Eisenstadt


Staying for a few days to the south of Vienna, I had the feeling we should visit Eisenstadt, Haydn's home for much of his life. The name of this composer always gives me a slightly guilty feeling - that I don't know enough of his music and have occasionally been bored in the middle of a slow movement. But the charming little town, once we got there on a series of rural trains, raised my spirits; and interest, travelling nearer and near to the Hungarian border, until things were written in the two languages. The centre is basically a few 18th century streets, some churches, a park and then there it is, Esterhazy Palace. This Palace, also exerted dark vibes in long-ago-learned music history - wasn't Haydn continually being pushed around by the various nobility he had to serve there? But the building is quite the opposite (pictured) painted a lovely buttery yellow, with much artwork in and out. It's still in use by the provincial government, and also contains a modernised small shoebox concert hall.


Then into another composer's house - this one Haydn actually bought himself and lived in for twelve years, a feat for someone who had started out with nothing and relied on his wigmaker father in law (who must have been a busy guy in those days). My eye was particularly taken by a reproduction of Haydn's livery coat. Again, music history taught us that this was a symbol of servitude, but this reconstruction was made out of beautiful blue cloth with fine silver embroidery, something I personally wouldn't mind wearing to Palace visits. But perhaps what went with it wasn't so good. We saw that super-cumbersome instrument, the baryton, and then read letters from the Prince saying 'Haydn, you don't seem to have written much for the baryton lately'. Responding with 175 new works (can this be right?) might have been the less enjoyable side of the job.


Enthusiasm for Haydn was further rekindled by a performance of The Seasons heard back in Baden during this week, performed by a Viennese choir and Hungarian orchestra. Perhaps it's good that its libretto was in German and not totally heard by me, but my goodness the orchestration, at genius level all through the piece.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer