Haydn lived an interesting life indeed. As the Grove Dictionary Online
so succinctly puts it: “Any attempt to give an account of Haydn’s life is bound to fall short of complete ness. There are periods about which virtually nothing is known.” What we do know, however, paints a portrait of a man who knew the hardships of penurious life as well as the splendor of wealth.
Like most other composers of his day, Haydn began as a choirboy in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, where he also studied organ, composition and violin. He is reputed to have been “…a lively boy with a natural bent for humor and prac tical joking.” This jocularity would appear time and again in Haydn’s later compositions.
After leaving choir school, Haydn lived as a freelance musician, accepting gigs as they came, supplementing his income by teaching young pupils. It is clear that Haydn lived the classic Bohemian life: there were times when he had no money for food, fuel and even lodging—living for various intervals with friends or on the street.
Good fortune came to him soon enough when the Prince Esterhazy, of the ruling family of Hungary offered Haydn the position of Kappellmeister. Later, Haydn came to be the most celebrated composer in Europe: concerts of his music in London sold out weeks ahead and earned him great wealth and fame.
The Cantilena pro Adventu
is a simple, charming work for soprano solo, strings and two horns whose text reflects the humility attributed to the virgin Mary. Its form is an A-B-A song form; an extended exposition is followed by a shorter middle section (in this case a mere 22 measures). The A section is then repeated in the manner of the 18th century with ornamentation by the singer.