drink and to clothe himself than music
presented, and for a moment he turned his back on the art he loved so
well; but it was only for a moment. His instinct reasserted itself and
once more he turned resolutely toward music, and never again did he falter
in his determination to devote himself heart and soul to it.

In his search for employment he was, now and then, fortunate enough to be
engaged to play the violin at dances and merrymakings. Then he obtained a
few scholars who paid him the by no means munificent sum of two florins
per month. In the meantime he studied incessantly, especially the six
clavier sonatas of Emanuel Bach. With a rickety harpsichord for his
companion, he forgot his misery and the squalor of the garret in which
he lived. About this time he met a good angel, a Vienna tradesman, by
name, Buchholz, who becoming interested in him, and sympathizing with the
miserable poverty in which he struggled so cheerfully, loaned him one
hundred and fifty florins, taking no acknowledgment therefor and making no
conditions for repayment. It may be mentioned here that Haydn promptly
returned the money when fortune smiled on him, and that he did not forget
the kindness is evidenced by his first will, in which he left "Jungfrau
Anna Buchholz one hundred florins, in remembrance that in my youth and
extreme need, her grandfather made me a loan of one hundred and fifty
florins without interest which I faithfully repaid fifty years ago." This
money was a godsend, for it enabled him to procure a room of his own. The
new apartment was not a great improvement on that which he had quitted.
It was in the old "Michaelerhaus"; and was also a garret boarded off from
a larger room. There was scarcely any light and the space was hardly more
than would suffice for a fair-sized closet. The roof was in a neglected
state, and when the weather was inclement the rain or snow would come
through and fall on the lodger's bed. However, Haydn was happy and could
study and practice without interruption.

Curiously enough, his selection of this room had a great influence on
his future, for in the same house lived Métastasio in a style befitting
his position. The poet was superintending the education of his host's
two daughters. He soon began to take notice of the young man whom he
frequently met on the stairs, and charmed with his character, sought his
acquaintance. Recognizing his talents and wishing to serve him, he taught
him Italian, and after a time, entrusted to him the musical education
of one of the young girls, but now referred to. He added still further
to these services by introducing him to Porpora, then the greatest of
singing-teachers, and one of the most eminent masters of composition.
Before these friendships with Métastasio and Porpora began, however, Haydn
lived alone for a year and a half, supporting himself by teaching for
whatever payment he could obtain; playing the violin whenever he could
earn even the smallest pittance, and obtaining such other engagements as
would help him to buy food, and to pay for his room.

Haydn gave his young pupil daily lessons on the clavier, and for his
services he obtained free board for some three years. This pupil took
singing lessons from Porpora, and it was Haydn's good fortune to be
called to go with her to the master's house to play her accompaniments.
In order to win the good will of the surly and cynical old master, Haydn
performed various menial offices for him, even brushed his clothes
and cleaned his shoes. The result was that the young man received some
valuable instruction in composition, from time to time, together with much
cursing and more insults. Porpora had among his pupils the mistress of the
Venetian Ambassador, to whom he took Haydn in the office of accompanist.
The Italian, not over generous with his own money, induced the Ambassador
to give Haydn a pension, and the consequences were that the struggling
composer was made richer by fifty francs a month, and was enabled to add
to the books he loved so well and studied so constantly.

Haydn was now about twenty years of age, had suffered great privations
and had not been able to rise much above the position of a lackey; but he
never relaxed in his devotion to his art. He submitted to degradations,
kicks and curses because it was not in his power to resent them. The
wonder of it all is that his misfortunes and his humiliations did not sour
his temper irremediably, and that he should have remained buoyant and
amiable to the end of his long life. His existence in his attic was gloomy
and poverty-stricken, but in his old age he told Carpani that he was
never happier than he was in that bare and lowly room with his worm-eaten
clavier and his books.

[Illustration: JOSEPH HAYDN.

From the original pastel portrait by Anton Graff. The original is half

At this period he had composed his first Mass in F, a work which, though
crude and faulty, is remarkable as the effort of a self-taught genius.
By this time, also, he had finished his first opera, "Der Neue Krumme
Teufel," for which he was paid twenty-four ducats, but of which only the
libretto is extant. It was produced at the Stadttheatre in 1752, and as it
was also given in Prague, Berlin and other cities, it would appear that
it was successful. Judging by those operas by Haydn that have come down
to us, the disappearance of the score of his first work in that class is
not to be greatly lamented. His muse was essentially undramatic, yet with
that peculiar blindness to the true bent of his talents, a blindness far
from uncommon among men of genius, he entertained a firm faith that it was
his mission to write operas. Fortunately his opportunities to indulge his
idiosyncrasy were not of a nature to enable him to turn from the path in
which he was to win fame, although he composed in addition to the opera
named, thirteen Italian and five Marionette operas, of which nothing has
survived or has deserved to survive. Haydn was destined to revolutionize
instrumental music; but the man who was to revolutionize the opera was yet
to come and was to be called Mozart.

Among Haydn's other compositions at this period were some clavier sonatas
written by him for his pupils. They were the fruits of his study of the
first six sonatas of C. Ph. Emanuel Bach, to which he devoted himself
untiringly. Haydn said, "I played them constantly and did not rest until
I had mastered them all, and those who know my music must also know that
I owe very much to Emanuel Bach." In fact Haydn prided himself greatly
because he had been once complimented by Bach for his knowledge of
that composer's works. One of these sonatas by Haydn had attracted the
attention of the Countess Thun, an enthusiastic amateur of music, who
expressed a desire to see him. He called on her and surprised her by his
youthful appearance and distressed her by the shabbiness of his attire.
The evil fortune that always kept him in want during his early years was
again accompanied by the good fortune that at every crucial stage of his
youthful career brought him into contact with influential friends who
assisted him. The Countess questioned him about himself. In response to
her inquiries he gave her a straightforward account of his situation,
on hearing which she presented him with twenty-five ducats and engaged
him to give her lessons on the harpsichord and in singing. His prospects
brightened, and as pupils began to increase in number he raised his charge
for lessons from two to five florins ($2.50) - a month! An additional
piece of good fortune came to him at this stage of his prosperity in the
acquaintance of Baron Fürnberg, a rich nobleman and an ardent and talented
amateur, to whose house Haydn was invited. Here private concerts were
given, and the young composer heard frequent performances of string trios
and quartets, such as they were.

On the solicitation of Fürnberg, Haydn composed his first quartet, and
seventeen other quartets followed within a year. The Countess Thun still
remained a warm friend and used all her influence for his advancement.
Fürnberg, who appears to have been very fond of him, was no less eager
to push his fortunes. Through these two supporters he was introduced
to Count Ferdinand Maximilian Morzin, a Bohemian nobleman, immensely
rich and a great lover of music. He had an orchestra of some eighteen
performers, which, when necessity demanded, was augmented by servants who
were musicians. Through the solicitations of Fürnberg, Morzin appointed
Haydn his Musikdirector and Kammercompositor, and in 1759, at the age
of twenty-seven, the composer began, what was up to that date, the most
important stage of his artistic career, and ended forever his painful and
uncertain toil for enough to eat from day to day. For twenty-one years
he had struggled in misery, almost hopelessly, but without ever losing
wholly his faith in his future, and always buoyed up by his intense
love for his art. When he entered on the duties of his new position it
is not unreasonable to believe that he looked back on his past, on the
childhood days when he was beaten and sent to bed hungry by the stern
but well-meaning Frankh; on his days of neglect and cruel insult under
Reuter; on his homeless wanderings through the streets of Vienna, on that
chill November night, not knowing how to obtain food and shelter; on his
humiliating lackey services to Porpora. It was all over now, however, and
he was never again to know want for the half century he had yet to live.

In his first year with Count Morzin, Haydn, taking advantage of the
opportunities afforded him for hearing his own music performed by
able musicians, wrote his first symphony. It is a brief work in three
movements, for string quintet, two oboes, and two horns. It reflects
Emanuel Bach strongly, but in its brightness and easy flow foreshadows the
future style of the composer. It was the forerunner of one hundred and
twenty-five symphonies, some of which were to break wholly with the past,
and to widen infinitely the bounds of instrumental music, and to pave
the way for a Beethoven. Haydn was now in comparative wealth. His salary
was two hundred florins ($100), and in addition he received board and
lodging free. Fortune seemed to smile on him at last. Unfortunately, in
this bright hour he took a step which embittered his life for nearly forty

When Haydn was in the depths of poverty that attended his early days of
adversity he made the acquaintance of one Keller, a wig-maker. This person
had two daughters to whom Haydn gave music lessons. He fell desperately
in love with the younger, but she entered a convent and took the veil.
Her father, however, urgently entreated Haydn to marry the other, and in
an evil hour he consented, though she was three years his elder. When
prosperity dawned on him, with equal honesty and ill luck he kept his
promise, and on the 26th of November, 1760, the girl became his wife. It

Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 1 of 32)