More than a Sales Pitch: Appendix

The text of Haydn’s famous statement

(by Benjamin Korstvedt)

Haydn’s famous declaration that his Op. 33 Quartets were written in “an entirely new, special manner” appears in a set of letters the composer sent in early December 1781 to several distinguished patrons of music offering them the opportunity to purchase pre-publication manuscript copies of these works.  Three of these letters are extant; apparently several more have been lost.[1] These letters, which were obviously designed to help sell the quartets, were copied by a scribe, presumably working from Haydn’s own text.  They are signed by Haydn.  The letters are not identical, but each of them contains the phrase “an entirely new, special manner.”  Because of the significance that has been ascribed to this turn of phrase, because the formal eighteenth-century German is slightly obscure, and because the most common English rendering is not quite strict, it seems worthwhile to present the relevant text in the original German (reproducing oddities of spelling and capitalization) together with precise English translations.[2]

 

1.  “Derohalben bin ich so frey, deroselben höflichst einen Kleinen auftrag zu thun, weilen mir bekannt, dass in Zürich, Winterthur viele Heern Liebhaber und Groβe Kenner und Gönner der Tonkunst sind, so habe es ohnmöglich verhalten können, dass ein Werck à 6 Quartetten für 2 violin, Alto-viola, violoncello concertante, auf praenumeration à sechs Ducaten correct geschriebener heruasgebe von einer Neue, gantz besonderer Art, denn Zeit 10 Jahren habe Keine geschrieben.”

“Therefore I am taking the liberty of asking you most courteously to place a small order.  Since its known to me that in Zürich [and] Winterthur there are many gentlemen amateurs and great connoisseurs and patrons of music, I certainly cannot conceal [from you] that I am issuing by subscription for the price of six ducats an opus consisting of six quartets, accurately copied, for two violins, alto viola, violoncello concertante, of an entirely new special kind, since I have written none for ten years” (emphasis in the original).

Letter dated Dec. 3, 1781 to Johann Caspar Lavater (Zürich), in Joseph Haydn: Gesammelte Briefe und Aufzeichnungen, ed. Dénes Bartha (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1965), pp. 106-7

 

2.  “Als hohen Gönner und Kenner der Ton Kunst, nehme die Freiheit, meine gantz neue à quadro für 2 Violin, Alto, Violoncello concertante,  Euer hochfürstlichen Durchlaucht auf praenumeration à 6 Ducaten correct geschriebener unterthänigst anzuerbieten: sie sind auf eine gantz neue besondere Art, denn seit 10 Jahren habe ich Keine geschrieben.”

“As a distinguished patron and connoisseur of music, I take the liberty of most respectfully offering to you, Your Noble Princely Eminence, by subscription for the price of six ducats my entirely new quartets for two Violins, Viola,Violoncello concertant:  they are [composed] in an entirely new special manner, since I have written none for ten years.

Letter dated Dec. 3, 1781 to Prince Kraft Ernst von Oettingen-Wallerstein, in Joseph Haydn: Gesammelte Briefe und Aufzeichnungen, p. 107-8

 

3.  “Euer Hochwürden und Gnaden, als hohen Gönner und Kenner der Ton Kunst, nehme die Freyheit, meine gantz neue verfertigte à quadro a 2. violin, viola, et violoncello concertante,  auf praenumeration a 6. Ducaten correct geschriebener untertanig anzuerbieten: sie sind auf eine gantz neu Besondere Art, denn zeit 10 Jahren habe ich Keine geschrieben.”

“Your reverence and grace, as a distinguished patron and connoisseur of music, I take the liberty of respectfully offering to you, by subscription for the price of six ducats my entirely newly produced quartets for two Violins, Viola, Violoncello concertant:  they are [composed] in an entirely new special manner, since I have written none for ten years.”

Letter dated Dec. 3, 1781 to Robert Schlecht, Abbot of Salmannsweiler in Baden, quoted in Georg Feder, Haydns Streichquartette: Ein musikalischer Werkführer (Munich: Beck, 1998),  pp. 55-6.  The letter was first published by Georg Feder as “Ein vergessener HaydnBrief,” Haydn-Studien 1 (1966), pp. 114-16.

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[1] H.C. Robbins Landon and David Wyn Jones, Haydn: His Life and Music, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), p. 192

[2] Somewhat free translations of all three letters may be found in H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works, vol. 2, Haydn at Esterhàza 1766-1790, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), pp. 554-55

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