Haydn HTML version

Birth--Ancestry--Early Years
Introductory--Rohrau--A Poor Home--Genealogy--Haydn's Parents-- His Birth--His
Precocity--Informal Music-making--His First Teacher--Hainburg--"A Regular Little
Urchin"--Attacks the Drum-- A Piece of Good Luck--A Musical Examination--Goes to
Vienna--Choir School of St Stephen's--A House of Suffering--Lessons at the Cathedral--
A Sixteen-Part Mass--Juvenile Escapades--"Sang like a Crow"--Dismissed from the
Haydn's position, alike in music and in musical biography, is almost unique. With the
doubtful exception of Sebastian Bach, no composer of the first rank ever enjoyed a more
tranquil career. Bach was not once outside his native Germany; Haydn left Austria only
to make those visits to England which had so important an influence on the later
manifestations of his genius: His was a long, sane, sound, and on the whole, fortunate
existence. For many years he was poor and obscure, but if he had his time of trial, he
never experienced a time of failure. With practical wisdom he conquered the Fates and
became eminent. A hard, struggling youth merged into an easy middle-age, and late years
found him in comfortable circumstances, with a solid reputation as an artist, and a solid
retiring-allowance from a princely patron, whose house he had served for the better part
of his working career. Like Goethe and Wordsworth, he lived out all his life. He was no
Marcellus, shown for one brief moment and "withdrawn before his springtime had
brought forth the fruits of summer." His great contemporary, Mozart, cut off while yet his
light was crescent, is known to posterity only by the products of his early manhood.
Haydn's sun set at the end of a long day, crowning his career with a golden splendour
whose effulgence still brightens the ever-widening realm of music.
Voltaire once said of Dante that his reputation was becoming greater and greater because
no one ever read him. Haydn's reputation is not of that kind. It is true that he may not
appeal to what has been called the "fevered modern soul," but there is an old-world
charm about him which is specially grateful in our bustling, nerve-destroying, bilious
age. He is still known as "Papa Haydn," and the name, to use Carlyle's phrase, is
"significant of much." In the history of the art his position is of the first importance. He
was the father of instrumental music. He laid the foundations of the modern symphony
and sonata, and established the basis of the modern orchestra. Without him, artistically
speaking, Beethoven would have been impossible. He seems to us now a figure of a very
remote past, so great have been the changes in the world of music since he lived. But his
name will always be read in the golden book of classical music; and whatever the
evolutionary processes of the art may bring, the time can hardly come when he will be
forgotten, his works unheard.
Franz Joseph Haydn was born at the little market-town of Rohrau, near Prugg, on the
confines of Austria and Hungary, some two-and-a-half hours' railway journey from
Vienna. The Leitha, which flows along the frontier of Lower Austria and Hungary on its