Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Joseph Haydn

Music History Monday: Papa’s Last Appearance

A quick comment in reference to the title of today’s post, “Papa’s Last Appearance.” Not that you really need me to tell you, but by “Papa” we are not referring to Papa John Schnatter, who founded “Papa John’s Pizza” in 1984.  Neither are we referring to the stand-up comedian Tom Papa, the sportscaster Greg Papa, the American rock band Papa Roach, nor the American Paul Karason (1950-2013), also-known-as “Papa Smurf,” whose skin turned to a purplish-blue color as a result of ingesting a home-made brew of silver chloride colloid. By “Papa,” we are referring to Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) who was once-and-forever nicknamed “papa” while still in his thirties by the grateful musicians who worked for him! We mark what turned out to be the final public appearance of “Papa” Joseph Haydn on March 27, 1808 – 215 years ago today – at a concert held in honor of his upcoming 76th birthday.  The gala concert, held at Vienna’s University Hall, featured a performance of Haydn’s oratorio The Creation, which had been completed ten years before, in 1798.  The concert was what we would call today a “star-studded event”: everyone who was anyone in Vienna’s musical world was there, including […]

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Music History Monday: Haydn’s Death and His Final Road Trip

We mark the death, on May 31, 1809 – 212 years ago today – of the incomparable Joseph Haydn, at his home in Vienna at Kleine Steingasse 73 (today, the address is Haydngasse 19). At the time of his death, he was 77 years old and was, without any doubt, the most popular and beloved composer in the Western world. Franz Joseph Haydn was born on March 31, 1732 in the Austrian town of Rohrau. He was as self-made a person as any we’ll ever meet. A choirboy at St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna, he was booted out onto the mean streets of Vienna when his voice changed at the age of 16 and left entirely to his own devices. He subsisted in a Viennese garret, giving lessons and playing the violin in dance bands while he taught himself to compose. To indulge the cliché, the young dude attended the school of hard knocks and managed to graduate summa cum laude. He slowly climbed the Viennese musical ladder and in 1761 – at the age of 29 – took up a position with the Esterházy family, a fabulously wealthy family of Hungarian nobles. His position was that of Vice-Kapellmeister – […]

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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: 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: Papa’s Last Days

On this day in 1808, Joseph Haydn made his last public appearance at a performance of his oratorio The Creation given in honor of his upcoming 76th birthday. The performance – which took place at Vienna’s University Hall – was what we would call today a “star-studded event”: everyone who was anyone in Vienna’s musical world was there, including Beethoven, Salieri, and Hummel. Haydn was born on March 31, 1732 in the Austrian village of Rohrau, which at the time just a hop-and-a-skip from the border with Hungary. He was a small, wiry, energetic and genial boy, and he grew up to be a short, wiry, energetic and genial man. At a time when the average European life expectancy was just 33.3 years, Haydn remained a remarkably healthy man well into what was then considered to be old age. Having never travelled outside the immediate vicinity of his birth, Haydn undertook the arduous journey to England in 1791 at the age of 59, and then again in 1794, at the age of 62. Still composing masterworks into his 69th year (he complete his oratorio The Seasons in 1801), Haydn was considered an ageless wonder by everyone around him. Sadly, no […]

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