This musical Shakespeare


haydn1 Haydn During Storm © Getty Images

In July 1791 a letter appeared in the Whitehall Evening post . 

‘Dear Sir….I cannot pafs through Oxford without a few remarks upon the progresf of the Arts in this ancient Univerfity….Music has ftill made further ftrides towards perfection…Can any thing exhibit the improved tafte in that divine fince fo juftly as the degree juft given to the modeft Haydn by the University – this musical SHAKESPEARE – this musical Drawcanfir, who can equal the strains of a Cherub, and enchant in all the gradations between thefe and a ballard – a genius whofe verfatility comprehends all the powers of harmony, and all the energy, pathos and paffion of melody! – who can ftun with thunder or warble with a bird! ‘ Whitehall Evening Post (1770) (London, England), Thursday, July 28, 1791; Issue 6702

Franz Joseph Haydn was born in Austria in 1732 enjoyed princely patronage and produced some of the finest music of the age, earning the epithet Father of the Symphony as well as Father of the String Quartet.  It is said that his oratorio Die Schöpfung [The Creation- composed between 1796 and 1798] was written after he undertook a stormly sea voyage when he travelled to England via the Straits of Dover in 1791.  Haydn wrote a letter to Marianne von Genzinger, having safely arrived in London in January 1791 that…

‘I went on board ship at half past 7 in the morning, and at 5 P. M., thanks to the Highest ! I reached Dover sound «nd in good condition…..At first, for four hours long, we had hardly any wind, and the ship moved so slowly that during these four hours we made no more than a single Englieh mile, of which there are from Calais to Dover.  Luckily however, the wind rose about half-past eleven, and so favorably, that by 4 P. M. we had left 22 miles behind us…majority.

During the entire passage I remained above on the vessel fön deck, that I might have enough of looking at that monstrous animal—the sea. So long as the calm continued I had no fear ; hut at last, as the wind grew stronger and I saw the huge boisterous waves rushing upon us, a slight anxiety fell upon me, and with it some degree of sickness. However I conquered all this and, saving your precsence, without vomiting, happily reached the shore…. After reaching London, only, did I really feel the hardships of the journey. It took two days for me to recover myself….’


The University Library subscribes to over 70 music journals, available online via MetaLib   [Athens username and password required for off campus access]

If you would like to learn more about Joseph Haydn and his music, please see the links below…

Joseph Haydn – BBC website

Franz Joseph Haydn


Music available to listen to…

Andante and Variations in F minor, Hob XVII:6 (composed in 1793)

Piano Concerto in D Major, Hob.XVIII


Franz Joseph Haydn – Serenade


Full text online material available…

The Lives of Haydn and Mozart [1818]

The life of Haydn, in a series of letters written at Vienna [1839]

Haydn’s Welsh Songs – Marjorie E. Rycroft [2008]

Music Literature Outlines Series V Chamber Music From Haydn To Ravel – Harold Gleason [1955]

The Reception of Franz Joseph Haydn in Austria and Germany 1798-1830: Biography and Criticism – Ellis T. Anderson II [2005]

Gipsy rondo [music] : for piano

Haydn‘s early symphonic development sections and eighteenth-century theories of modulation – Anait Keuchguerian [1998]


Books online

Haydn, The Creation   By Nicholas Temperley

Haydn and his world  By Elaine Rochelle Sisman

Dwight’s journal of music    By John Sullivan Dwight 




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