Music Composers

Josef Haydn-Part 5

Like Rousseau he bought, at a second hand shop some theoretical books, among others Gradus parnassum of Lux and Mattheson's Volkommener Capellmeister, dry treatises which Haydn made his constant companions. Without either money or fire, shivering with cold in his garret, oppressed with sleep as he pursued his studies to a late hour of the night by the side of a harpsichord out of repair and falling to pieces in all parts, he was still happy. The days and years flew on rapid wings, and he has often said that he never enjoyed such felicity at any other period of his life. Although it may sound paradoxical, these hardships and obstacles were instrumental in fecundating and fructifying his genius, and to this self teaching Haydn owes, most likely, the gigantic steps he made in art.

At the age of nineteen he was expelled from the class of choristers in consequence of a mischief he perpetrated, cutting off the pig tail of one of his comrades. Obliged to seek a shelter, chance threw in his way a wig maker named Keller, who, when at the cathedral, had often admired the beauty of the boy's voice, and who offered him an asylum. Keller received him as a son, sharing with him his humble fare and charging his wife with the care of his clothing Haydn was, consequently, able to pursue his studies. His residence here had, however, a fatal influence on his future life. Keller had two daughters. His wife and he soon planned to marry one of them to the young musician, and spoke to him on the subject. Haydn, absorbed in his own meditations, made no objection. It is easy to understand that such an union was anything rather than happy. As Haydn himself remarked, it did not matter to her whether he were a cobbler or an artist. She used his manuscript scores as curling papers and under-lays for the pastry, and wrote to him later, when he was in England, for money to buy "a widow home," in the belief that Haydn would die before he returned.

The Etude Magazine September 1920





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