This coming Sunday afternoon (September 23), Timothy Hester, fortepianist and associate professor at the University of Houston, will be performing “A Pair of Haydns and a Pair of Mozarts” in Rienzi’s intimate Gallery. Two Haydns? I knew of one—Franz Joseph Haydn, who dominated the 18th century with symphonies and string quartets—from my ill-fated childhood piano lessons. But there were two?
The answer is yes, and the two Austrians are brothers. Franz Joseph Haydn, born in 1732, had a younger brother, Johann Michael Haydn, who was born in 1737. In fact, there is even a third Haydn brother who was musically talented, Johann Evangelist Haydn, a tenor.
Franz Joseph and Johann Michael both began their careers singing at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna (check out the slideshow for photos from a trip I recently took there). In 1761, under Prince Paul Anton and Prince Nikolaus I, Franz Joseph became a court musician for the Esterházy family. While in this position, he was relatively isolated from other composers and the 18th-century music trends. In 1779 he was allowed to receive commissions from others, and he produced more quartets and symphonies. With the death of Nikolaus 1790, the Esterházy family dismissed many of their musicians; however, Franz Joseph was already famous throughout Europe.
Johann Michael took a different path. He became the Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardien at Nagyvárad and then in 1763, the Konzertmeister to Archbishop Sigismund Schrettenbach in Salzburg. Johann Michael spent the rest of his career in Salzburg, producing both sacred and secular music, the former of which he was best known for.
Although most of us today know only Franz Joseph, both he and Johann Michael were well known in the 18th-century European music world.
Join us on Sunday to hear works by both composers, and tune into KUHF’s The Front Row this week to hear Timothy Hester discuss his upcoming performance. If you miss the conversation, check back here at The Gilded Dish for snippets of the program.