Joseph Haydn and Enlightenment Work
Presenter: Nicholas Mathew is Associate Professor and Weisman Schutt Chair in Music at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Political Beethoven and co-editor, with Benjamin Walton, of the volume The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini. He has been editor of the journal Eighteenth-Century Music and currently sits on the advisory board of Eighteenth-Century Studies. His current book project is about the music of the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn and urban commercial life in eighteenth-century London and Vienna.
Description: One of the numbers that provoked the most perplexed commentary among contemporary reports on Joseph Haydn's late oratorio The Seasons was the Trio and Chorus from Autumn, “In Praise of Industry.” This paper traces the complex ideological origins of this number in order, ultimately, to explore the origins of the lofty romantic work concept—in the changing conceptions of human labor and artistic production that Haydn personally experienced during his years in London's wildly commercial music scene. The choral veneration of work in The Seasons had its ideological precursor in the famous poem by James Thomson on which Gottfried Baron van Swieten based his libretto—and thence to a distinctive Restoration intellectual and institutional culture in which labor provided the foundational premise of ethics, government, and early discourses of political economy. The implicit sacralization of the work of the artist in Haydn's other late oratorio, The Creation—a work whose self-promotion and reception overtly confounded the work of its mortal creator and the divine Creator Himself—might thus be understood as a musical performance of a distinction that would eventually preoccupy nineteenth-century aesthetics: that between artistic creativity and “mere” manufacture, artist and artisan, and thus the spheres of the aesthetic and the economic.