During my research into Joseph Haydn's life I came across a text by Carl Ferdinand Becker from 1836 which cannot be translated literally because of its old language style, but to give you the gist of it, it goes like this:
"A work like this can never be really finished, but to my excuse I tried to dive into the sources and literature as deeply as possible and corresponding to my means. I have to admit that most probably I missed some sources of interest or did not have the time to go through every detail. Therefore I ask for your kind indulgence in this case and renew my solicitation as to send me any corrections, addenda and the like. I will accept them with utmost gratitude and include them into my work as soon as possible."
Please feel free to act accordingly. Thank you very much in advance!
The situation concerning the primary sources about Haydn's life is more than dissatisfying. Apart from Haydn's letters and the London notebooks there is only little evidence of his daily life and its circumstances. Thanks to the incredible archival work of Dr Joseph Pratl and Dr Heribert Scheck the Haydn community learned about the Esterházy musical documents which in many cases also give insights into Haydn's work at the Esterházy court and the financial and legal aspects of the court orchestra and its musicians.
But there is also a lot of biographical literature on Haydn which is full of anecdotes, speculations, and unproven statements. This is why I tried to find out the facts or at least collect the most plausible facts by a process of elimination, and thus provide the necessary information for further music-historical research.
The following chronological list also gives the reader/user by its clarity a glimpse into the context of the life and works of Joseph Haydn.
As to a Haydn biography – apart from all research until the present day – there are five comtemporary writers who tried, each one in his own style, to give the music-loving public of the early 19th century a view into the life of Joseph Haydn. The first three were more or less close friends who knew Haydn personally, especially in the last years of his life. These "biographies" were written from a very personal point of view so that we cannot rely in every detail on these sources. And what is worse, these "biographers" were uncritically cited by generations of music-historians to come. But as I mentioned earlier, regarding the lack of material we are grateful to have at least these sources.
The contemporary biographers and their works in order of reliability are
1) Griesinger, Georg August: Biographische Notizen über Joseph Haydn, Leipzig 1810.
2) Dies, Albert Christoph: Biographische Nachrichten von Joseph Haydn. Nach mündlichen Erzählungen desselben entworfen und herausgegeben von ~, Wien 1810.
3) Carpani, Giuseppe: Le Haydine. Ovvero lettere su la vita e le opere del celebre maestro Giuseppe Haydn di ~, Milano 1812.
4) Framéry, Nicolas-Etienne: Notice sur Joseph Haydn, associé étranger de l'Institut de France, membre de la classe des beaux-arts, Contenant quelques Particularités de sa Vie privée, relatives à sa Personne ou à ses Ouvrages, Paris 1810.
5) Lebreton, Joachim: Notice his[t]orique sur la vie et les ouvrages de Joseph Haydn, lue dans la séance publique de l'Institut, du 6 octobre 1810, in: Bibliographie Musicale de la France et de l'ètranger..., Paris 1822, p. 350-371.
You will find theses sources on this website under the menu item "Documents".
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