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HAYDN LOOKS AFTER HIS OBOISTS

The relationship between Haydn and his patron Prince Nicolaus Esterházy must be one of the most fruitful in the history of European classical music. Nicolaus was so keen on encouraging the Arts that he was willing to cut corners in maintaining his Palace, and Haydn was able to use his support over some thirty years as a basis for continual experimentation.

This is not to say that the relationship between Artist and Patron was like it is today. The extreme level of dependence Haydn had on his employer, and his skill at operating within it, are amply demonstrated in this letter, sent to Nicolaus with the score of six baryton trios on December 6th 1766:

"MOST SERENE HIGHNESS AND NOBLE PRINCE OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, GRACIOUS AND DREAD LORD!
The most joyous occasion of your name-day (may YOUR HIGHNESS celebrate it in divine Grace and enjoy it in complete well-being and felicity!) obliges me not only to deliver to you in profound submission six new Divertimenti, but also to say we were delighted to receive, a few days ago, our new Winter clothes - and submissively to kiss the hem of your robe for this especial act of grace...
"Incidentally, the two oboe players report (and I myself must agree with them) that their oboes are so old that they are collapsing, and no longer keep the proper pitch [tonum]; for this reason, I would humbly point out to YOUR HIGHNESS that there is a master Rockobauer in Vienna, who in my opinion is the most skilful for this sort of work. But because this master is continually busy with work of this kind, and since it requires an exceptionally long time to complete a pair of good and durable oboes with an extra length of reed pipe (as a result of which, however, all the necessary notes can be produced) - for these reasons the cheapest price is eight ducats. I therefore await YOUR HIGHNESS' gracious consent whether the above-mentioned and most urgently needed two oboes may be constructed for the price indicated. I hope for your favour and grace,
"YOUR SERENE AND GRACIOUS HIGHNESS'
most humble
Joseph Haydn"


H C Robbins Landon reports in his book Haydn, his life and music that the next day brought twelve ducats from Nicolaus. Robbins Landon suggests that the new oboes were ready by September 1st 1768, when the virtuoso Vittorino Colombazzo was engaged, and Haydn brought him to Nicolaus' attention by writing his 38th Symphony with a prominent oboe solo in the Trio section. This solo includes a d flat', which is perhaps where the 'extra length' referred to by Haydn comes in.


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