Music Composers

Josef Haydn-Part 4

Haydn had been two years with Frankh when a piece of good fortune befell him. Chance brought to Frankh's home Reutter, the Court Capellmeister of St. Stephen cathedral church of Vienna. He was in search of children to recruit his choir. The schoolmaster proposed his little relative. Reutter gave him a canon to sing at sight. The precision, purity of tone, the expression with which the child executed it, surprised him, but he was especially charmed with the beauty of his voice. He only remarked that he did not shake and asked him: "How is it that you cannot shake?" "How can you expect me to shake," replied the boy, "when Herr Frankh himself cannot shake?" The great man, then drawing the child toward him, taught him to make the vibrations in his throat required to produce this special effect. The boy immediately made a good shake and Reutter, enchanted with the success of the child scholar, flung a handful of cherries into Haydn's cap and, of course did not return along to Vienna; he took the young shaker, then about eight years old, along with him. Vienna was now to be Haydn's home for ten years.

Many interesting details have been printed regarding the Choir School of St. Stephen and its routine in Haydn's time. The "cantorei" or choir school was of very ancient foundation - as early as 1441. The school consisted of a cantor (later Capellmeister), a sub-cantor, two ushers and six scholars. They all resided together and had meals in common. But, although ample allowance had originally been made for the board, lodging and clothing of the scholars, the increased cost of living resulted in the boys of Haydn's time being poorly fed and scantily clad.

At thirteen haydn tried to compose a mass, but was ridiculed by Reutter, and being full of good sense at that early period the boy was aware, therefore, of the necessity of learning harmony and counterpoint. None of the masters of Vienna, however, would give lessons gratis to a boy of the choir who had no patronage. On the other hand, "sweet are the uses of adversity," since a master would have prevented him from committing some faults, but would probably have suffocated his originality.

The Etude Magazine September 1920

 

 

 

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