Haydn Year 2009

Instead of a simple court musician

MúzeumCafé 12.

This year the world is celebrating Haydn – his operas, masses, quartets and symphonies are being performed, Fertőd is being rechristened Eszterháza, a euro coin is being minted with Haydn’s portrait, an orchid is being named after him, a cookery book is appearing containing his favourite recipes and there are several dozen exhibitions. A number of exhibitions include curiosities which have never previously been displayed. The Musicology Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, located in the newly renovated Erdődy mansion on Castle Hill in Buda, is displaying sketches by Pietro Travaglia, an Italian stage manager who worked at the Esterházy princes’ private opera, Haydn’s violin string fixed with his seal and a name card on which the composer excuses himself with scores of a tune for not accepting an invitation. “Even the armchair played music at the court of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy,” says art historian Terézia Bardi, curator of the exhibition Haydn and Time at Budapest’s Museum of Applied Arts, as she walks among ivory inlaid clocks ornamented with precious stones. She adds that the period under review was a golden age of mechanical toys and musical devices. Like his admired friend Mozart, Haydn composed several pieces for these tiny gadgets. Our understanding is further enriched by the exhibition displayed in the fairy-tale world of Eszterháza, often described as the Hungarian Versailles. In an environment of courtly paraphernalia and landscape garden designs, the opera for 400 spectators heated by tiled stoves and lit by candles comes to life. Here Haydn would shape operas in line with his musical talent, and here due to his enlightened spirit Shakespeare’s King Lear and Othello were first performed in German. Today our image of Haydn is completely different from the one we used to have. Instead of a simple court musician and composer, we see an educated, well-read modern personality who spoke English and French, studied contemporary progressive philosophies and collected sketches in addition to sheet music.


The centuries of the Eisenstadt palace

In Kismarton, which became the capital of Burgenland with the name of Eisenstadt, many things remind you of Joseph Haydn’s fascinating career. Besides the exhibition Haydn Explosive involving special effects in the ground floor sala terrena of the palace, the display entitled The Haydn Phenomenon primarily recalls his four decades spent in the service of the Esterhazy family. The exhibition is divided between the Haydn House near the palace, the Eisenstadt Museum of Ecclesiastical Art and The Museum of Burgenland Province. The ceremonial hall of the Eisenstadt Palace, which has excellent acoustics by European standards, bears Haydn’s name. The composer’s memorial house is situated in the street named after him leading to the Haydn vegetable garden. His mausoleum is nearby and if you visit the wine museum by the entrance to the palace you see that a fine wine of the Esterhazy Foundation also pays homage to Haydn. And rightly so, since the composer appreciated the beverage. He inherited vineyards from his parents in his birthplace Rohrau and also purchased a largish one in Eisenstadt. The Esterhazy Private Foundation’s wide-ranging programme links past, present.