Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Haydn

Music History Monday: That Infernal Beast!

We mark today the 258th anniversary of the marriage of Joseph Haydn to Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia Keller in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the great city of Vienna. The groom was 28 years old and his blushing bride 31. We contemplate the institution of marriage. Marriage is like swinging a golf club: it looks so easy on TV. But when we actually pick up a golf club and/or get married, we learn soon enough how very, very, very challenging marital reality can be. I know of what I speak. I am in my fourth marriage, though I’d hasten to point out that that’s not because I’m a disagreeable monster (although my first wife, from whom I am divorced, might beg to disagree), but because I’ve lost two wives to cancer.  When I married for the fourth and final time to Dr. Nanci Tucker – a real doctor, one who can write a prescription – my old friend and colleague Dr. Frank LaRocca – not a real doctor; he cannot write a prescription – said to me “you win”. You see, Frank has been married three times, and with my fourth marriage he figured that the person with the greatest number… 

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Music History Monday: The Creation

It was 219 years ago today – on March 19, 1799 – that Joseph Haydn’s epic, one hour and forty-five minute long oratorio The Creation (Die Schöpfung) received its public premiere in Vienna. Completed in 1798 when Haydn was 66 years old, The Creation is considered by many to be Haydn’s greatest work; truly, a masterpiece among masterpieces. That public premiere of The Creation on March 19, 1799 was one of the great events in the dazzling history of Viennese music. The performance was sold out far in advance, and such was the excitement preceding the performance that Haydn felt it necessary to request – on the posters announcing the premiere, no less – that the audience control itself and not applaud between the numbers (and thus encourage encores): “for otherwise, [wrote Haydn] the true connection between the various single parts, from the uninterrupted succession of which should proceed the effect of the whole, would necessarily be disturbed.” A critic in attendance from Leipzig’s Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung confirmed that the audience took Haydn’s injunction to heart; he reported that: “No one can imagine with what silence and attention the entire oratorio was heard – only gently interrupted at the most… 

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Music History Monday: An Anthem to Remember

On this day 221 years ago – February 12, 1797 – Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3 received its premiere. The quartet’s nickname – “Emperor” – stems from the theme of its second movement, a theme composed a few months before the string quartet. Background In 1761, the 29 year-old Joseph Haydn was hired as a musical functionary by the fabulously wealthy Esterhazy family of Hungary. 29 years later – on September 28, 1790 – Joseph Haydn’s boss and benefactor Prince Nicolas Esterhazy kicked the scepter and passed on to the great unknown. Nicholas was succeeded by his son, Prince Anton, who didn’t give a rat’s rump for music; one of Anton’s first acts as Prince was to dismiss almost all the musicians his father had hired. Haydn was granted a 1400 florin annual salary and sent on his way. Was a grief-stricken Haydn left wondering what to do? No he was not. In fact, we can well imagine the spry, energetic Haydn doing some flying chest-bumps around the castle, jumping into some splits, hitting a moonwalk and then the rug for some one-handed pushups, because he was free at last! Haydn left the Esterhazy… 

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Music History Monday: Movers and Shakers

Today we celebrate the birth – on February 20, 1749 – of the violinist, composer, and impresario Johann Peter Salomon. His name is relatively unknown today, yet without him the musical legacy of the late eighteenth century would be much the poorer. Let us contemplate, for a moment, the massive, gleaming 6.5-liter engine that powers the Lamborghini Aventado SV (superveloce, meaning “super velocity), a V-12 monster that generates 740 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque; the beating heart of a $500,000 sports car. Be still our hearts. Now imagine next to it a mundane case of motor oil, $36.99 at Costco. Nothing sexy there. Except for the fact that without the oil – the engine’s life-blood – that Lamborghini V12 cannot function. So it is with most things in our world. We are aware of the glitzy surfaces of things, people, and organization but rarely think twice about the life-blood that allows them to tick. A symphony orchestra or an opera company? Without the union steward and back stage crew nothing happens. A Federal District Court or even SCOTUS? Without their law clerks they couldn’t function for a day. Yes: from the guy who inflates (or doesn’t inflate) Tom Brady’s… 

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Music History Monday: Beethoven and Haydn

On Wednesday December 12, 1792, 224 years ago today, the nearly 22 year-old Ludwig van Beethoven jotted down an expenditure he had made that day: “Haidn [sic] 8 groschen.” Beethoven had just taken and paid for his first lesson with Joseph Haydn. The 8 groschen came to about 24 cents(!), typical of the token sums Haydn charged his non-aristocratic students. Haydn had met Beethoven and examined (and heard) his music some five months before – in July of 1792 – when he passed through Bonn on his way back to Vienna after a triumphant 18 months residency in London. Haydn was knocked out by what he saw and heard and arrangements were quickly made for Beethoven to travel to Vienna in order to study with Haydn at the city of Bonn’s expense. On November 2 or 3, 1792, Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna. The plan: Beethoven would study with Haydn for a year or two; get some high-end Viennese caché and then return to Bonn, there to serve – as did his father and grandfather – as a musical functionary of the Electoral Court. (In fact, Beethoven would never set foot in Bonn again.) Beethoven arrived in Vienna on or… 

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Scandalous Overtures: Haydn: Haydn Go Seek

Why would anyone want to hack the head off of Joseph Haydn’s corpse, scoop out its eyes and brain, boil off its hair and skin, bleach the skull, and then mount it on a black velvet pillow? This strikes us as gross and more than a little weird, like preserving and mounting Kim Kardashian’s buttocks for permanent display at the Mutter Museum of human abnormalities in Philly. But happen it did; at least, the part about Haydn. Some context is called for. Souvenirs, keepsakes, and mementoes: we’ve all got them. Most of them sit quietly in drawers or closet shelves gathering dust, like the memories they presumably represent. The important ones, though, go on permanent display somewhere in our homes, there to become constant reminders of a person or an experience: a memory in concrete form. Among the many such objects in my home (I’m not a hoarder, but I am, admittedly, an accumulator who attaches great sentimental meaning to objects inanimate) is a hubcap from my first car, a 1957 Ford. When we scrapped “The Bomb” (as we called it) in 1972, it was nothing but a rust bucket held together with dental floss and chewing gum, a rolling… 

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Reporting from Vienna — The Haydn House

For my two Euros, the best monument to a composer in Vienna is – by far – the house in which Joseph Haydn lived during the last twelve years of his life, from 1797 to 1809. Here’s the story: Between 1791 and 1795, Joseph Haydn twice visited England. The first of Haydn’s most excellent English adventures took place between January of 1791 and June of 1792, and the second one between January of 1794 and August of 1795. These trips cemented Haydn’s reputation as the world’s most famous and popular living composer and made him – as composers go – a rich man. It was thanks to the money Haydn earned during his first English adventure that he was able to do something that neither Antonio Vivaldi (who died in Vienna in 1741) nor Wolfgang Mozart (who died in Vienna in 1791), nor Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, nor Mahler (who died in Vienna in, respectively, 1827, 1828, 1897, and 1911) ever managed to do: Haydn bought his very own house in Vienna. It was a one-story house on Kleine Steingasse in the Viennese suburb of Obere Windmūhl. It had been spotted by Haydn’s wife Maria Anna while he was away in… 

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