Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)
This delightful little piece will put a spring in your step, speaking of which I just read that from 27 Abril we will be allowed outdoors to exercise in Bogotá. Symphony No. 101 in D major is the ninth of twelve London symphonies written by Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. It is popularly known as The Clock because of the “ticking” rhythm throughout the second movement. He wrote it for the second of his two visits to London. On 3 March 1794, the work was premiered with an orchestra of 60 personally gathered by Haydn’s colleague and friend Johann Peter Salomon. The response of the audience was very enthusiastic. The Oracle even reported it to be his best work and the Morning Chronicle wrote: ‘the inexhaustible, the wonderful, the sublime HAYDN! The first two movements were encored; and the character that pervaded the whole composition was heartfelt joy’.
For much of his career Joseph Haydn was the most celebrated composer in Europe. He was a friend and mentor of Mozart, a tutor of Beethoven. Who wouldn’t kill to have that on their CV? Since there was no little or no formal music training where he grew up Haydn’s parents sent him off to a relative who was a choirmaster where he would train as a singer and musician. Haydn later recalled that he remembered being frequently hungry as a small child and after he was taken in, he would never return to live with his parents. For nine years in his youth he was a chorister at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.
After he matured Haydn struggled working at many different jobs: as a music teacher, as a street serenader, and eventually, in 1752, as valet–accompanist for the Italian composer Nicola Porpora, from whom he later said he learned “the true fundamentals of composition”. As his skills increased, Haydn began to acquire a public reputation, first as the composer of an opera, Der krumme Teufel, “The Limping Devil”. Haydn also noticed, apparently without annoyance, that works he had simply given away were being published and sold in local music shops. 1779 was a watershed year for Haydn, as his contract was renegotiated: whereas previously all his compositions were the property of the Esterházy family, he now was permitted to write for others and sell his work to publishers.
Another friend in Vienna was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whom Haydn had met sometime around 1784. According to later testimony the two composers occasionally played in string quartets together. Haydn was hugely impressed with Mozart’s work and praised it unstintingly to others. Mozart evidently returned the esteem, as seen in his dedication of a set of six quartets, now called the “Haydn” quartets, to his friend. Haydn became a very popular composer In London where his music dominated the concert scene and it is said “hardly a concert did not feature a work by him”. His journey to London in 1791 was the start of a very auspicious period for Haydn. Audiences flocked to Haydn’s concerts; he augmented his fame and made large profits. Musically, Haydn’s visits to England generated some of his best-known work, including the Surprise, Military, Drumroll and London symphonies; the Rider quartet; and the “Gypsy Rondo” piano trio.
As a rich man, Haydn now felt that he had the privilege of taking his time and writing for posterity. This is reflected in the subject matter of The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801), which address such weighty topics as the meaning of life and the purpose of humankind and represent an attempt to render the sublime in music. The change in Haydn’s approach was important in the history of classical music, as other composers were soon following his lead. Notably, Beethoven adopted the practice of taking his time and aiming high.
1. Joseph Haydn – wikipedia
2. Symphony No. 101 (Haydn) – wikipedia