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Haydn's Creation and Enlightenment Theology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 April 2009

Mark Berry
England, CB2 1RD


Haydn's two great oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons (Die Schöpfung and Die Jahreszeiten) stand as monuments—on either side of the year 1800—to the Enlightenment and to the Austrian Enlightenment in particular. This is not to claim that they have no connection with what would often be considered more “progressive”—broadly speaking, romantic—tendencies. However, like Haydn himself, they are works that, if a choice must be made, one would place firmly in the eighteenth century, “long” or otherwise. The age of musical classicism was far from dead by 1800, likewise the “Age of Enlightenment.” It is quite true that one witnesses in both the emergence of distinct national, even “nationalist,” tendencies. Yet these intimately connected “ages” remain essentially cosmopolitan, especially in the sphere of intellectual history and “high” culture. Haydn's oratorios not only draw on Austrian tradition; equally important, they are also shaped by broader influence, especially the earlier English Enlightenment, in which the texts of both works have their origins. The following essay considers the theology of The Creation with reference to this background and, to a certain extent, also attempts the reverse, namely, to consider the Austrian Enlightenment in the light of a work more central to its concerns than might have been expected.

Copyright © Center for Austrian Studies, University of Minnesota 2008

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1 See, e.g., T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660–1789 (Oxford, 2002), especially Part Three.

2 For instance, Nicholas Till, in Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue, and Beauty in Mozart's Operas (London and Boston, 1992), has very little to say concerning the music.

3 N. Hampson, The Enlightenment: An Evaluation of Its Assumptions, Attitudes and Values (Harmondsworth, UK, 1968), 11.

4 R. Smith, Handel's Oratorios and Eighteenth-Century Thought (Cambridge, 1995).

5 M. Stern, “Haydns ‘Schöpfung’: Geist und Herkunft des van Swietenschen Librettos. Ein Beitrag zur Thema ‘Säkularisation’ im Zeitalter der Aufklärung,” Haydn-Studien 1 (1965–7): 121–89.

6 On Haydn's sketches, see K. Geiringer and M. M. Marble, “Haydn's Sketches for ‘The Creation,’” The Musical Quarterly 18 (1932):299–308.

7 E. Wangermann, Aufklärung und staatsbürgerliche Erziehung. Gottfried van Swieten als Reformator des österreichischen Unterrichtswesens 1781–1791 (Munich, 1978), 9–10.

8 Voltaire to Marmontel, 1 November 1769, in Lettres choisies de Voltaire, ed. R. Naves (Paris, 1963), 451.

9 Wangermann, Aufklärung und staatsbürgerliche Erziehung, 10.

10 Ibid., 12.

11 Ibid., 37.

12 E. Wangermann, “Reform Catholicism and Political Radicalism in the Austrian Enlightenment,” in The Enlightenment in National Context, ed. R. Porter and M. Teich (Cambridge, 1981), 132.

13 D. E. D. Beales, “The Impact of Joseph II on Vienna,” in Europa im Zeitalter Mozarts, ed. M. Czáky and W. Pass (Vienna, 1995), 302–4.

14 Wangermann, Aufklärung und staatsbürgerliche Erziehung, 112–13.

15 Constantin von Wurzbach's great biographical lexicon of the Habsburg Monarchy makes no reference to official acts after 1791. See von Wurzbach, Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich 1750–1850, 60 vols. (Vienna, 1880), 41:50–53.

16 A. Griesinger, “Biographische Notizen über Joseph Haydn,” in Joseph Haydn: Eighteenth-Century Gentleman and Genius, ed. V. Gotwals (Madison, 1963), 53–55. On early biographical sources, see V. Gotwals, “The Earliest Biographies of Haydn,” The Musical Quarterly 45 (1959): 439–59.

17 W. O. Chadwick, The Popes and European Revolution (Oxford, 1981), 86.

18 Griesinger, “Biographische Notizen,” 54.

19 R. Hughes, Haydn (London, 1962), 46.

20 D. P. Schroeder, Haydn and the Enlightenment: The Late Symphonies and Their Audience (Oxford, 1990), 9–10; H. C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5 vols. (London, 1976–80), 4:256.

21 C. F. Gellert, Geistliche Öden und Lieder (Leipzig, 1844).

22 M. B. Price and L. M. Price, The Publication of English Humaniora in Germany in the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley, 1955), xv–xvi.

23 Griesinger, “Biographische Notizen,” 56.

24 Schroeder, “Haydn and the Enlightenment,” 12.

25 See Maria Hörwarthner, “Joseph Haydn's Library: An Attempt at a Literary-Historical Reconstruction,” trans. K. Talbot, in Haydn and His World, ed. Elaine Sisman (Princeton, 1997), 421.

26 Ibid., 448; J. Hurwitz, “Haydn and the Freemasons,” The Haydn Yearbook 16 (1985): 75.

27 Horwärthner, “Joseph Haydn's Library,” 400–401, 444.

28 G. Carpani, Le Haydine (Milan, 1812), 162–63.

29 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 4:116.

30 Griesinger, “Biographische Notizen,” 37; A. C. Dies, Biographische Nachrichten von Jospeh Haydn, ed. H. Seeger (1810; repr., Berlin, 1959), 174.

31 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5:118; Griesinger, “Biographische Notizen,” 37.

32 D. F. Tovey, Essays in Musical Analysis, 6 vols. (London, 1935), 5:119.

33 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 4:118.

34 Ibid., 119.

35 Stern, “Haydns ‘Schöpfung’,” 133–34.

36 E. Olleson, “The Origin and Libretto of Haydn's Creation,” in The Haydn Yearbook 4 (1968): 148–68.

37 Ibid., 159.

38 H. Schenker, Das Meisterwerk in Musik, 3 vols. (Munich, 1925–30), 2:161.

39 G. F. W. Hegel, Science of Logic, trans. A. V. Miller (London, 1969), 137–38.

40 Schoenberg, it may be noted, would employ that most “organized” of classical forms, the fugue (or perhaps a fugato, depending on one's definition), in his Genesis Prelude, Op. 44, to depict the state of the cosmos prior to the Creation.

41 L. Kramer, “Haydn's Chaos, Schenker's Order; or, Hermeneutics and Musical Analysis: Can They Mix?,” in 19th Century Music 16 (1992–93): 12.

42 “Briefe an einen Freund über die Musik in Berlin,” Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 8 January 1801, 291.

43 Tovey, Essays, 5:114.

44 I. Kant, Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, tans. and ed. S. L. Jaki (Edinburgh, 1981), 86, 154–55.

45 Tovey, Essays, 5:114.

46 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 176–77.

47 Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Spectator, 8 vols. (London, 1712), 5:493.

48 Kant, Universal Natural History, 82.

49 A. M. Clerke, “Sir William Herschel,” in Dictionary of National Biography, 63 vols., ed. L. Stephen (London, 1885–1900), 26:271.

50 Hörwarthner, “Joseph Haydn's Library,” 428–29.

51 M. Mendelssohn, Morgenstunden, oder, Vorlesungen über das Daseyn Gottes (Berlin, 1786).

52 J. G. Sulzer cited in P. Le Huray and J. Day, ed., Music and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge, 1981), 138.

53 For notable unfavorable reactions to Sulzer, see, for example, J. G. Herder, “Critical Forests, or Reflections on the Art and Science of the Beautiful: First Grove, Dedicated to Mr. Lessing's Laocoön,” in Selected Writings on Aesthetics, trans. and ed. G. Moore (Princeton, 2006), 99; J. W. von Goethe, “ ‘Die schönen Künste in ihrem Ursprung, ihrer wahren Natur und besten Anwendung,’ betrachtet von J. G. Sulzer,” in Goethes Werke. Hamburger Ausgabe in 14 Bänden, 14 vols., ed. E. Trunz et al. (Hamburg, 1964), 12:15–20.

54 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 4:351.

55 Charles Burney, Morning Herald, 29 March 1800, cited in ibid., 574.

56 J. Webster, “The Creation, Haydn's Late Vocal Music, and the Musical Sublime,” in Haydn and His World, ed. E. Sisman (Princeton, 1997), 65.

57 Wangermann, Aufklärung und staatsbürgerliche Erziehung, 15.

58 Adam Wandruszka, “Diskussion,” in Katholische Aufklärung und Josephinismus, ed. E. Kovács (Vienna, 1979), 344.

59 G. W. Leibniz, The Monadology and Other Philosophical Writings, trans. and ed. R. Latta (London, 1971).

60 Stern, “Haydns ‘Schöpfung’,” 163.

61 R. Steblin, A History of Key Characteristics in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (Epping, 1983), 291.

62 Cf., “I fled and cri'd out Death/Hell trembl'd at the hideous Name, and sigh'd/ From all her Caves, and back resounded Death.” in J. Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. C. Ricks (Harmondsworth, UK, 1968), 49.

63 Kramer, “Haydn's Chaos,” 14.

64 A. Pope, An Essay on Man, ed. M. Mack (London, 1950), 132.

65 Griesinger, “Biographische Notizen,” 63.

66 Ibid., 61.

67 B. Willey, The Eighteenth-Century Background: Studies on the Idea of Nature in the Thought of the Period (London, 1940), 4.

68 Wangermann, “Reform Catholicism and Political Radicalism,” 132–33.

69 See, for example, R. J. W. Evans, “Josephinism, ‘Austrianness,’ and the Revolution of 1848,” in The Austrian Enlightenment and Its Aftermath, ed. R. Robertson and E. Timms (Edinburgh, 1991), 145–60; E. Sagarra, “Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach and the Tradition of the Catholic Enlightenment,” in ibid., 117–31.

70 Berlioz to Princess Carolyn von Sayn-Wittgenstein, 8 February 1859, in H. Berlioz, Corréspondance générale, 6 vols., ed. P. Citron, (Paris,1972–95), 5:654.

71 Schlegel cited in Stern, “Haydns ‘Schöpfung’,” 172.

72 Ibid., 172.

73 Nicholas Temperley, Haydn: “The Creation” (Cambridge, 1991), 74, 77.

74 Ibid., 77.

75 Milton, Paradise Lost, 86. Cf., “The gen'ral Order, since the whole began,/Is kept in Nature, and is kept in Man.” in Pope, Essay on Man, 36.

76 Wangermann, “Reform Catholicism and Political Radicalism,” 132.

77 Ibid., 133.

78 Addison and Steele, Spectator 5:293, 492.

79 M. B. and L. M. Price, The Publication of English Literature in Germany in the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley, 1934), 177; M. Mack, introduction to Pope, Essay on Man, xli.

80 Hörwarthner, “Joseph Haydn's Library,” 434.

81 P. Cobenzl, “Souvenirs des différentes époques de ma vie,” Archiv für österreichische Geschichte 67 (1886): 92.

82 Voltaire, Candide, trans. and ed. J. Butt (Harmondsworth, UK, 1947), 79.

83 Tovey, Essays, 5:145–46.

84 S. Levarie, “The Closing Numbers of ‘Die Schöpfung’,” in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Music: A Tribute to Karl Geiringer on His Seventieth Birthday, ed. H. C. Robbins Landon and R. E. Chapman (London, 1970), 315, 317–18.

85 Steblin, History of Key Characteristics, 297.

86 It is rejected, for example, in Temperley, Haydn: The Creation, 49–51.

87 For contrasting views on the question of a unifying tonality to Mozart's operas, see S. Levarie, Mozart's “Le nozze di Figaro”: A Critical Analysis (Chicago, 1952); J. Webster, “Mozart's Operas and the Myth of Musical Unity,” Cambridge Opera Journal 2 (1990): 197–218.

88 Levarie, “The Closing Numbers of ‘Die Schöpfung’,” 316, 320.

89 Temperley, Haydn: “The Creation, 17.

90 Pope, Essay on Man, 44–45.

91 Kant, Universal Natural History, 194.

92 W. A. Kumber, “A ‘New Quickening’: Haydn's The Creation, Wordsworth, and the Pictorialist Imagination,” Studies in Romanticism 30 (1993): 560.

93 Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, trans. and ed. T. Besterman (Harmondsworth, UK, 1972), 317.

94 R. Smith, “Intellectual Contexts of Handel's Oratorios,” in Music in Eighteenth-Century England: Essays in Memory of Charles Cudworth, eds C. Hogwood and R. Luckett (Cambridge, 1983), 126–27.

95 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5:71.

96 J. Locke, “The First Treatise of Government,” in Political Writings, ed. D. Wootton (Harmondsworth, UK, 1993), 243–44; Price and Price, Publication of English Humaniora, xvii–xviii.

97 A. Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 2 vols., ed. W. Freiherr von Löhneysen (Stuttgart, 1960), 2:746, 750.

98 Voltaire, Letters on England, trans. L. Tancock (Penguin, UK, 1980), 120–45.

99 Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 5:129–30.

100 J. Thomson, “The Seasons,” in The Complete Poetical Works of James Thomson, ed. J. L. Robertson (London, 1908), 224.

101 On private vice and public virtue, see, for example, B. Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, ed. P. Harth (Harmondsworth, UK, 1989); A. O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph (Princeton, 1997).

102 G. F. W. Hegel, “The Life of Jesus,” in Three Essays, 1793–1795, trans. and ed. P. Fuss and J. Dobbins (Notre Dame, 1984), 104–65.

103 It is nevertheless intriguing—if ultimately fruitless—to speculate as to the nature of Haydn's projected oratorio on the Last Judgment.

104 More than half of the instrumental Masses composed in Austria between 1750 and 1800 were in the key of C major. Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, 4:400–401.