Haydn Essays

Series considering different aspects of Haydn's life, work and reputation.


01Haydn And God2009070620091019


David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, and an experienced musical performer himself reflects on the composer's view of the Almighty.

Haydn composed a great deal of music for the church including the six settings of the Mass that were among his final masterpieces.

But are they the music that best represents his view of God? He lived at a time when the old certainties were being challenged by science and philosophy.

Is it impossible to tell where Haydn stood on matters of faith from his music?

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury, discusses Haydn's view of the Almighty.

02Haydn's Odder Instruments2009070720091020Broadcaster, pianist and composer David Owen Norris explores the composer's approach to working with some unusual instruments, asking what this little-known aspect of Haydn's music says about his working methods.

Some of these pieces are considered to be of the highest quality.

The 126 trios that Haydn wrote for viola, cello and baryton are just one aspect of his work with unusual instruments.

He also wrote for the mechanical organ (the nearest the 18th-century came to a record player), and a hybrid of the hurdy-gurdy and chamber organ called the lira organizzata.

David Owen Norris explores Haydn's approach to working with more unusual instruments.

02Haydn's Odder Instruments20090713
03Haydn And Cosmology2009070820091021In 1792, on his first visit to London, Haydn visited the observatory of the great German-born astronomer William Herschel in Slough.

Herschel's 40-foot telescope was the biggest in the world, and while looking through it Haydn would doubtless have learned something of Herschel's radical, potentially aetheistical theories on the formation of galaxies.

Five years later, he composed his great oratorio The Creation, a seemingly unquestioning account of origins of the world as described in Genesis.

Richard Holmes explores Haydn's reaction to the ideas of the astronomer William Herschel.

03Haydn And Cosmology20090714
04Haydn And Humour2009070920091022Writer and broadcaster Stephen Johnson reflects on the composer's famous sense of humour - was it silly or profound?

For few among the great composers was humour such a vital part of their creative personality as for Haydn, who thought nothing of playing outrageous tricks on the audiences of his 'serious' works.

False endings, sudden orchestral crashes, knockabout humour and rude noises in the woodwind section can still cause laughter in the concert hall today, while subtler jokes designed to appeal specifically to musicians also abound.

Stephen Johnson reflects on Haydn's sense of humour.

04Haydn And Humour20090715
05 LASTHaydn's Head2009071020091023Professor Robert Winston explores the events leading up to the night when two men opened the composer's grave shortly after his death in 1809, and stole his head in the hope of discovering the secret of his genius.

He also looks at the impact the phrenology movement had on modern-day thinking.

Robert Winston explores the events surrounding the theft of Haydn's head from his grave.

05 LASTHaydn's Head20090716