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First London Visit--1791-1792
English Music about 1791--Salomon--Mozart and Haydn--Terms for London--Bonn and
Beethoven--Haydn Sea-Sick--Arrives in London-- An Enthusiastic Welcome--Ideas of
the Metropolis--At Court-- Unreasoning Rivalries--Temporarily eclipsed--Band and
Baton-- A Rehearsal Incident--Hanover Square Rooms--Hoops and Swords-- The
"Surprise" Symphony--Gallic Excitement--New Compositions-- Benefit and Other
Concerts--Haydn on Handel--Oxford Doctor of Music--The "Oxford" Symphony--
Relaxations--Royalty again--Pleyel --Close of Season--Herschel--Haydn at St Paul's--
London Acquaintances--Another Romance--Mistress Schroeter--Love-Letters --Haydn's
English Music about 1791
Haydn came to England in 1791. It may occur to the reader to ask what England was
doing in music at that time, and who were the foremost representatives of the art. The
first question may be partially answered from the literature of the period. Thus Jackson,
in his Present State of Music in London, published the year after Haydn's arrival, remarks
that "instrumental music has been of late carried to such perfection in London by the
consummate skill of the performers that any attempt to beat the time would be justly
considered as entirely needless." Burney, again, in his last volume, published in 1789,
says that the great improvement in taste during the previous twenty years was "as
different as civilized people from savages"; while Stafford Smith, writing in 1779, tells
that music was then "thought to be in greater perfection than among even the Italians
themselves." There is a characteristic John Bull complacency about these statements
which is hardly borne out by a study of the lives of the leading contemporary musicians.
Even Mr Henry Davey, the applauding historian of English music, has to admit the
evanescent character of the larger works which came from the composers of that
"bankrupt century." Not one of these composers--not even Arne--is a real personality to
us like Handel, or Bach, or Haydn, or Mozart. The great merit of English music was
melody, which seems to have been a common gift, but "the only strong feeling was
patriotic enthusiasm, and the compositions that survive are almost all short ballads
expressing this sentiment or connected with it by their nautical subjects." When Haydn
arrived, there was, in short, no native composer of real genius, and our "tardy, apish
nation" was ready to welcome with special cordiality an artist whose gifts were of a
higher order.
We have spoken of Haydn's visit as a long-meditated project. In 1787 Cramer, the
violinist, had offered to engage him on his own terms for the Professional Concerts; and
Gallini, the director of the King's Theatre in Drury Lane, pressed him to write an opera
for that house. Nothing came of these proposals, mainly because Haydn was too much
attached to his prince to think of leaving him, even temporarily. But the time arrived and
the man with it. The man was Johann Peter Salomon, a violinist, who, having fallen out
with the directors of the professional concerts, had started concerts on his own account.