5 Things you (Probably) Didn’t Know about Michael Haydn

The man. The myth. The legend…and his younger brother, Michael.

We’re all very familiar with Joseph Haydn. However, his little brother Michael was also something of a musical genius. We’ve made it our mission to ‘SAVE MICHAEL HAYDN!’ in our upcoming season by performing some of the composer’s music. Get to grips with the basics of our unsung hero here:

  1. Of course, there was an element of sibling rivalry between the two Haydn brothers. Apparently, Michael was better-behaved when they were choristers together at the St Stephens Cathedral School. So much so that the brothers’ parents had higher hopes for Michael to make a successful future.
  2. In spite of being (somewhat massively) overshadowed by his older brother, Michael and Joseph were very close throughout their lives. Joseph regarded his brother’s music very highly, and even suggested that Michael’s religious works (which encompassed a feeling of intimate devotion) were superior to his own.
  3. Michael certainly kept some pretty famous company. He was a friend of Mozart and was also Carl Maria von Weber’s teacher.
  4. Mozart’s father (Leopold) criticized Michael for his heavy drinking and general laziness. However, Leopold may have had an ulterior motive behind making this claim. In 1777, Haydn was a stronger contender than Mozart for the position of Kapellmeister at the court in Salzburg. Leopold’s allegation seems a bit suspicious and too conveniently timed, if you ask us.
  5. In a case of posthumous mistaken identity, Michael’s Symphony No.26 was thought to be Mozart’s Symphony No.37. Confusion arose when an autograph of the beginning of the piece was found in Mozart’s handwriting, with the rest as ‘somebody’ (Michael’s) else’s. Now, it is known that Mozart composed a new slow opening movement in addition to Michael’s composition. When it was discovered that the piece wasn’t actually by Mozart, it got played considerably less. Which we think it pretty unfair.

Watch Alina Ibragimova save Michael Haydn with us on Thursday 14 May at The Anvil in Basingstoke and on Tuesday 19 May 2020 at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Also, if that wasn’t enough, we’re planning to record all three Michael Haydn violin concertos with Alina after our concerts.