Haydn Society Journal No. 39

We are in the fortieth year of the Haydn Society of Great Britain. It is also the most peculiar, largely for reasons that have nothing to do with music at all. Nonetheless there has been a great deal going on, both before and during the social restrictions placed on us by the Coronavirus pandemic, and we are pleased to be able to bring you our 39th edition of the Journal, which our members will have already had electronically.

If anything in this issue of the Journal captures your interest and you wish to respond to Denis McCaldin, do email us at info@haydnsocietyofgb.co.uk

Haydn in London – and Eccles Cake

Haydn Society director Denis McCaldin recently spoke to fortepianist Daniel Maltz about Haydn’s visits to London. The discussion – conducted online, such is the custom in late, coronavirus-gripped 2020 – forms part of Maltz’s ‘Classical Cake’ series of discussions, in which the participants leaven their chat by sharing a cake. It’s appropriate that professor McCaldin has chosen a Lancastrian eccles cake for his edition, given his stewardship of the music department of Lancaster University until 2000.

Read more about this episode and the series via Classical Cake, or watch the video below:

Haydn’s death day, 31 May

Haydn’s tomb, Eisenstadt (Image: Wikipedia)

Today, May the 31st, is the day of the year on which Haydn died in 1809. It is also by chance the 200th anniversary year of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II moving Haydn’s body to its final resting place on the Eisenstadt estate.

Haydn in Lockdown

Haydn’s house in Gumpendorf (courtesy Visiting Vienna)

It is strange to think of the year 1809, and Haydn’s last days in Vienna, when the city was being overrun by Napoleon’s army, as having a link with our present Coronavirus invasion.

Yet the parallels are there. Today we are living in a time of self-isolation, as Haydn was then.

In his case, confinement was dominated by two factors, and both resonate with us today as being more complex than simple restraint (or curfew).

Firstly, there was the personal element of an effective house arrest dictated by his own old age. Haydn had less than a month to live at the end of a long life and he had what today’s media refer to, pointedly, as ‘underlying health issues’. The second was imposed by the Emperor himself – who posted two sentries outside the composer’s house in Gumpendorf to protect Haydn from contact with the turbulent world outside.

Like us, he was a prisoner in his own house and almost devoid of social contact. He softened his own loneliness by comforting his live-in servants with the words, ‘Children, don’t be frightened; where Haydn is, nothing can happen to you’. So it is perhaps not too fanciful to see this story as history repeating itself in our own turbulent times. Haydn was truly a man for all seasons.