Monday, 19 July 2010

Joseph Haydn: An intolerable pupil in London

Haydn was delighted with London in most of its aspects, but we have an idea that there was one kind of pupil that he was perfectly willing to leave behind when he returned to his beloved Vienna. But probably he found them there as well as in London. They were not limited to England.
One day a nobleman called on him and, expressing his fondness for music, said he would like Haydn to give him a few lessons in composition at one guinea per lesson. Haydn promised to gratify him and asked when they should begin.
‘At once, if you have no objection,’ said he, drawing from his pocket one of Haydn's quartets.
‘For the first lesson let us examine this quartet and you tell me the reasons for some modulations and certain progressions that are contrary to all rules of composition.’

Haydn could offer no objection to this. They then set to work to examine the music. Several places were found which, when asked why he did this and that, Haydn could only say he wrote it so to obtain a good effect.
But ‘My lord’ was not satisfied with such a reason and declared unless the composer gave him a better reason than that for his innovations, he should declare them good for nothing. Then Haydn suggested that the pupil rewrite the music after his own fashion: but this he declined to do, though he persisted in his question, ‘How can your way, which is contrary to all rule, be the best?’
At last Haydn lost all patience with this noble critic, and said, ‘I see, my lord, that it is you who are so good as to give lessons to me. I do not want your lessons, for I feel that I do not merit the honour of having such a master as yourself. I bid you good morning, my lord "- and showed the upstart the door.

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