Evidence suggests Haydn was a pretty nice chap; a modest but patriarchal man, who was fiercely individual to the point of occasional loneliness. His practical joking has been overplayed, but Haydn clearly liked a laugh – after all, he got on famously with that childish prankster Mozart. After struggling for years as a freelancer, when Haydn found success he became greedy and ruthless in terms of business. However, in dealings with relatives and servants, and in volunteering his services for charitable concerts, Haydn was always remembered as a generous man. He was not handsome, but rather short with a pitted and scarred face, as a result of smallpox. This didn’t, however, affect his success with women, something that always surprised him – ‘They couldn’t have been led to me by my beauty’. Perhaps it was his romantic side; he can be seen here clutching his favourite book, “Twilight”.*
While his pupil Mozart came along and perfected the nascent string quartet and symphony, Haydn effectively set those forms up in the first place. In fact he is often called the “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet” because of his important contributions to these forms. He was also hugely instrumental in developing the piano trio and sonata form. Despite his mischievous side, Haydn was a devout Catholic and 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”).
You can hear some of the string quartets that gave Haydn his name, within the pleasant surroundings of our Night Shift at CLF Art Cafe, Peckham on 26 February, and at the Ye Olde Rose & Crown in Walthamstow on 28 February.
*probably not “Twilight”