During Joseph Haydn’s two hugely successful visits to London as composer and performer (1791/2 and 1794/5) he made friends with a number of women. All were admirers of his music, some were musicians, privately or professionally, some were writers and composers. All of them responded to Haydn’s charm, in spite of his fairly poor grasp of English, and this concert project tells the story of his key relationships with five of those women through the music associated with them. Some of the relationships are preserved through notes and letters, some only through the music itself or other writers’ references to it, and over all of these friendships is cast the long shadow of Haydn’s unhappy marriage to the sister of the woman he had really hoped to wed.
Haydn’s London Ladies – Rebecca Schroeter, Anne Hunter, Therese Jansen, Harriet Abrams and Emma (Lady) Hamilton – inspired his music, but their stories are also interesting because they illustrate how precarious the social position of women was at this time. They were still reliant on family or the right kind of husband for status and income. Those making any kind of commercial living were regarded with suspicion, and even the most comfortable were subject to swift and sudden changes of fortune, as the individual stories of these Ladies demonstrate.
In addition to various of Haydn’s Canzonettas, the repertoire for this recital includes his cantata Arianna a Naxos, solo piano music and songs by composed Haydn’s colleague and friend, Harriet Abrams. Here is a full length video recording of Arianna a Naxos from a performance at St. Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, on 20 September 2016:
Haydn’s London Ladies was first performed at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square London WC1N 1AZ on 25 May, 2013.