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Bring Me The Head Of Franz Joseph Haydn
November 7, 2011 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Perhaps you're wondering why Haydn's grave contains two heads...

One of the best things about acquiring a taste for Haydn's music is the practical impossibility of exhausting the supply. In addition to the 106 symphonies and 68 string quartets - both genres he can be said to have fathered - he wrote more than 60 keyboard sonatas, 43 piano trios that have been called "the greatest little-known treasure of the classical era"*, 12 operas, 14 masses, a metric fuckton of concerti, and the occasional oratorio.
posted by Trurl (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I love Haydn, but quantity is not the measure of his greatness. Quantz wrote 300-odd flute concertos alone, and - I say this as a flautist and a lover of the baroque in general - you would almost certainly gnaw your extremities off before you made it through any appreciable fraction of those.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:00 PM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Perhaps you're wondering why Haydn's grave contains two heads...

More than that, I was wondering if both were de-composing!
posted by found missing at 2:02 PM on November 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

I wonder how come they never told me this in music class very much?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2011

Perhaps you're wondering why Haydn's grave contains two heads...

Because two heads are better than one?
posted by binturong at 2:13 PM on November 7, 2011

Perhaps you're wondering why Haydn's grave contains two heads...

Based on what I know about Haydn, I just assumed the second one was Rosie Greer.
posted by PlusDistance at 2:17 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm still wondering. The article shed no light on this! Only that the original head had been stolen and was later returned. Where did the second head come from?
posted by zomg at 2:18 PM on November 7, 2011

zomg, I imagine you could listen to the 30 minute program, or skip that and read the Wikipedia article, which is short and complete.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok, mea culpa ;)
posted by zomg at 2:24 PM on November 7, 2011

No worries - I didn't think there would be a short telling of it until I searched just now.

And I see what you did with the title.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2011

quantity is not the measure of his greatness

True, the achievement is that Haydn wrote over 100 of Haydn's symphonies.

From a more detailed article:

One is clean and white and has a strong, prominent jaw. This is the head Haydn used when he was alive. Phrenologists - students of the now-discredited science that believes character is determined by skull shape - cut it off and stole it shortly after Haydn died in Vienna. The opportunity to study the head of a genius clearly overcame their misgivings about either the legality or the morality of their action.

The other skull is small and brown and has a broken jaw. This was the substitute obtained when Haydn's erstwhile employer Prince Nikolaus Esterházy discovered that the corpse he had fetched for reburial in Eisenstadt was headless. "Better any head than none," he said. The provenance of the replacement is unknown, but it remained Haydn's head for 130 years, as the original was not reunited with the body until 1954.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:31 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Q: Why couldn't Beethoven find his music teacher?
A: Because he was Haydn.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:46 PM on November 7, 2011 [5 favorites]

Let me do some calculations: Haydn died when he was 77. It has been 57 years since he was reunited with his head. 56+77=134. Presumably Haydn's head was stolen some time in 1809 and not returned until 1954. That's 145 years. So Haydn has had someone else's head longer than he's had his own. It's close, however. Only 11, well 12 to be on the safe side, years before balance will be restored. I propose that 2023 be "The Year of Haydn's Head".
posted by ob at 2:46 PM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

To be honest, unless your an uber-completist or scholar of the early classical, trying to get through the first, say, half of Haydn's symphonic output would also at least mildly endanger some of your lesser extremities. The achievement, as far as that genre goes, is that by his later works he had begun creating symphonies which were genuinely of an individually distinctive character, and strengthening the links between movements so that they were not interchangeable between works - which is not something you can honestly say about the earlier music. Put Minuet A in Symphony B and it generaly would not have made a difference.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:51 PM on November 7, 2011

Trurl - I find myself favoriting pretty much every FPP you make these days. Just a thanks. It's become my daily go-to 'awesome culture/art thing.'
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:52 PM on November 7, 2011

Great post - also a strong contender in the Best FPP Title category.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:00 PM on November 7, 2011

Two heads? Well, Haydn's just this guy... you know?
posted by coriolisdave at 5:54 PM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Haydn is one of the most underrated composers of all time. No one was more responsible than him for the birth of Classical music (from the Baroque). Mozart took the ball and handed it to Beethoven who ran with it, but Haydn snapped it.

Unfortunately his music sounds too "pretty" now for people to give it as much attention to it as they should, but if you pay attention to it it is sublime. The string quartets, in particular, I will never get tired of.
posted by dfan at 9:29 AM on November 8, 2011

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