Haydn, Joseph

, an eminent musical composer, was born at llhorau, in Lower Austria, in 1733. His father, a wheelwright by trade, played upon the harp without the least knowledge of music, which, however, excited the attention of his son, and first gave birth to his passion for music. In his early childhood he used to sing to his father’s harp the simple tunes which he was able to play, and being sent to a small school in the neighbourhood, he there began to learn music regularly; after which he was placed under Reuter, maestro di capella of the cathedral at Vienna; and having a voice of great compass, was received | into the choir, where he was well taught, not only to sing, but to play on the harpsichord and violin. At the age of eighteen, on the breaking of his voice, he was dismissed from the cathedral. After this, he supported himself during eight years as well as he could by his talents; and began to study more seriously than ever. He read the works of Matthcson, lieinichen, and others, on the theory of music; and for the practice, studied with particular attention the pieces of Emanuel Bach, whom he made his model in writing for keyed instruments. At length, he met with Porpora, who was at this time in Vienna; and during five months was so happy as to receive his counsel and instructions in singing and the composition of vocal music.

About this time he resided in the house with Metastasio three years, as music-master to mademoiselle Martinetz, and during this time had the great advantage of hearing the Italian language spoken with purity, and of receiving the imperial laureat’s counsel, as to cloathing the finest lyric compositions with the most appropriate and expressive jnelodies. In 1759 he was received into the service of count Marzin, as director of his music, whence, in 1761, he passed to the palace of prince Esterhazi, to whose service he was afterwards constantly attached. He arrived in England in 1791, and contributed to the advancement of his art, and to his own fame, by his numerous productions in this country; while his natural, unassuming, and pleasing character, exclusive of his productions, endeared him to his acquaintance and to the nation at large. It ought to be recorded, that twelve of his noble and matchless symphonies were composed here expressly for Salomon’s concerts, and that it was from his spirit of enterprize, and enthusiastic admiration of Haydn, and love of his art, that we were indebted for his visit to this country: besides tht>e sublime symphonies, his piano-forte sonatas, his quartets and songs, were sufficient to establish his reputation as a great and original composer, upon a lasting foundation, ii only what he produced during the few years which he remained among us was known. He returned to Germany in 1796.

The first time we meet with his name in the German catalogues of music, is in that of Breitkopf of Leipsic, 1763, to a Divertimento a Cembalo, 3 Concern a Cembalo, 5 Trios, 8 Quadros or quartets, and 6 Symphonies in four | and eight parts." The chief of his early music was for the chamber. He is said at Vienna to have composed, before 1782, a hundred and twenty-four pieces for the bariton, a species of viol di gamba, for the use of his prince who was partial to that instrument, and a great performer upon it.

Besides his numerous productions for instruments, he has composed many operas for the Esterhazi theatre, and church music that has established his reputation us a deep contrapuntist. His “Stabat Mater” has been performed and p imed in England, but his oratorio of “II Ritorno di Tobia,” composed in 1775, for the benefit of the widows of musicians, has been annually performed at Vienna ever since, and is as high in favour there as Handel’s “Messiah” in England. His instrumental “Passione,” in sixteen or eighteen parts, was among his later and most exquisite productions previous to his arrival in England. It entirely consists of slow movements, on the subject of the last seven sentences of our Saviour, as recorded in the Evangelists. These strains are so truly impassioned and full of heart-felt grief and dignified sorrow, that though the movements are all slow, the subjects, treatment, and effects, are so new and so different, that a real lover of music will feel no lassitude, or wish for lighter strains to stimulate attention.

His innumerable symphonies, quartets, and other instrumental pieces, which are so original and so difficult, had the advantage of being rehearsed and performed at Esterhazi under his own direction, by a band of his own forming. Ideas so new and so varied were not at first so universally admired in Germany as at present. The critics in the northern parts of the empire were up in arms, but before his decease he was as much respected all over Europe by professors, for his science as invention. And the extent of his tarne may be imagined from his being made the hero of a poem on music, in Spanish, written and published at Madrid, thirty years ago, entitled “La Musica Poema^ par D. Tomas de Yarte.” This sublime work was produced for Cadiz. He lias not long since published it in score with German and Italian words, so that it may be performed as an oratorio.

The la>t of his compositions which were received in England subsequent to the “Creation,” were, two sets of quartets, of which the first violin, calculated to display Salomon’s powers of execution and expression, is very | difficult; and his “Seasons.” There is a general cheerfulness and good-humour in Haydn’s allegros, which exhilarate every hearer. But his adagios are often so sublime in ideas and the harmony in which they are clad, that though played by inarticulate instruments, they have a more pathetic effect on our feelings than the finest opera air united with the most exquisite poetry. He has likewise movements and passages that are sportive, playful, and even grotesque, for the sake of variety; but they are often so striking and pleasant, that they have the eifect of bon mots in speaking or writing.

His grand and sublime oratorio of the “Creation,” and his picturesque and descriptive “Seasons,” composed since his departure from England, if music were a language as intelligible and durable as the Greek, would live anct be admired as long as the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer. And we cannot help thinking that future ages will be as curious to know when and where he flourished, as the country and chronology of Orpheus and Amphion.

In 1791, when at Oxford, he was created doctor of music, and some time before his death, was admitted a, member of the French institute. On his return from this country, he took a small house and garden at Gumpendorf, where he lived as a widower until the time of his death, which happened in May 1309. 1


Rees’s cyclopædia, by Dr. Burney.—Gent. Mag. vol. LXXIX. and LXXX.