|Portrait of Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy (1791)|
Having exhibited an unusual talent for music at an early age, Haydn left home at 5 years old to live with his cousin who was principal of a school in Hainburg and a choirmaster there. He was never to return to his home except for rare brief visits.
Haydn's life changed decisively when he was eight years old and the musical director of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna invited him to serve as chorister in 1740, an offer which his parents accepted. He stayed at the choir school for nine years, acquiring an enormous practical knowledge of music by constant performances but to his disappointment he received little instruction in music theory. When his voice changed, he was expelled from both the cathedral choir and the choir school.
Left a pauper Haydn worked as a music teacher whilst working his way through the counterpoint exercises in the text "Gradus ad Parnassum" by Johann Joseph Fux and carefully studied the work of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whom he later acknowledged as an important influence. Between 1754 and 1756 he also worked freelance for the court in Vienna. He was eventually introduced to the music-loving Austrian nobleman Karl Joseph von Fürnberg, in whose home he played chamber music and where he wrote his first string quartets. Through the recommendation of Fürnberg, in 1758 Haydn was engaged as musical director and chamber composer for the Bohemian count Ferdinand Maximilian von Morzin, writing his first symphonies - before Prince Pál Antal Esterházy invited him to become his Kapellmeister. Such patronage secured his future and he remained with the Esterházy court until his death.
While in London in 1790, Haydn had met the young Ludwig van Beethoven in his native city of Bonn. On Haydn's return Beethoven came to Vienna as Haydn's pupil until Haydn's second London journey. Haydn was also a friend of WA Mozart, apparently the two composers occasionally played in string quartets together. Haydn was said to be hugely impressed with Mozart's work, Mozart returned this esteem, dedicating a set of six quartets (now called the "Haydn" quartets) to his friend.
Haydn the Composer
Haydn was an extremely prolific composer, and some of his most well-known works include the London Symphonies, The Creation, Trumpet Concerto, and Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major. His compositions are often characterised as light, witty, and elegant, he was known to appreciate a joke and it's said his parents had higher hopes for his brother Michael Haydn, who took life more seriously!
Haydn was a devout Catholic who often turned to his rosary when he had trouble composing, a practice that he usually found to be effective. He normally began the manuscript of each composition with "in nomine Domini" ("in the name of the Lord") and ended with "Laus Deo" ("praise be to God").
Choral Works - Insanae et Vanae Curae
Insane et Vanae Curae can be sung at any time we focus on the positive impact of God in our lives. With up to a third of adults currently accessing streamed religious services it would seem this is very much a time when we have a great need of God by our side.
“Vain and raging cares invade our minds,
madness often fills the heart, robbed of hope,
O mortal man what does it profit to endeavour at worldly things,
if you should neglect the heavens?
if you should neglect the heavens?
If God is for you, then all things are favourable for you.”
The beginnings of Haydn's motet Insanae et vanae curae began in 1775 with the composition of his first oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia (The Return of Tobias). The work was written in Italian and first performed in 1775 in Vienna. It was a resounding success. But by 1781 the public's musical taste had changed so much that another planned performance in Vienna in 1781 failed to materialize due to lack of interest. Haydn revised the work and in 1784 a performance of the revision was performed in a benefit concert in Vienna. The oratorio had one more performance in 1808, after which Haydn took one of the choral numbers from the oratorio and rewrote it to a Latin text. While Il ritorno di Tobia was popular in its day, it could not compete with Haydn's two masterpieces in the form The Creation and The Seasons. Perhaps that is why Haydn extracted this fine choral piece from it and revised it as a stand-alone work.
The piece is in two contrasting sections, a conflict between war and peace - the raging without God and the peace with him. The first section is one of fear and dread, the second section is more lyrical and legato, and each section is repeated.
(The original was written for choir and orchestra, but there is a version for choir and organ that was not written by Haydn that is sometimes performed.)