The Haydn orchestra


The Haydn orchestra


My research is based on the following academic works:
PRATL, Josef and SCHECK, Heribert: Esterházysche Musik-Dokumente. Die Musikdokumente in den Esterházyschen Archiven und Sammlungen in Forchtenstein und Budapest. 
I would like to mention that the digital database of Dr Walter Reicher was made available to me in the months before publication.

The following literature was used for additional information:
BARTHA, Denes und SOMFAI, László: Haydn als Opernkapellmeister.
HARICH, Janos: Das Opernensemble zu Eszterháza im Jahr 1780. 
HARICH, Janos: Das Repertoire des Opernkapellmeisters Joseph Haydn in Eszterháza (1780–1790). Haydn 
ALTENBURG, Detlef: Haydn und die Tradition der italienischen Oper. 
TANK, Ulrich: Studien zur Esterházyschen Hofmusik von etwas 1620 bis 1790. 

There are few composers in music history who had such a close relationship over a long period of time as Joseph Haydn did with his chamber orchestra. It is not necessary now to provide numbers, for example how many symphonies there were here and how many concerts there. Haydn’s orchestral compositions – and that includes operas, of course – would be unthinkable without this ensemble, which was certainly one of the best in Europe at the time. The following two examples illustrate how much Haydn trusted his orchestra: first, in the operas L’isola disabitata and La fedeltà premiata, Haydn subsequently changed the orchestration in order to defuse certain passages and thus make them more easily playable for other orchestras. Second, Haydn reacted to a musician leaving the orchestra by cutting out solos (the horn solo in the opera La fedeltà premiata, probably due to Martin Rupp leaving the chamber music orchestra at the end of September 1781). Therefore, it is time to put Haydn’s orchestra in the spotlight alongside the singer ensemble and bring the great musicians before the curtain, such as Luigi Tomasini, the legendary concert master. 
With the appointment of Joseph Haydn as vice kapellmeister at the court of Prince Paul Anton Esterházy on 1 May 1761, the instrumental ensemble also underwent a major transformation.1 From 1761, Prince Paul Anton divided the music, including the instrumental ensembles, into two independent orchestras: Chor Music, directed by Gregor Werner as Ober Capellmeister, and the Hoff, Staats ... Tafel und Cammer Music, headed2 by Haydn as Vice Capellmeister, which was also responsible for operas, among other things.
While the Chor Music was limited to church services, the Cameral Music had more diverse tasks to perform. It also had to follow the court, which meant that it played in other places. Besides Eisenstadt and Esterház, it also performed in Vienna, Kittsee and Pressburg. In principle, these musicians had to be available to the prince day and night and had to play all genres, from chamber music to symphonies and operas.3

Joseph Haydn effectively conducted the orchestra from two positions.
When they played concerts, he conducted from the first stand as concert master. This explains why the ingenious and probably much better violinist Tomasini was only allowed the title of concert master4 from 1790. However, when he conducted opera performances, he did so from the harpsichord. But this is by no means an indication that the harpsichord was consistently used in operas, as still wrongly happens today. This is also true for symphonies. Haydn only used figured basses in those places that should really be played by the harpsichord, for example in church music. There, he figured the organ parts of his masses very well. The continuo parts of the operas also contain figures everywhere.5 
The following section contains a brief outline of Haydn’s opera orchestra in terms of orchestration, cast strength and other distinctive features within the three periods.

Period I 1762-1775
Period I shows the greatest distinctive features. First of all, there is the size of the orchestra, which increased over the years, but in Period I actually only had an ensemble character.
Four essential instrumental characteristics of the orchestra of Period I stand out.
The flute: From Acide (1763) to Le pescatrici (1770), Haydn used two flutes, which are temporarily – or even completely, as in La canterina (1766) – played on the oboe. In L’infedeltà delusa (1773), Acide II (1774) and L’incontro improvviso (1775), Haydn dispensed with it completely – probably inevitably, as after Franz Sigl’s departure, the position of flautist remained vacant for a long time.
The English horn: Unfortunately, it cannot be explained why Haydn used the English horn so relatively frequently in Period I but not afterwards. It was certainly not due to new oboists or other external factors. It would seem that Haydn no longer found any musical use for the English horn in Periods II and III.  
The bassoon: It seems that Haydn did not attach great importance to the use of the bassoon, but this is only at first glance. In due course, I plan to publish my findings on this. For the moment, let this suffice: the bassoonist(s) knew exactly when and what they had to do. The payrolls regarding the premieres of the first two operas include one bassoonist who certainly doubled on the bass, which was particularly important in the opera La canterina (1766). At that time, Haydn did not have a contrabassist available, which is why the score combined the cello and the contrabass in one system and referred to this as basso. From the third opera Lo speziale (1768), the bassoon is notated separately. From the opera L’infedeltà delusa, there are two of them. In Periods II and III, there was again a lack of bassoonists. 
Timpani and trumpets: The use of timpani and trumpets had been a long time in coming. When the time came, it was done in a very measured way. Haydn also later resorted to this ‘acoustic pomp’ in moderation and mostly when it was not expected. At first, there was no timpanist on the payroll. From 1771, Caspar Peczival (also a bassoonist) was the timpanist and was to accompany Haydn until the final opera. Trumpeters, on the other hand, were never involved in the chamber music of any of Haydn’s opera premieres. The timpani were used for the first  time in the opera L’infedeltà delusa (1773) but not trumpets. High C-horns6 took over this part. It was not until L’incontro improvviso (1775) that the combination of timpani and trumpet found its way into Haydn’s opera scores. For this, Haydn probably hired foreign trumpets such as the Stadt Thurner Meister. What is also noticeable is the use of Janissary music in the opera L’incontro impovviso, with which Haydn gave the opera an oriental flavour in line with the musical fashion of the time. This had already started in a rudimentary fashion in the opera Lo speziale.
The size of the orchestra and strength of the strings: Haydn’s first complete opera, : festa teatrale (1763), was premiered with an ensemble of 11 musicians. The string parts were all simply cast as a quintet. In the next opera, La canterina, Haydn only had 10 musicians available. The last opera of the first period, L’incontro improvviso (1775), was performed with an orchestra of 15 musicians. Eight of them were strings in a line-up of three first violins, two second violins, a viola, a cello and a contrabass.

Period II 1776-1779
With the start of regular theatre productions in the prince’s palace theatre at Esterház, the ensemble increased in size slowly but steadily.
While 15 musicians were employed in the final opera of Period I, the first opera of Period II,  (1777), had as many as 21 musicians. The strings had a respectable line-up of four first violins, three second violins, a viola, a violoncello and two contrabasses. This size of the orchestra was roughly retained in Period II.
Apart from the absence of a second bassoonist from the opera La vera costanza (1773) onwards and the one-time use of the trumpets in Il mondo della luna, there were no other significant features.  

Period III 1780-1785
Regarding the size of the orchestra, one can notice another small jump from Period II to Period III. The orchestra for La fedeltà premiata: dramma giocoso (1781) already had 23 musicians. Haydn was able to roughly maintain this size. This allowed five to six first violins, four second violins, two violas, two violoncellos and one or two contrabasses, i.e. around 16 strings altogether.
There is one more distinctive feature to report in Armida: dramma eroico (1784), which is the modest but first and, at the same time, only use of two clarinets. This can be ascribed to the re-establishment of the Feldbandaby the clarinettist Adam Dobner on 3 May 1783.

General information on the orchestra at the time:: 
What is unthinkable today but quite common back then is musicians who had mastered several instruments, such as Joseph Dietzl the younger (a violinist but actually French horn player) or Carl Schiringer (violinist and bassoonist), or (average) singers who also appeared as orchestral musicians, such as Christian Sprecht or Vito Ungricht, both as violists.
On the payrolls that were used for my research, many musicians are listed under instrument groups that they rarely or never played. The main reason for this was monetary: some instruments were financially better than others. Singers received even more money. At that time, it was customary for oboists to also know how to play the flute. This can be seen in the fact the other group always has tacet (pause), unless, according to the payroll, there was a flautist, e.g. Franz Sigl or later Zacharias Hirsch, the only two orchestra musicians explicitly employed as flautists. In the final operas, two flutes and two oboes were even used in parallel, although the payrolls only show one flautist. Since the payrolls also include only two oboists, it must be assumed that an external flautist was hired on a temporary basis for individual works. The oboists also took over the English horns.
The use of the violins, violas and violones is also interesting. It is worth reading a letter from Haydn to the prince’s secretary Anton Scheffstos(s) dated 22 December 1768, which explicitly discusses a problem with the second violins. In any case, payrolls made no distinction between first and second violins and violists were not listed separately or could not be listed as such, since the viola was not yet particularly respected as an instrument. Haydn, however, envisaged an important role for this instrument for the middle voice. This is evidenced by the instrumentation in Le pescatrici and even more so by Haydn’s famous Applausus letter in which he wrote: ‘Please, the two violas should be constantly played, because in some cases the middle part requires to be heard more than the upper part; you will also see in all my compositions that the same rarely goes along with the bass.’7
Something similar, albeit in exactly the opposite way, applied to the French horns. The reputation of the French horns was much greater than that of the strings. They were also better paid than, for example, the violins. For this reason, it is no wonder that there were sometimes up to six French horn players. It was even more extreme with singers like Specht or Ungricht. Of course, a singer was paid better than an orchestral musician, even if he seldom appeared as a singer and sat in the orchestra most of the time.
In place of all the orchestral musicians, most of whose biographies have not survived, a musician will be presented here who, like no other, is a symbol of the immense quality of this ensemble – from the first day that Haydn began his work until the last!

Luigi (Aloysius) Tomasini or ‘my brother, Luigi Fex’8
Luigi (Aloysius) Tomasini (22 June 1741, died 25 April 1808), concert master by profession, arrived at the court in 1757, at that time still as a valet. Tomasini was first included in the salary list as a musician in June 1761, after Haydn had taken over the management a month earlier.
A quote by Janos Harich describes the importance of Tomasini perfectly: ‘Since its establishment and then for half a century, the Haydn Orchestra was headed by the highly talented virtuoso Tomasini, favourite violinist of Prince Nikolaus, prime violinist of intimate chamber music, a close friend of Haydn, popular and highly esteemed by his colleagues as well as by the other princely officials and residents of the city of Eisenstadt.’9
Haydn’s music would be different without Tomasini. Tomasini’s art is most noticeable in the quartets composed up until the London period, as well as the violin concertos, string duos and trios. How much Haydn relied on Tomasini is shown by the musical and instrumental defusing of certain parts of the opera L’isola disabitata (especially the finale). This is wrongly recognised as the newer version, which Haydn also brought to publication and to print (Breitkopf und Härtel). However, anyone who really considers both versions seriously will clearly know that Haydn played it safe and avoided solos that obviously did not produce the desired effect and would probably overburden future interpreters / orchestra musicians.
Given the present ability of orchestras, this caution is no longer appropriate.
However, what really played out musically between Haydn and Tomasini can only be assumed. Here are some figures: Tomasini led 12 of the 13 operas by Joseph Haydn as concert master in addition to the 78 other operas in which he also had to play. He produced around 70 symphonies with Haydn, as well as instrumental concerts, chamber music, and much more. This artistic partnership might be unparalleled in the history of music.


An important note about positioning and seating arrangements. As the famous picture shows, the musicians were arranged around a table in front of the stage.


1. Periode


1. Periode


1. Periode


1. Periode


1. Periode


1. Periode


4. Periode


4. Periode


5. Periode


5. Periode


5. Periode
Hob.I:53 "L'Impériale"


5. Periode


5. Periode


5. Periode
Hob.I:73 "La chasse"


8. Periode


8. Periode


8. Periode


8. Periode
Hob.I:92 "Oxford"


10. Periode


10. Periode




I. Periode
I. Periode
I. Periode
I. Periode
La canterina
I. Periode
I. Periode
Lo speziale
I. Periode
I. Periode
Le pescatrici
I. Periode
I. Periode
II. Periode
II. Periode
II. Periode
II. Periode
Il mondo della luna
II. Periode
III. Periode
III. Periode
La fedeltà premiata
III. Periode
Orlando paladino
III. Periode
III. Periode
La vera costanza II