Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Johann Peter Salomon (1745–1815)

Composer

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When Joseph Haydn’s patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy died in 1790, Haydn was relieved of his musical duties at court (although he maintained his court salary!) and decided to leave Hungary for Vienna. Hearing of his departure from the court, a German musician named Johann Peter Salomon made it his business to find Haydn, in the hope of luring him to London. Salomon was the son of an oboist at the court of Bonn and established himself as a fine violinist (he made his debut at Covent Garden in 1781). A jack of all trades, he was also a composer, conductor, impresario and one of the most successful concert promoters of his time.  He succeeded in convincing Haydn to visit London and the two men arrived in England’s fair capital on New Year’s Day, 1791. This was to be the first of two trips between 1791-1795, in which time Haydn produced his 12 London (or ‘Salomon’) Symphonies.

This relationship was incredibly fruitful and Haydn recalled visiting London with great happiness, but it often overshadows Salomon’s many other musical achievements. He was an important contributor to English musical life and one of the founder members of the Philharmonic Society. In recognition of this, as of this year, The Royal Philharmonic Society shall award ‘The Salomon Prize’ annually to ‘an individual musician who has shown commitment and dedication above and beyond the expected service asked by their orchestra over a single concert season’. To receive the award it doesn’t specify that you have to bring Haydn’s contemporary equivalent to London, but there’s no harm in trying to do so.

Haydn and Salomon’s working relationship extended beyond the realms of promoting and booking, as Salomon was also a regular orchestral leader under Haydn’s baton in London. In 1798, he also arranged Haydn’s London symphonies for flute, string quartet and fortepiano, which made the works accessible to salon performance. Salomon is also credited as being an integral figure in sourcing the libretto for Haydn’s masterpiece, The Creation(performed in September 2011 by the OAE).

Salomon’s remains lie in Westminster Abbey; a reminder of his contribution to London’s cultural life. His gravestone reads Johann Peter Salomon / Musician / born 1745 died 1815 / he brought Haydn to England in 1791 and 1794.

4 Comments

  • Who is the artist who did this portrait of Salomon? It exists on the web in a color version, without the violin, and also without attribution.

    George Bozarth Sun Jun 29 2014
  • Interesting question. We’ll have a look into that and get back to you.

    oae Mon Jul 14 2014
  • Bull Henelly Mon Sep 5 2016
  • *Haydn didn’t conduct with a baton, this wasn’t a convention until the late 1800s. Haydn played at the keyboard and dual lead with Salomon, but Salomon was not ever conducted by Haydn as far as I’m aware

    Kath Tue Apr 4 2017