Tag: classical composer

Joseph Haydn and The Value of the Steady Gig

I remember one of the first things early in my Music History study was the stunning output of Franz Joseph Haydn. Drink this in:

108 symphonies; 68 string quartets; 32 divertimenti for small orchestra; 126 trios for baryton, viola, and cello; 29 trios for piano, violin, and cello; 21 trios for two violins and cello; 47 piano sonatas; about 20 operas; 14 masses; 6 oratorios; and 2 cello concerti. And this is pared down from a larger number! I went through several sources and the number averages around 800 total pieces!

So, how did he write so much? The answer is…he had a gig.

haydn_esterhazy
Haydn directing an opera at the Esterhazy Theatre in 1775.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s life was like many of ours. He started with many musical pursuits, including singing in a choir, then picking up odd music jobs where could find them. He eventually found himself though leading the musical affairs for a large estate of the very rich and powerful Esterhazy famîly.

This steady gig, while sometimes taxing and demeaning, brought something to Haydn’s life that only a few of us get to enjoy. He had time. He was given funds and authority. And he had also deadlines.

Anyone who knows the pressure of putting together a church service or lesson plan every single week, knows how it also spurs creativity. Many times just the act of having to write a new song, arrange a song for your group, or come up with ideas on how to teach a subject can bring new works from your mind that wouldn’t have ever existed otherwise.

He had to write symphonies, and quartets, and operas, and even specialty trios and works when his benefactor took up the baryton (similar to a viol) and wanted music written for it. Kind of like when your pastor who is also a singer wants that perfect song to sing and has you write it. Or an amazing wunderkind on flute wanders into your orchestra. You need music, and if you are a composer, you write for that!

Haydn had weekly things he had to prepare for and since they lived out in the country, it was just easier to write it himself.

“I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” – Joseph Haydn

Nevertheless, Haydn flourished and grew through these years and eventually became known throughout all of Europe as he defined the symphony style.

Why This Matters

Sometimes it’s easy to think of our music jobs as a hassle, or a step towards something else, or perhaps we have found ourselves in a staid job we have been doing for years, if not decades. But this gig you have had, that you were blessed to find, could be the way the sum total of your output is measured.

Like Haydn, you may move past your “Esterhazy” phase into a “Vienna” or “London” phase where you bloom even more. But without the season of work and growth, the next season of opportunity might now ever present itself.

Got a steady gig? Have some autonomy? Maybe it’s time to take more advantage of it. Haydn the heck out of your position, and write, write, write. Sometimes we forget when we are the boss, we have the opportunity to actually do what we love.

Have a great week!


John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, but he is studying to be, and for now he plays one on the Internet. Be sure and join this blog to receive more writings like this, as well as our Facebook and Twitter followings for daily inspiration and news.

Rivals

“One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities.” – Abraham Maslow

rivals
I learned something recently, and that was I shared a birthday with Antonio Salieri. Most know this name as the supposed “rival” to Mozart in Vienna, and of course from the movie Amadeus which suggests he was a jealous rival composer to the heroic and uber-talented Mozart.

Now, I will tell you unequivocally that Mozart is my favorite composer, so don’t take my comments in this post as critical of Wolfgang. However, after some time as a student of music history, hearing from professors and others on the subject, reading Mozarts letters, and the surprising small amount written on Salieri, I am starting to think we may have had it backwards.

Mozart seems much more perturbed and bothered by Salieri (and other Italian composers at the time) than Salieri felt about Mozart. Witness this quote from a letter to Leopold from Wolfgang.

“These Italian gentlemen are very civil to your face. Enough—we know them!” – Mozart

Wolfgang was complaining that Italians got more operas produced than his own German ones. This gives us much more evidence of consternation on Mozart’s part than Salieri’s. In fact, Salieri was already quite a celebrity as a composer, especially of Italian opera both before and after Mozart came to Vienna. Mozart also complains that Salieri was the local favorite saying, “the only one who counts in [the Emperor’s] eyes is Salieri”.

As current music listeners, and with the benefit of time, we are able to look back and weigh the output of each composer. I’d say most of us would choose Mozart’s amazing repertoire. But at the time, he was certainly not the only game in town.

“From a pretty wide examination of the annual reports of the principal German theaters of those days, I draw the conclusion that in the original Italian or in German translations, the more important works of Salieri were far more popular and much oftener given than those of Mozart, while the Grotta di Trofonio was at least as much performed as Mozart’s EntführungIn other words, with the exception of the Entführung, Mozart’s operas were less to the taste of the monarch and the public in Vienna than those of Salieri, and it was the same way all through Germany. Whatever the appreciative few may have thought of The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni, to the general operatic public Salieri was certainly the greatest of then living composers!” – Alexander Wheelock Thayer, Salieri: Rival of Mozart

Why This Matters

We all have to deal with people who we may feel are rivals to our musical success. We could be like Mozart, whose output was heralded is his own time and has become legendary through the centuries. Or we are like Salieri, who was a well-respected composer in his time, teacher of such greats as Schubert, Liszt, and Beethoven, and (much to Mozart’s chagrin) the big cheese locally (Kapellmeister).

In the movie Amadeus, Salieri is portrayed as a much less talented and envious man. It’s easy to see someone we work with who is more talented than we ever will be, and we want to hate them. But their talent is so beautiful that all we can hope for is to be close to them and work with them.

“Rivalry” or not, there are also plenty of letters of Mozart’s that talk of supporting Salieri, as well as examples of Salieri using Mozart pieces at functions instead of his own.

The truth is that rivals can serve to make us better at what we do. They can challenge us and spurn us towards greater works than we would have done without them.

So when you meet someone better than you, maybe better than you ever could be, relax and know your place. There’s no use in bitterness in such a short life, especially when we have such a beautiful job in music to do.

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but plays one on the Internet. He actually is a busy producer and is currently preparing to work on his masters in music with a focus in Musicology. For more on Eric, go to http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com