About the Haydn Plaque
Mozart & Haydn, two of Europe’s greatest composers, both came to London in the eighteenth century. Mozart’s visit was in 1764, when he and his sister performed as child prodigies for King George III. Their stay is commemorated by no fewer than three plaques, in Ebury Street, Cecil Court and Frith Street (right).
Haydn also paid two prolonged visits to the city, in 1791-2 and 1794-5 – but until 2015, there was no permanent marker of his visit in London.
During that time, Haydn’s contribution to English musical life was very considerable. Recognised as one of Europe’s finest musicians he enjoyed a warm reception and reciprocated with some of his most celebrated music. His famous set of ‘London’ symphonies were composed during these visits and first performed at the Hanover Square Rooms. In 1791, music historian Charles Burney recorded:
“This year was auspiciously begun, in the musical world, by the arrival in London of the illustrious Joseph Haydn . . . and on February 25, the first of Haydn’s incomparable symphonies, which was composed for the concerts of Salomon, was performed. Haydn himself presided at the pianoforte: and the sight of that renowned composer so electrified the audience, as to excite an attention and pleasure superior to any that had ever, to my knowledge, been caused by instrumental music in England. All the slow movements were encored; which never before happened, I believe, in any country.”
Welcome at court, Haydn also contributed to more than twenty of the Prince of Wales’ morning chamber music concerts where his piano music and songs were regularly performed. King George III and his family encouraged him to settle in England, just as Handel had done before him.
In 2014 the Haydn Society was given permission to put up a plaque to Haydn on the site of the building where he stayed on his first visit in 1791 – 18 Great Pulteney Street, London W1. On 24 November 2014, we successfully met a fundraising goal to enable us to commission and put up the plaque. It was unveiled on 24 March 2015.
Plaque Unveiling Day
Video of the plaque unveiling, produced by The Haydn Society of Great Britain. Additional footage courtesy of Christopher Foster-Hicklin. Audio courtesy of the BBC.
The Society’s official images from the unveiling on 24 March. Photographs by Iona Wolff
Haydn in London
The BBC Four ‘The Birth of British Music’ documentary on Haydn (2009) presented by Charles Hazlewood – sequence on Haydn in Soho (from 5’34”)
The BBC Four ‘Genius & Genesis’ documentary (2011) presented by Simon Russell Beale (sequence on Haydn from 4’25”)
- January – May 1791: No. 18, Great Pulteney Street, a lodging house where Haydn’s host and collaborator Johann Peter Salomon also lived. Haydn did his work in a room provided him by the Broadwood piano firm, across the way at No. 32
- May – July 1791. Seeking quiet in which to compose, Haydn moved to a farm in the then rural district of Lisson Grove. Haydn left when the farm was sold in July.
- August – September 1791. In the country at the home of the banker Nathanael Brassey. From historical records Scott deduces that this was called Roxford, in the village of Hertingfordbury, 21 miles to the north of London in Hertfordshire. Unlike any of the other places where Haydn lived while in England, this home is still standing.
- Late September 1791. Probably back at No. 18, Great Pulteney Street.
(July 1792 – January 1794, in Vienna)
- February 1794 – August 1795: London, No. 1, Bury Street St. James