Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Music History Monday: The “Other” Haydn

Michael Haydn
Michael Haydn (1737-1806)

We mark the birth on September 14, 1737 – 283 years ago today – of the composer, organist, and violinist Johann Michael Haydn, in the western Austrian town of Rohrau. (Rohrau lies about 20 miles west of today’s capital of Slovakia – Bratislava – a city called Pressburg in Haydn’s day.)

Forgive me a classic/stupid question-and-answer:

Question: “what’s that guy doing in the corner?”

Haydn bust in corner

Answer: “he’s Haydn”.

Haydn bust

Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck. 

You’ll notice that in answering that question, we’ll naturally assume that the “Haydn” in the corner is Franz Joseph Haydn, as if there are no other Haydns out there whose existence we might need to account for. Did any of us, even for a moment, stop to consider whether that “Haydn” could have been Michael Haydn?

And there it is, in that most convenient of nutshells, yet another example of life’s inherent unfairness: when one sibling, no matter how talented, is overshadowed by an even more talented brother or sister. 

There are so many examples!

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