Season Five concert 3 • Dedicated to Haydn VI
Quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Hänsel
Saturday, January 7, 2012 at 4pm; St Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco
Sunday, Januray 8, 2012 at 4pm; All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Palo Alto
The bearer of this letter is one of my pupils in
composition, by the name of Haensel, a charming young man of the best
character, and also a good violin player. He has asked me to introduce him to
you, so that if necessary you can lend him a helping hand. You will see how
talented he is by examining his three new Quartets. He is in the service of the
Polish Princess Lubomirsky, and for that reason I suggest that you treat him
Haydn wrote this introduction in December of 1802 to his
student Ignaz Pleyel, on behalf of Peter Hänsel, who carried it to Paris where Pleyel
had been publishing Haydn's quartets. In the 1790's Pleyel and Haydn were both
in London, set up by rival concert promoters as enemies on stage, but
nevertheless they remained loyal friends and colleagues, attending each other's
concerts and dining together. Now Pleyel was engaged in the first
"collected" edition of Haydn's quartets in parts. Haydn was grateful
to his former pupil for this effort, prophesying that "because of their
beautiful engraving, the paper—and the fact that they are so correct—as well as
their general appearance, you will be remembered for them forever." And
Haydn was correct. Because his sources were sometimes far from Haydn's
originals, Pleyel's somewhat arbitrary groupings and numberings (judged by
current standards) have required generations of scholarship to straighten out.
But they remain the standard identifiers of the quartets to this day.
In Haydn's letter on behalf of Hänsel we see 18th century
networking in action. The Polish Princess Izabella Lubomirska (1736–1816) was
an influential, free-thinking, and free-spending patroness of the arts in
Vienna. She had caught the eye of Casanova and of Goethe, and Hänsel himself
referred to her as “unforgettable”. It seems in character for Haydn to
recommend to Pleyel that he make himself useful to Hänsel not only on his own
recommendation, but for the connection it would afford Pleyel to the Princess.
It was not what you knew but whom you knew, in sæcula sæculorum.
Peter Hänsel (1770–1831) wrote almost exclusively chamber
music, tailored to the musicians in the employ of his Princess, a keyboard
player, and her son, a harpist. His 58 string quartets seem to have his own
playing in mind as the first violinist. As another example of networking, the
set of three published at the beginning of 1799 as his Opus 5 were dedicated
“to Mr. Joseph Haydn, to show his keen gratitude, by his devoted Servant and
Pupil Pierre Hänsel”. With this work, and Mozart’s Dissonant Quartet, we close for now our survey of quartets
dedicated to Haydn during his lifetime.