Music Composers

Franz Joseph Haydn-Part 3

April 1, 1732 to May 31, 1809

Lessons From Haydn's Life

by Henry T. Finck

His voice, at this time, was so beautiful that it aroused the special attention of the Imperial family; but the day came when it began to break and sound more "like the crowing of a cock", as the Empress remarked jocosely; and not long afterward young Josef took the opportunity of trying the edge of a new pair of scissors by cutting off the pigtail of one of this schoolmates. This was interesting as a premonition of the fun - the animal spirits and humor - which afterwards came to distinguish much of Haydn's music' but for the time being it was rather a serious matter, for it hastened his discharge from the Cantorei, after a caning on the hand, from the humiliation of which he begged in vain to be excused.

Educating Himself

Greater humiliations, however, awaited him. He was thrown on the world, a youth of seventeen, with no way of supporting himself except by giving music lessons at two florins ($10) a month, and by singing or playing at weddings and baptisms for a few pennies. Luckily, a kind acquaintance lent him money enough to rent a room in an attic as well as a cheap, worm eaten old clavier. On this he played and composed, to his heart's content, and was so happy, as he used to relate when in a reminiscent mood, that he did not envy a king.

When I wrote he was as busy as a beaver I should have said busy as a bee; for, like a bee, he sucked the sweetness out of the works of his predecessors and thus stored up honey for his own use. He was particularly delighted with the sonatas of Emanuel Bach, which he mastered more thoroughly than anyone else. He also pored over the theoretical works of Fux and others. Indeed, he learned so much more by himself than from teachers that he may practically be classed among the self taught composers; and herein, surely, lies a most encouraging lesson for those who, living remote from musical centers, fancy themselves cut off from the opportunity to develop their talent.

The Etude Magazine January 1907






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