Let me start with a sad but beautiful story from classical music lore. Last night, I decided to tell it on Twitter.
Joseph Haydn was the father Mozart never had. You know: the father who wasn’t a total prick.
Haydn was 24 years older than the younger composer. Mozart was very protective of Haydn. When Haydn was preparing for a trip to England in 1791, Mozart begged him not to go
He was afraid the older man (58 years old!) would get ill and die. But Haydn went anyway. Mozart died while Haydn was in England.
Haydn lived almost 2 decades longer, dying in 1809 at the age of 77.
With Haydn on my mind, I started listening to a playlist of his work. And I came upon “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.” But I knew it as a different song: “Deutschlandlied” with the beginning lyrics, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.” I had no idea!
This shouldn’t come as a shock, however. People do this all the time. “The Star-Spangled Banner” uses the tune of John Stafford Smith’s “The Anacreontic Song.”
Indeed, “Deutschlandlied” has been the German national anthem from 1922, but they only use the third stanza, which is about unity, justice, and freedom. Supposedly, the song was never intended to be about Germany conquering other countries but rather the desire for German unification.
It’s a little weird to think that Joseph Haydn wrote the German national anthem when he was Austrian. But do you know who else was Austrian? Right. So it’s all good.
Here is Haydn’s “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser”:
Note that I did not hear “Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser.” Haydn uses the melody as the basis of of the second movement of his string quartet Opus 76 No 3.
Image cropped from the John Hoppner portrait of Haydn in England in 1791. It is in the public domain.