William Sterling

Joseph Haydn

Haydn and the English

Although it happened late in his life Haydn’s association with the English had a huge impact on his music not least the 12 Symphonies, chamber and piano music he wrote for his two visits but his discovery of Handel’s oratorios on those visits had an enormous impact on his later choral works. Haydn was nearly 60 when he first came to England but he stayed for some 18 months and came back a couple of years later for a similarly long second stay. During this time he wrote his last twelve symphonies including such favourites as The Surprise, The Clock, The Military, The Drum-Roll and The London. He also wrote an opera, several piano trios and various other instrumental and vocal works. He was also greatly influenced by the music he heard in England, not least the oratorios of Handel which inspired him to write The Creation (to a libretto originally intended for Handel) and The Seasons as well as his other late choral works, including the Nelson Mass. For the rest of his life he was inspired by English folksongs and made arrangements of nearly 400 of them. It was his admiration of God Save the King that inspired him to write the Emperor hymn and the beautiful string quartet that uses its noble theme. The course took a chronological approach to the works Haydn wrote for his two trips to England as well as other works that he is known to have performed in England which he had written earlier. Most weeks covered a couple of the magnificent last 12 symphonies and a variety of other works. In addition we studied the works that Haydn wrote on his return to Vienna that were particularly inspired by his visits to England, in particular, his great late choral works.

I ran this course at Crayford Manor (Bexley College) October-December 2003.  I also used it in my course at Morley College and as a basis of the class I ran at the City Lit October in 2010.

I also gave a talk to the DfE Music Society in October 2005 with the following advert.

Haydn and the English – As the most famous composer of his day everyone wanted Haydn to visit so we were very lucky that he made two extended visits to Britain in the 1790s. This led to many of his greatest late works such as the Surprise, Clock, Military and London Symphonies and choral works like the Creation and the Nelson Mass which the Deansbank Singers were performing on 20 October to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Haydn chronology

Below are copies of the spreadsheets I used for the various Haydn classes and courses.

Haydn life and works