Haydn by Thomas Hardy, 1791
Franz Josef Haydn (1732–1809) proved that music could be both serious and joyful—at the same time. He began as a multi-talented adolescent, singing and working as a freelance composer as he made his way into the musical life of Vienna. Eventually he was recognized as the most famous composer in Europe. However, by the end of the 19th century, Haydn was often considered only as a genial father figure—merely a precursor to Mozart and Beethoven.
In an engaging series, classical music and opera expert Saul Lilienstein demonstrates the range of Haydn’s innovative genius in almost every field of musical endeavor. Each session is highlighted by music recordings and video performances of Haydn’s great works.
January 30 Introducing Haydn
The rural background, the comic joy. A position as director of music at the country estate the immensely wealthy Esterhazy family began in the 1760s. There, the young composer had the freedom to learn and experiment. An optimistic spirit is there from the start, mingled with the sounds of peasant humor and Roma-inspired romance. Excerpts from Haydn’s capriccios, rondos, and the earliest of his symphonic movements illustrate his delight in capturing that world.
February 6 The Revolutionary Classicist
The sonata form—and what to do with it. This was the eye- and ear-opener that established Austrian instrumental music as the dominant sound of its time. Hear generous excerpts from Haydn’s quartets and the symphonies that illustrate his emerging maturity and that are filled with turbulent drama and melodic imagination.
February 13 The Symphony Achieves International Status
Gradually breaking free of Esterhazy obligations, Haydn spent more time in Vienna where he established a paramount reputation and met and encouraged the young Mozart. He responded to commissions from Paris with new orchestral values in his compositions. The Haydn scholar Robbins Landon refers to them as “a remarkable fusion of brilliance, elegance, and warmth." In 1791 Haydn accepted a lucrative offer to visit London, to create and conduct new works for a large orchestra. Excerpts from these major works begin in this session and continue into the next.
February 20 Final Instrumental Music
Between two extended trips to London from 1791 to 1796, the entire set of 12 “London” symphonies were completed and the final series of quartets begun. This music remains at the heart of our contemporary classical repertoire. His student Beethoven absorbed major lessons from their encounters. Generous excerpts of Haydn’s mature style is heard and analyzed.
February 27 The Choral Masterworks
In the last five years of his creative life (1796–1801) the aging composer returned to Esterhazy and wrote some of the finest extant settings of the Catholic Mass. Lilienstein spotlights excerpts from the “Lord Nelson” Mass and others. For Vienna’s growing public audience he composed two oratorios: The Creation and The Seasons, works filled with the same joy in life as music heard throughout the series.