by Sir William H. Hadow

First edition in 1897, London,
reprinted in 1972, New York.

Joseph Haydn (1738-1809). Pencil sketch by George Dance, 1794.
Source of the photo Classical Music Pages.



EXCERPTS from the book from p. 13 to p. 40.

p. 13 ...But it is wholly false to infer that music is independent of nationality. The composer bears the mark of his race not less surely than the poet or the painter, and there is no music with true blood in its veins and true passion in its heart that has not drawn inspiration from the breast of the mother country.

p. 15 ...The subject of the present essay is one of the most remarkable instances of such misattribution. From the time of Carpani to that of Dr. Nohl, Haydn's biographers have been unanimous in describing him as a German, born, as everybody knows, in Lower Austria, speaking German as his native language, Teutonic in race, in character, in surroundings. Yet the more we study him the more impossible it becomes to regard his music as the work of a Teuton.

p. 16 ...Haydn's sentiment is of a kind without analogue among German Composers - mobile, nervous, sensitive, a little shallow may be, but as pure and transparent as a mountain stream. His humour is a quality in which he stands almost alone.

p. 16 ...The shapes of his melodic phrases are not those of the German folksong; his rythms are far more numerous and varied; his metres are often strange and unfamiliar.

p. 17 ...In a word, his range of stanza is far wider than that known to the Germany of his day, and many of his most characteristic tunes belong to another language and another scheme of versification.

The evidence here briefly epitomised can only point to one of two conclusions: either that the law of nationality is inapplicable to Haydn, or that his assignment to the German race is an ethnological error. The former alternative is unsatisfactory enough; the latter was for many years put out of court by our inability to sustaint the onus probandi. But in 1878 Dr. Kuhac began to publish his great collection of South - Slavonic melodies^* [Juzno-slovjenske Narodne Popieveke: Zagreb 1878-1881.] and in 1880 he supplemented it by a special pamphlet on Haydn's relation to them.^* [Josip Haydn in Hrvatske Narodne Popievke: reprinted from the Vienac, Zagreb, 1880.] The main points of the thesis are three in number: first, that the Croatian folk-tunes possess all the characteristics which have been noted as distinctive in the melodies of Haydn; second, that many of them are actually employed by him; and third, that the facts of his birth and parentage afford strong presumptive proof that he was a Croatian by race.

p. 19 ...First, then, we must consider whether the character of the Croatian people is such as to render its claim to Haydn reasonable and intelligible. It would be poor logic to illustrate our law by deriving a great artist from an inartistic nation. And the question becomes more pressing when we remember that Haydn's whole family was musical, that he learned his first lessons from his father and mother, that his brother Michael long enjoyed a repute little inferior to his own. But to answer it in the affirmative is to run counter to an established belief.

p. 20 ...To dispel this superstition it is only needful that we should study the country. Few towns are more charming than Agram [=Zagreb], few regions more delightful than the long fertile valley of the Save in which it lies.

...And throughout the country love of music prevails.^* [Dr. Kuhac (Josip Haydn, p.5) declares that one in every three of the population "either sings, plays, or composes." And there is a significant Croatian proverb to the effect that "an age is known by its music."] The men sing at their plough, the girls sing as they fill water-pots at the fountain; by every village inn you may hear the jingle of the tambura, and watch the dancers footing it on the green. Grant that the music is not always of a high order, that the tunes are often primitive and the voices rude and uncouth, still the impetus is there, and it only needs guidance an direction. Certainly the present condition of the race does not disqualify it to be the parent of a great composer.

p. 25 ...Meantime, while the fortunes of Croatia were at their lowest, an event of earlier occurrence was producing important consequences. The Southern Slavs had always been a migratory people. As early as 595 they occupied the Tyrolean Pusterthal, where they have left their mark, not only in the character of the inhabitants but in a large number of local names; later, under stress of Turkish invasion, they colonized Montenegro; and in the fifteenth or sixteenth century a body of Eastern Croats - Bosnen or Wasser-Kroaten, as the Germans called them - settled in the district of Central Austria which extends from Lake Balaton north-west to the Danube. The new home was eminently suited to the development of the race. It was rich and fertile, with vine-clad hills and broad stretches of alluvial plain, it was well wooded and well watered, it extended to Pressburg [Bratislava], the second city in the empire, and contained at least one other town of considerable note; it was within easy reach of the great intellectual and artistic movements. There is littel wonder that this region soon came to be regarded as the focus of Croatian life, and that the wealth which sought it for entertainment attracted in due course the talent which sought it for livelihood.

p. 26 The number of the original immigrants is unknown, but by the eighteenth century they unquestionably formed the larger part of the population. In 1780 Pressburg contained rather less than 28,000 inhabitants, of whom about half are noted in the official census as Croats or Slavonians; while the smaller towns and villages in the neighbourhood were mainly occupied by the newcomers, and are still, despite German and Magyar influence, largely affected by Slavonic traditions.

p. 27 ...An amusing instance fell under my own experience during the summer of 1897. Wishing to make pilgrimages to Eisenstadt, where Haydn was Kapellmeister, and to Zeljez [Zeljezno], where Schubert taught music to Countess Esterhazy, I took a ticket at Vienna for the first of these places, only to find, when my watch informed me of my destination, that Eisenstadt and Zeljez were the same place...

It is something more than a coincidence that among all district of Austria this area of Croatian settlement has been the most fruitful in great musicians. Veit Bach, the grandfather of John Sebastian, was born at Pressburg; so was Chopin's great hero, Johann Nepomuk Hummel. The Haydns came from a neighbouring village, the proper name of which - Trstnik - was despairingly translated by the Germans into Rohrau... Liszt was born at Rustnik, near Oedenburg... Ludwig Strauss at Pressburg,... And round this constellation there gathers a whole nebula of lesser stars, names unfamiliar, it may be, to English readers, but in their own country accepted and recognised. Of course it is not claimed that all these artists are of Croatian blood. Some unquestionably are not; but there is at least an a priori likelihood that some of them belonged to the race which was numerically dominant, especially as that race was Slavonic and therefore musical, and on this general point a word may perhaps be said before we proceed to particularise in the case of Haydn.

p. 31 ...We cannot, then, assert that there is any antecedent improbability in assigning Haydn to the Croats. They are a musical people, they formed the chief population of the district where he was born, they have a fair claim to other great musicians of his time. It follows that we should discuss the biographical evidence, and see what is to be made out of the record of Haydn's family.

And here attention should be called to three points. First, that the name Hajden or Hajdin (with its derivative Hajdenic, Hajdinovic, &tc.) is of common occurence throughout Croatia, and, in days when spelling was roughly phonetic, may easily have appeared in Austrian official documents as Haiden or Hayden, forms by which its pronunciation is exactly represented. Now among all the variants assumed by the name of the composer's family,^* [Dr. Pohl gives fourteen variants, and even his list is not exhaustive. There are at least six in documents relating to the composer himself. See Appendix G.] these two are the most frequent and the most authoritative. His great-grandfather - the first member of the house who can be traced - appears in the Hainburg register as Caspar Haiden; his grandfather, once by obvious error called Thomas Hyrn, is usually Hayden elsewhere, the contemporary monuments at Rohrau give Mathias Haiden as the name of his father and Josephus Hayden as his own.

p. 33 ...Secondly, the name, in one or other of its variants, is widely spread over the whole district from Wiener-Neustadt to Oedenburg. Dr. Pohl found it in some ten or a dozen villages, many of which are claimed by Dr. Kuhac as Croatian, and in the country towns like Hainburg or Eisenstadt it is of course more frequent still. There is no need to remind the reader that this is precisely the region occupied, since the sixteenth century, by the Slavonic immigrants. Thirdly, the home of the entire Haydn family is situated at the centre of the district in question.

p. 34 On the father's side, then, Haydn would seem to belong to the Slavonic race among whom he lived and worked.^* [It is fair to state that some etymologists derive the name Haide from the district "Auf der Haid" near Hainburg. But this is very unlikely. The district is a narrow stretch of moorland, and could not account for the prevalence of the name through the whole country-side, to say nothing of the frequent occurance in Croatia proper.] Again, his mother was a native of Rohrau, in her day a distinctively Croatian village,^* [Its second title, "Trstnik," is significant enough. And at the present day it contains a good many Croats, especially among the poorer inhabitants.] and her maiden name of Koller - a vox nihili in German - is plausibly regarded by Dr. Kuhac as a phonetic variant of the Croatian Kolar "wheelwright." Everything that we know about his look and character favour the supposition of Slavonic descent. The lean ugly kindly face with high cheek-bones, long nose, and broad prominent under lip, the keen grey eyes softened by a twinkle of humour, the thin wiry figure, the strong nervous hands; all these and their analogues may be seen to-day in any village where Slavonic blood is still pure; and though of course they afford no argument in themselves, they add a touch of corroborative evidence which is worth noting. To the same cause may be traced that intense love of sport which has left his name as a proverb at Eisenstadt;*^ [To je lovac i ribar kao Haydn; i.e., as good a shot and fisherman as Haydn]

p. 36 ...His talk, like his music, was full of that obivious fun which raises a lough by a sudden touch of the unexpected; so are hundreds of Croatian ballads and aphorisms... But good, bad, or indifferent, it marks a distinctive type of peasant character; and in remembering that Haydn was a genius we need not forget that he was a peasant. The same holds good, too, of his religious feeling. It is not without significance that we may turn from one of his scores, with its "In Nomine Domini" at the beginning, and its "Laus Deo" at the end, to read in our newspaper that another Croatian village has risen in revolt upont the bare report of an ecclesiastical change. His temper, it may be, had grown more equable than that of his uneducated countrymen; it had not lost anything of their loyalty.

p. 37 ...And probability will strengthen to certitude if we realise that Haydn's music is saturated with Croatian melody, that the resemblances are beyond question, beyond attribution of coincidence, beyond any explanation but that of natural growth. Some of his tunes are folksong in their simplest form, some are folksongs altered and improved, the vast majority are original, but display the same general characteristics. He would stand wholly outside the practise of the great composers if he wrote, by habitual preference, in an idiom that was not his own.

Back to Sir W.H. Hadow: A Croatian Composer; notes towards the study of Joseph Haydn