Haydn at Esterhaza

Essay by scylla62698College, UndergraduateA-, April 2004

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Haydn at Esterhaza

In the year 1760, Franz Joseph Haydn was thirty years old and at the beginning of his employment as Kapellmeister and composer to Prince Nicholas Esterhaza. Being employed at the estate, Haydn was expected to write pieces commissioned for various occasions and celebrations. He was also able to find time to compose pieces for musicians and other nobility at their request. Haydn's time at Esterhaza from 1760-1790 produced both operas and chamber music works.

From 1776-1790, a regular season of opera occurred at Esterhaza. From 1780-1790, 1,038 operas were performed at the estate. Haydn's operas before and during this time were numerous. Two of his operas were based on the story of Pamela by Samuel Richardson (published in 1740). The earlier opera (written in 1768), Lo Speziale (The Apothecary), was very short and the serious characters had been eliminated. The libretto was written by Bouldoni and included the stock characters of an old man, young lovers, and another rich pursuer of the female lead (usually a servant or working girl).

The opera's plot is essentially a situation comedy with much class-crossing, making it an opera buffa. Lo Speziale has many comic arias such as Semprino's "Ragazzaccie Che Senza..." which is imitative of a woman's voice and sung in a march-like style. The second (later) opera, La Vera Constanza (composed 1778) is also based on the Pamela story. While this opera has similar characters to "The Apothecary", it is a more sentimental story and is classified as an opera-semiseria.

Haydn also composed several quartets and trios during his time at Esterhaza. His string quartet in G major (Op. 54, No. 1, Hob. III: 58) was composed in 1788 to be performed in a private setting. The final movement of the quartet is dominated by an almost silly theme...