For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight on trampoline.
The Hendersons will all be there
Late of Pablo Fanques Fair, what a scene!
Over men and horses, hoops and garters
Lastly through a hogshead of real fire!
John Lennon – 1967
When Lennon was inspired by an 1843 circus poster to write those lyrics, one wonders if he was aware of the long tradition of benefit concerts and events in which every performer, great or otherwise, had been partaking for centuries. Haydn was no exception.
On 16 May 1791, Haydn had his first benefit. It was certainly not undertaken on the spur of the moment, since the contract he had signed with Salomon before leaving Vienna in 1790 included, among other emoluments, "£200 of the profit from a benefit concert". And a handsome concert it was, too.
"Mr. Haydn's Night" at Hanover Square – 16 May
New Grand Overture (?) – Haydn
Aria (Nancy Storace) (?) – Haydn
Concertante for 2 Basset Horns – Dvorak (no, not that Dvorak!)
New Aria with Oboe and Bassoon obbligato (David) – Haydn
'Cara deh torna in pace' (Hob 24a:deest (lost))
Concerto, Violin – Mr. Giornovichi
Grand Overture as performed at Salomon's 1st concert – Haydn (#92?)
Cantata (Pacchierotti) – Haydn
(Ah, como il core from La fedeltà premiata)
Concertante for Piano Forte & Pedal Harp –
Dussek & Madame Krumpholtz
Duetto (?) Sig. David & Sig. Pacchierotti
Finale (Symphony)(?) – Haydn
The concert was wildly successful, it was given out that against the "£200 of the profit from a benefit concert", Haydn actually pocketed £350, and also successfully resisted Salomon's idea that Haydn would pay the band.
Benefits in subsequent years went equally well, especially in terms of introducing new music. The now lost cantata for Giacomo David, Cara deh torna in pace, premièred at the first. Then, on 9th May 1792, for Haydn's second benefit, we see the première of Symphony #97. Benefit number three, on 2nd May 1794, didn't see any (completely) new music, but this was at least in part because of the performances of the two wildly popular symphonies of the year, #100 & 101. Again, a resounding success. I just mention here, en passant since Landon doesn't explicate the reasons, that the cost of tickets in 1794 dropped from a half-guinea to 10 shillings sixpence. In looking at other available literature, I don't notice anything to explain this unusual cost reduction, at least not insofar as hugely successful benefits, like Haydn's, were concerned. However, success was not a guarantee, even for the biggest stars, as this note illustrates for us:
Third London Notebook
On 24th March 1795, Mara, having returned from Bath, gave her Benefic-Music [benefit concert] in Hannovers Room [sic: Hanover Square Rooms]. There were not more than 60 persons in the audience. It is said that she never sang better than at that time. Janiowick [sic: Giornovichi] conducted. Mr. Clementi sat at the pianoforte, and conducted his new grand Symphony, without success.
According to McVeigh1, by 1795 it would take more than 120 paying spectators to (barely) meet expenses, so it may be that opening up to a wider audience was simply good business.
This is an advertisement for a concert which was very likely not a disappointment. As you see, it is under Royal patronage, and at the most popular house in the City. Dr. Haydn is presiding at the Forte-Piano, and a special organ has been built just for the Occasion, played by the renowned Thomas Greatorex, organist at Westminster Abbey. Even the Holy Name of Handel is invoked, thrice! In 1774, we saw Haydn composing his first great oratorio, Il ritorno di Tobia, for the Vienna Tonkünstler-Societät, a society to provide benefits for the widows and orphans of musicians. But with characteristic straightforwardness, the English surpassed the Viennese, even if just by name, with the wonderful "Relief of Decayed Musicians & Their Widows & Orphans Living in England Fund".
A scant two weeks later, we finally arrive at Haydn's own benefit.
Fourth London Notebook
On 4th May 1795, I gave my benefit concert in the Haymarket Theatre. The room was full of a select company, a) First part of the Military Symphony; Aria (Rovedino); Concerto (Ferlandy) [recte: Ferlendis] for the first time; Duet (Morichelli and Morelli) by me; a new Symphony in D, the twelfth and last of the English; b) Second part of the Military Symphony; Aria (Morichelli); Concerto (Viotti); Scena nuova by me, Mad. Banti [English :] (She song very scanty). [German :] The whole company was thoroughly pleased and so was I. I made four thousand Gulden [NB - £400] on this evening. Such a thing is only possible in England.
As expected, a resounding success! Here we find not one, but two brand new works. The first is the final (do we sense relief from Haydn?) London Symphony, the one actually called "London" (or sometimes "Salomon"). In point of fact, not to play the spoiler here, it was Haydn's final symphony ever. With the many other symmetries in Haydn's life, is it any wonder to note that his first symphony, composed in 1757, and his final one, thirty-eight years later, share the key of D Major? This is a masterpiece among masterpieces; in that place and time, Haydn was the only composer in the world who could have produced such a work. We will talk more about it soon, but here was its introduction to the world.
The second work is one of the great concert scenas of the time, surely Haydn's finest essay in the genre, Berenice, che fai?. I find it to be quite amusing, the number of people who have said that Haydn was certainly quite unhappy with Banti's voice, which must have been "thin" that night, or whatever else they can possibly suppose to explain Haydn's parenthetical comment ("Madame Banti, she sang very scanty"). Overlooking the obvious fact that he was writing this notebook for himself and not the world 200 years hence, it should not go by without comment here that Haydn, a man who clearly loved words and the effects they could produce, was in the process of writing his second set of canzonettas with Anne Hunter, possibly even on the same day he wrote the notebook entry. And one of those, Transport of Pleasure, contains the woeful line Ah me, how scanty is my store. Is it even credible that Haydn would have let pass the opportunity to use his new English rhyming word for his own amusement in this way? I think not. Musicologists should be required to have at least half the humor Haydn possessed. Especially when this is followed in the next sentence by "The whole company was thoroughly pleased, and so was I". Four thousand gulden, I should imagine he was pleased. This was precisely four times the annual pension he received from the Esterházy Family!
I have tried to count the number of benefits for others in which Haydn appeared 'at the piano forte', but there are too many split up or nebulous descriptions to allow a more precise counting. Suffice to say it was a great many, by all appearances, at least one per week, probably more. He was exceedingly generous of his time, often with musicians or causes which he didn't know, beyond that they needed a financial boost which he could easily provide by sitting at the keyboard for two or three hours. He wasn't totally indiscriminate though, as we see in this Notebook entry:
Third London Notebook
On 30th March 1795 I was invited by Dr. Arnold and his associates to a grand concert in Free Maisons [sic: Freemasons'] Hall: one of my big symphonies was to have been given under my direction, but since they wouldn't have any rehearsal, I refused to cooperate and did not appear…
If there is a cardinal sin in Haydn's world, failure to rehearse must be it.
Detail from James Gillray's 'A Lover's Dream' of January, 1795. At the time, Gillray didn't
Third London Notebook [all three quotes]
Madame Fizherbert [recte: FitzHerbert] was divorced from the Prince of Wales in the month of July 1794. She received [an alimony of] £6,000 annually.
[German :] The trip into [!] Jersey, or divorce à la mode. [English :] Trip to JERSEY, or divorce a la mode. [German:] Jersey is the name of the Prince of Wales' new mistress. THAT'S WHAT THEY SAY: relata refero [NB (me) – Latin: "I am reporting what was reported to me."]
On 8th April 1795, the Prince of Wales married the Princess of Brunswick. On the 10th I was at the Covent Garden Theatre to see the big Spectacul [sic] WINDSOR CASTLE, THE MUSIC BY SALOMON QUITE PASSABLE. The decorations costumes scenery, and the enormous amount of people on the stage are exaggerated. All the Gods of Heaven and Hell, and everything that lives on the earth are in the piece.
If Haydn had a Royal sponsor, by all appearances it would have been the Prince of Wales. We have been seeing him around since 1791, always trying to do just the little thing to help Haydn forward, even when his father, George III, was clearly in the opposite corner, for example, with the opera L'anima del filosofo. Even though I didn't go deeply into the politics behind why it wasn't given, it all stemmed from a disagreement between father and son over what was proper music. But if George Jr. had an Achilles' Heel, it was his lifestyle. And by 1795 things came to a head.
The Prince had agreed to marry a woman his father would approve of, first and foremost, "a Protestant and a Princess", in exchange for the payment in full, by Parliament, of his £630,000 in debts. The financial reasons behind the loveless match were widely known and were lampooned in cartoons offered in the London print shops, like the classic Gillray above. As was not at all unusual at the time, the bride and groom met as she was walking down the aisle, so to speak. George, ever the playboy, was shocked by what he considered her irredeemable homeliness and apparent slovenliness (or is that just the gossip of the time??). The Prince became bitter when Parliament increased his income to £125,000 on his marriage, but then set aside £65,000 plus the £13,000 income from the Duchy of Cornwall as payments on his debts leaving him with an annual income of only £60,000 when his annual income as a bachelor had been £78,000.
For reasons beyond the scope of this essay, the marriage was a total disaster. On George's part, it was extreme dislike at first sight. So perhaps for justifiable reasons, some of them possibly financial, this marriage was destined for the bin. So, other than something to gossip about, which he seemed to love, what was Haydn's part in all this?
Fourth London Notebook
On 3rd Feb. I was invited to the Prince of Wales'; on 15th, 17th and 19th Apr. 1795, I was there again…
On 8th Apr. 1795, the marriage took place between the Prince of Wales and the Princess of Brunswick. On the 10th, I was invited to a musical soirée at the Prince of Wales' in Carlton House. An old Symphony was played, which I accompanied on the pianoforte; then a Quartet; and afterwards I had to sing some German and English songs. The Princess sang with me, too; she played a Concerto on the pianoforte quite nicely.
11 April 1795 St James's Chronicle
On Friday night there was a Musical Party at Carlton House, for the entertainment of the Princess of Wales. Her Royal Highness is particularly fond of Musick, and performs herself. Haydn and Salomon, with some of the Princess's Household, were present. The Princess with engaging affability played a Concerto on the Piano Forte…
He attended at Carlton House 26 times in all, but like other musicians found much difficulty in getting paid. Upon his return to Vienna, he sent in a bill for 100 guineas, which was immediately discharged by Parliament when they paid off the debts, per the nuptial agreement. I expect Haydn considered himself fortunate to come away with anything at all, Royal privilege being what it was in those times.
Next time we will take a look at the remainder of the public music which Haydn composed for London. It can justifiably be called a peak of his career.
Thanks for reading!
1 - McVeigh, Simon - Concert Life in London from Mozart to Haydn (Cambridge, 1993)