At night Haydn, accompanied by his friends, was wont to wander about Vienna by moonlight, and serenade his patrons with trios and quartets of his own composition. He happened one night to stop under the window of Bernardone Kurz, a director of a theatre and the leading clown of Vienna. Down rushed Kurz very excitedly. “Who are you?” he shrieked. “Joseph Haydn.” “Whose music is it?” “Mine.” “The deuce it is! And at your age, too!” “Why, I must begin with something.” “Come along up-stairs.”
The enthusiastic director collared his prize, and was soon deep in explaining a wonderful libretto, entitled “The Devil on Two Sticks.” To write music for this was no easy matter; for it was to represent all sorts of absurd things, among others a tempest. The tempest made Haydn despair, and he sat at the piano, banging away in a reckless fashion, while the director stood behind him, raving in a disconnected way as to his meaning. At last the distracted pianist brought his fists simultaneously down upon the key-board, and made a rapid sweep of all the notes.
“Bravo! bravo! that is the tempest!” cried Kurz.
The buffoon also laid himself on a chair, and had it carried about the room, during which he threw out his limbs in imitation of the act of swimming. Haydn supplied an accompaniment so suitable that Kurz soon landed on terra firma, and congratulated the composer, assuring him that he was the man to compose the opera. By this stroke of good luck our young musician received one hundred and thirty florins.
At the age of twenty-eight Haydn composed his first symphony. Soon after this he attracted the attention of the old Prince Esterhazy, all the members of whose family have become known in the history of music as generous Maecenases of the art.
“What! you don’t mean to say that little blackamoor” (alluding to Haydn’s brown complexion and small stature) “composed that symphony?”
“Surely, prince,” replied the director Friedburg, beckoning to Joseph Haydn, who advanced toward the orchestra.
“Little Moor,” says the old gentleman, “you shall enter my service. I am Prince Esterhazy. What’s your name?”
“Ah! I’ve heard of you. Get along and dress yourself like a Kapellmeister. Clap on a new coat, and mind your wig is curled. You’re too short. You shall have red heels; but they shall be high, that your stature may correspond with your merit.”
So he went to live at Eisenstadt in the Esterhazy household, and received a salary of four hundred florins, which was afterward raised to one thousand by Prince Nicholas Esterhazy. Haydn continued the intimate friend and associate of Prince Nicholas for thirty years, and death only dissolved the bond between them. In the Esterhazy household the life of Haydn was a very quiet one, a life of incessant and happy industry; for he poured out an incredible number of works, among them not a few of his most famous ones. So he spent a happy life in hard labor, alternated with delightful recreations at the Esterhazy country-seat, mountain rambles, hunting and fishing, open-air concerts, musical evenings, etc.