Haydn eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 69 pages of information about Haydn.

To my mind he wrote as well for the strings at this time as ever he did.  He could play the violin himself, as the violin was then played, and all his life, even in quartets, he had to write for players who would be considered tenth-rate to-day.  As for orchestration, that was an art neither he nor Mozart was to hit upon for some time.  The wind instruments had one principal function, and that was to fill in the music, enrich it, and make it louder, and another minor one—­occasionally to put in solos.  In writing suitably for them, and, in fact, in every other part of writing music for courts, Haydn was now the equal, if not the superior, of every man living in 1761 (Gluck did not write for the courts), and he was getting a better and better grip of his new idea.



Haydn went to Eisenstadt, in Hungary, in 1761 to take up the duties of his new post—­that of second Kapellmeister to Prince Anton of Esterhazy.  In that year feudal Europe had not been shaken to the foundations by the French Revolution; few in Europe, indeed, and none in sleeping German Austria, dreamed that such a shaking was at hand, and that royal and ducal and lesser aristocratic heads, before the century was out, would be dear at two a penny.  Those drowsy old courts—­how charming they seem on paper, how fascinating as depicted by Watteau!  Yet one wonders how in such an atmosphere any new plants of art managed to shoot at all.  The punctilious etiquette, the wigs, the powder, the patches, the grandiloquent speechifyings, the stately bows and graceful curtsies, the prevalence—­nay, the domination—­of taste, what a business it all was!  The small electors, seigneurs, dukes and what not imitated the archducal courts; the archdukes mimicked the imperial courts:  all was stiff, stilted, unnatural to a degree that seems to us nowadays positively soul-killing, devilish.  But some surprising plants grew up, some wondrous fruits ripened in them.  A peasant-mind, imbued with peasant-songs, was set in one; the peasant-mind in all outward matters conformed to all the rules, and was loved by the petty princes to whom it was never other than highly, utterly respectful, and lo! the peasant-songs blew and blossomed into gigantic art forms, useful to the composers who came in a time when feudalism was as clean swept away as the wigs and patches that were its insignia.  To change this rather too eloquent trope, Haydn, living a life of deadly routine and dulness, duly subservient to his divinely appointed betters, took the songs of the people (who paid to keep the whole apparatus in working order), and out of them built up what is the basis of all the music written since.  If Providence in very deed ordained that millions of men and women should toil that a few small electors, dukes and princes should lead lives of unhappy artificial luxury, then Providence did well at the same time to arrange for a few counts such as Morzin, and princes like those of Esterhazy.

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Haydn from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.