Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Often when contending with obstacles of every sort that interfered with my work ... a secret feeling within me whispered: 'There are but few contented and happy men here below; grief and care prevail everywhere; perhaps your labours may one day be the source from which the weary and worn, or the man burdened with affairs, may derive a few moments’ rest and refreshment.' What a powerful motive for pressing onward!
Joseph Haydn

Haydn is one of my favourite composers, and I enjoyed reading this article about him. I sometimes listen to an old cassette recording I have of Yo Yo Ma playing his C Major Cello Concerto at the Edinburgh Festival. It's a brilliant performance, and the music itself - like much of Haydn's output - is certainly the equal of Mozart or Beethoven.

Haydn and Mozart were great friends. Mozart referred to him as 'papa', they played together in a string quartet, and Haydn selflessly championed the younger composer, saying, 'I only wish I could impress upon every great man the same deep sympathy and profound appreciation I myself feel for Mozart's inimitable music; then all nations would vie with each other to possess such a genius within their frontiers.'

The young Beethoven studied briefly under Haydn, but appears to have been too headstrong to have benefited much from the experience. However, in 1808 during Haydn's last public appearance at a performance of 'The Creation', Beethoven - by then the most famous composer in Europe - came forward as the frail old man was being carried from the auditorium in an armchair and reverently kissed his forehead and hands. During that performance, at the words 'And there was light', the orchestra intoned a grand C major chord and Haydn, overcome with emotion, pointed upward and exclaimed, 'It came from there!'