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Johann Michael Haydn

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A younger brother of Franz Joseph Haydn ; born at Rohrau, Austria, 14 September, 1737; died at Salzburg, 10 August, 1806. In 1745, Michael Haydn entered the choir of the Cathedral of St. Stephen, in Vienna, where his brother Joseph had been active as soprano soloist since 1740. By the order of the choir-master, Johann Adam Karl Reuter, Joseph was entrusted with the musical education of his younger brother. They were together in the choir for three years. When Joseph's soprano voice gave out, Michael succeeded him as soloist, remaining with St. Stephen's choir until 1755. In 1757 he was called to Grosswardein to serve Archbishop Sigismund as choir- master of his cathedral, and in 1762 he accepted the position of orchestra conductor to the Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus of Salzburg, later assuming also the duties of organist at the church of St. Peter, at Salzburg, which was presided over by the Benedictines. The latter he subsequently exchanged for similar duties at the cathedral. Although Michael Haydn retained these honourable positions to the end of his days, i.e. for almost forty-four years, during the first years of his incumbency his services were not quite satisfactory to his employers, nor did they call forth the approval of his contemporaries, among whom were Leopold Mozart and his great son Wolfgang. Neither his musical activities nor his personal conduct were edifying to those around him. But his wife, the court singer, Maria Magdalena Lipp, daughter of the cathedral choir-master, was a person of extraordinary piety and austerity of life, and she seems to have wrought such a change in her husband that his slothfulness and inertia gave place to wonderful activity and industry.

As was the custom among composers in his day, and by virtue also of his function as conductor and organist, Haydn wrote in every form of composition, but by predilection on liturgical texts. To the musical interpretation of these he undoubtedly devoted his best efforts. We can form an idea of his great productivity (which, however, does not equal his brother's) when we consider that he wrote twenty-four masses, four so-called German masses (consisting of five or six numbers to be sung during low Mass ), two requiems, one hundred and fourteen graduals, sixty-seven offertories, litanies, vespers, cantatas, oratorios, and several operas. Among his instrumental works are thirty symphonies, serenades, marches, minuets, string quartettes, and fifty preludes for the organ. Michael Haydn had an aversion to seeing his works in print, and most of his productions remained in manuscript. His style might be called eclectic. His tendency was to unite the salient traits and characteristics of contemporary masters who wrote for the Church. While he gave to everything he wrote a certain personal stamp, his individuality and depth of conception were not sufficiently pronounced to preserve many of his works to posterity. Some of his organ compositions are contained in B. Kothe's "Handbuch fur Organisten", and the same author's "Praludienbuch". Kothe's collection "Musica Sacra", Seiler's "Laudate Dominum" and "Sammlung leicht ausfuhrlicher Kirchenmusik", published by the Caecilienverein of Salzburg, contain some of his vocal works. A complete collection of the unpublished works of Michael Haydn is preserved in the library of the Benedictine monastery of St. Peter, at Salzburg.

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