FOR LONG STRETCHES of the 18th century (one of which is thoroughly covered in this book), the history of music is almost coterminous with the biography of Franz Joseph Haydn. On December 5, 1791 (when Haydn's journal notes that the fog in London "was so thick you could have spread it on bread"), Mozart died in Vienna and Haydn was againM, as he had been before, the world's greatest living composer.
It may seem odd to start a five-volume biography with Volume 111, as the subject (born on April Fool's Day, 1732) approaches his 59th birthday, but landon knows this subject better than any man living and, so often in his haydn researches, he has chosen wisely.
The London years, 1791-1795, were in many ways the climax of Haydn's long and brilliantly productive life; they inspired the music by which he is most widely known and most justly loved, and they are uncommonly rich not only in creativity but iin anecdote. many a reader whose shelf and pocketbook may not have resources for the whole, monumental work (scheduled for completion in the summer of 1979, with Volume 1 appearing last), will want to have at least this part of it within reach.
Besides composing several dozen masterpieces in this period (the 12 "London" Sympnonies, a ser of quartets and various trios, piano sonatas and vocal works), Haydn continued to grow and develop as an artist ans had a busy, often colorful private life. He discovered, in London, a new way of living, in society strikingly different from that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he had been a respected servant, but nonetheless a servant. His notebooks, quoted conpiously by Landon, are full or wonder of London, its people, its way of life and even its sheer size; he notes with awe, for example, that "The City of London keeps 4,000 carts for cleaning the streets."
Underramed of possibilities in music were opened to him when he heard massive concerts of Handel's music (still much played in the 1790s, partly because Goerge 111 would listen to no other composer). The experience is reflected strikingly in the masses and on oratories that were the glory of Haydn's final years.
In London, Haydn was plunged into an atmosphere of rivalry and intrigue (some of it quite petty), which he surmounted splendidly, maintaining a friendship, for example, with Pleyel, a former student who was being advanced as a rival and laughing off the rudeness of Giadini, the Italian violin virtuoso, who declined an introduction by telling a servant loudly in haydn's hearing that "I don't want to know that German dog."
The received an honorary doctorate from Oxford, became an associate of the future King George IV and even managed to mollify somewhat 111's prejudice against post-Handelian music; he was linized by the English press, w? t-Handelian music; he was lionized by the English press which proclaimed him "the Shakespeare of music," and by audiences which accorded him the kind of idolatry that our age sometimes lavishes on a soprano or tenor but never on mere composer.
One example of that idolatry is the story of the sea captain who commissioned him write two marches, paid what Haydn considered a large fee, and then began to walk out when the composer, his assignment completed, had played him the first of the two marches on the piono. When Haydn asked if he didn't want to stay to hear the second march, the rough-hewn patron of the arts told him it "couldn't be better that the first."
Meanwhile, with his wife left behind in Austria, his mistress in Italy, he managed to have a December-December love affair with the widow of a London musician. Her letters (mostly variations on the same basic letter) occupy much space amid the documentation in this volume, along with concert programs and the (on the whole, rather sketchy and inept) reviews from the daily press of the period.
As if the were not busy enough, during a trip home between his two stays in London, Haydn took on a new student and protege, one Ludwig van Beethoven, who began to study counterpoint with almost exactly a yearafter Mozart's death.
Landon reports darkly that the Beethoven-Haydn relationship (which will be explores further in the next volume of this study) was "extremely complicated and, ambivalent and even morbid" because their "personalities were totally incompatible." Beethoven may have had Oedipal pronblems with the older composer whose nickname was "Papa"; eventually, he was to destroy the kind of music Haydn represented, but in his student days he contented himself with consistently misspelling Haydn's name and cheating on his homework. He had his numerous mistakes in counterpoint corrected by anoter musician and copied them over; more important, be foisted older compositions on Haydn as New York. Haydn recognized the young composer's genuis, even if he was also disturbed by it. "Beethoven will in time fill the position of one of Europe's greatest composers," he wrote to a German nobleman, in a effort to increase Beethoven's financial support, "and I shall be proud to speak of myself as his teacher."
All of this merely skims the surface of what Landon has included in this definitive study; half of the book is devoted to close musicological scrutiny of the music prouduced during this period, and a lot more to documentation and a month-by-month chronicle of the composer's activities. It is not always easy reading (the extensive quotes in Latin, Italian and French are usually not translated, though the german is), but it is (because its subject is) remarkably lively for a work of scholarship that is also thorough and substantial. When he has to choose between accuracy or completeness and easy readability, Landon chooses the former. In this, as in his decision to begin with Volume 111, I think he has chosen wisely.