You are here

Haydn's Lieder of 1781

Haydn Lieder (1781) title page detail

XII Lieder fur as Clavier, erster Teil (1781), HXXVIa:1-12
Wienn : Heraus gegeben und zu haben bey Artaria Comp., [approximately 1781]

Stanford University Libraries, Memorial Library of Music, MLM 499

Link to downloadable images of this work 

The Lieder were among the first works requested for publication by Haydn’s Austrian publisher, Artaria & Co., with whom he began a relationship at the end of the 1770s.  Artaria announced publication of this first set of Lieder in December 1781 (the second set followed in 1784), possibly to coincide with the festivities surrounding the Grand Tour of Russian Grand Duke Paul (later Tzar Paul II) and his entourage, including the Count and Countess von Norden. Other works published around this time were the highly praised op. 33 quartets. Both the Lieder and the op. 33 quartets represent a break from Haydn's more studious earlier works; the tribute to laziness that is "Lob der Faulheit" (in the second set of Lieder) in particular, has been singled out for its wit and overall affect.

Austrian culture had been dominated by Italian and French music, and there was a movement afoot to elevate German music to its rightful place alongside. Artaria thus may also have been trying to compete with German song compilations being issued by the Imperial Printer Kurzböck; Haydn even set several of the same texts that were set by Friebert in those rival compilations.

Haydn was enthusiastic about his decidedly charming songs.  He wrote to Artaria: 

"I assure you that these Lieder perhaps surpass all my previous ones in variety, naturalness, and ease of vocal execution."

The German press was disinclined to praise these Austrian publications, due to the German texts chosen, which were thought to lack literary merit and thus were unworthy of Haydn’s growing fame as a composer:

"These Lieder are not quite worthy of a Haydn. Presumably however he did not write them in order to increase his fame, but to give pleasure only to connoisseurs, male and female, of a certain kind.  No one will therefore doubt that Herr Haydn could have made these Lieder better, if he had wanted to.  Whether he should not have done so in the first place is another question" – Cramer’s Magazin der Musik, 1783.

The Lieder sets of 1781 and 1784 are generally overshadowed today, both by Haydn’s later Canzonettas (1794-5; see MLM 492 & 493) and by the art of the song cycle, which was soon to find flower in the hands of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Wolf.

The Music Library has several recordings of selections from the 1781 and 1784 Lieder sets. Stanford readers may also access a number of streaming recordings through our streaming media databases.

TItle page of the Lieder, first set (1781) 
TIlte page of the first set of Lieder, 1781

With thanks to Astrid Smith, Rare Book and Special Collections Digitization Specialist, and the Digital Production Group for providing downloadable images of this item.