Birth order, some experts tell us, is definitely a factor in adult success. No doubt other experts will tell us it’s meaningless. But it’s hard not to think that Johann Michael Haydn didn’t sometimes wish he’d been the firstborn – maybe he’d be as famous as his big brother Franz Joseph.
But Michael – born this date in 1737 – was no slouch in any case. He was Kapellmeister in Salzburg most of his life and produced instrumental music that included 25 symphonies and 12 concerti, more than 400 pieces of sacred music and more than 200 secular vocal compositions.
How good was Michael Haydn? Good enough to be Mozart, apparently. Haydn’s Symphony No. 25 for years was thought to be by Mozart and referred to as his Symphony No. 37 (K.444). But it’s all about name value in music as in everything else – when 37, which had been performed frequently, turned out to be 25, it dropped out of the repertoire.
The best thing about the Haydn brothers though is that they stayed friends all their lives, each always having great respect for the other’s abilities.
Happily, there are some performances of Michael’s works on YouTube, and while searching for them, I discovered something called the Seattle Girls Choir. The Choir began in 1982, started as a ‘junior conservatory’ by its founder, Dr. Jerome L. Wright, for girls 6-18 in the Puget Sound area, They seem to know their stuff – they sing all over the world and even came in first in a choral competition in Wales, no less. Here they are opening the Salzburg Music Festival in 2009 (though the acoustics could be a little better) with some Michael Haydn: