Remarks on Haydn

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

Brian had just illustrated Haydn's adventurous horn-writing with a music example from the Maria Theresa symphony (No 48) of 1772.

Although Haydn is scoring for the old fashioned hand horn, his writing is most expert and indicates the presence of an accomplished first horn player in the [Esterhazy] band. There was no compunction about putting in the high C for him. When Richard Strauss, about a century later, did this sort of thing, we had horn players and critics alike declaring that the note was impossible.

Those of us who know Haydn's music, and have taken part in his quartets or played in his symphonies or sung in the choral works, will smile at the endeavours of the intrepid Burney to put his hero right in the eyes of the world. Haydn's finest work, and that by which he has retained his fame, was written after his meeting with Mozart, or during his English visits. The influence of Mozart on Haydn was admitted by the composer himself, and German historians are unanimous in acknowledging the tremendous impulse which Haydn derived from England.

His muse rose to unprecedented height after being subject to English adulation: under this influence he wrote his finest symphonies, and his two master oratorios,- The Creation and The Seasons. His genial music, more than any other, has stimulated the development of string quartet and orchestral playing. Its technique lies within the grasp of average players, whilst his bright crisp melodies are a never-ending source of delight… For sheer, unadulterated beauty, certain pages in The Creation have never been surpassed. Within the same pages the delicacy of his wit and obvious joy as an illustrator never descends to buffoonery, while its continuous flow and elegance might well excite an Elgar to envy. There are also moments in The Creation when his power becomes charged with a vital force new to him, and the old man reaches the summit attained by Bach and Handel in their most inspired moments. Many critics had derided Haydn's loquaciousness and his melody as having little variety, and that he never gets far away from dance rhythm. Yet there is a characteristic of every great composer…

From Joseph Haydn - An Innovator in his Day, a signed article

Musical opinion, May 1932, pp. 673–674