Research article
Issue: № 9 (111), 2021


Научная статья

Линь Цай*


Шанхайский университет Цзяо Тун, Шанхай, Китай

* Корреспондирующий автор (992514831[at]qq.com)


Музыка Франца Йозефа Гайдна признана остроумной и юмористической, полной здорового, простого и непринужденного интереса, его уникальный музыкальный стиль был подчеркнут в его инструментальных произведениях. В данной статье предпринята попытка исследовать формирование комического стиля в музыке Гайдна, которое будет включать влияние эпохи Просвещения XVIII века, барокко и языка оперы в XVIII веке. Гайдн вкладывал комедию во все свое музыкальное творчество, придавая ей важность как музыкальному стилю, из которого мы можем ясно наблюдать процесс от простой игривости до комедии. В статье определяется разнообразие в его приемах комического выражения и комических эффектах. комический характер музыки Гайдна можно ясно проследить как в его фортепианных произведениях, так и музыке струнного квартета или симфониях.

Ключевые слова: Гайдн, комедия, Венская классическая школа, Просвещение, барокко.


Research article

Lin Cai *


Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China

* Corresponding author (992514831[at]qq.com)


Franz Joseph Haydn's music is recognized as witty and humorous, full of healthy, simple and relaxed interest. This personal music style has been highlighted in his instrumental works. This paper attempts to explore the formation of comic style in Haydn's music, which will involve the influence of the 18th century Enlightenment, Baroque spirit and the language of opera in the 18th century. Haydn put comedy throughout his music creation, making comedy his important music style, from which we can clearly observe the process from simple playfulness to comedy. It is recognized that his comic expression techniques and comic effects are diversified. No matter in his piano works, string quartet music or symphonies, we can clearly feel the comic temperament of his music.

Keywords: Haydn, comedy, Viennese Classical School, Enlightenment, Baroque.


Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is one of the three masters of Viennese Classical School in the 18th century. He has made indelible contributions to the standardization of classical symphony structure and the establishment of string quartet form. For a long time, Haydn's music has been recognized as having the temperament of wit and humor, full of healthy, simple and relaxed interest. However, in the research, the formation of Haydn's comic style in music has not been deeply discussed from the perspective of music history and aesthetics, and there is no clear explanation for the reasons for this comic style.

From the perspective of music history, the comic expression of music follows the law of its own development and has gone through different stages. It is not difficult to find that the classical period is the golden age of comic expression in music, and the three masters of classical music have left a huge fortune to future generations in this respect. Among them, Haydn is particularly prominent. He has diversified comedy creation talents and makes comedy the central embodiment of his musical style. On the other hand, comedy, as an important category in general aesthetic research, is reflected in a variety of art categories. For example, there have been specific studies on comedy expression in the literary field. Unfortunately, when reflected in music, there is very little discussion about comedic music.

In view of the above, the main purpose of this paper is to explore the cause of the important style of comedy in Haydn's music. It will involve the influence of the Enlightenment in the 18th century, the influence of Baroque spirit and the influence of the language of comic opera in the 18th century, so as to explain the era and social background of Haydn's comedy music style.

The influence of the Enlightenment on German and Austrian music in the 18th century

As we all know, the 17th and 18th centuries coincided with the rise of capitalism and the disintegration of feudalism in Europe. The European history at this stage is not only the revolutionary history of the bourgeoisie, but also the great development period of the European bourgeois culture. In the field of ideology, the bourgeoisie Enlightenment which is in line with this historical development trend also flourishes. The connotation of the Enlightenment is very extensive, involving all cultural fields, including music.

Historically, the Enlightenment inherited and developed the humanism spirit of the 16th century Renaissance, which opposed the theocracy of the Middle Ages and put forward a human-centered world view. The further establishment and consolidation of the capitalist mode of production in the 18th century made the foundation of the Enlightenment more consolidated than that of the Renaissance in the 16th century, and the anti-feudal and anti-church thoughts of the bourgeoisie became more clear and more thorough. However, due to the different political and cultural backgrounds of different countries, the Enlightenment presents different conditions. Germany in the 18th century was called the Holy Roman Empire, but in fact it was in a state of disintegration. The feudal separatist state that experienced the Thirty Years' War greatly hindered the development of capitalism, so the development of capitalism in Germany was relatively slow. It was not until the Sturm und Drang of the 1770s that capitalism developed rapidly. But perhaps it is this situation that makes German music as it moves towards the classical style show its fusion of Baroque, its absorption of Rococo, and its absorption of many valuable elements. All of Haydn's string quartets reflect such a development process, from playful and single music to sensitive and witty music step by step. Affection and rationality in which get a high degree of unity, content and form to achieve a perfect combination. In this way, the goals of the German Enlightenment for art were gradually realized.

The most important nature of the Enlightenment is secularization and popularization. In music, musicians at that time pursued simple, popular and generally acceptable music for the public. Therefore, on the one hand, the bourgeoisie opposed the pomp and exaggeration of court art, showing their pursuit of the ideal of simplicity, but on the other hand, the French court flavor of Rococo style also attracted the Germans with rational tradition [1, P. 571]. The Germans yearn for the music with French sensitivity but not falling into the ritual stereotypes, and want to form a rational and perceptual music neutralization body, which can be well reflected in Haydn's music.

With the development of the Enlightenment in the 18th century, people also have a new pursuit of the beauty of music. The Baroque music of the 17th century is devoted to the expression of some basic affection types, while the 18th century is an era of emphasizing rationality. People are more in pursuit of the authenticity of emotion, the pleasant and elegant sound, the reasonable order of emotion and the strict logic of development, and are committed to the description of emotional development. In order to meet the requirements of the middle class – the music of both refined and popular tastes, on the one hand, the music language began to become simple, and on the other hand, it did not lose the deepening of ideological content. Composers of that time, such as Haydn and Mozart, all participated in the Freemasons, and they had a clear requirement for their music to be close to life. Therefore, their works can be seen in the use of a large number of folk music elements, such as folk tunes, conversational writing and bold ridicule, which indicates that music creation is widely open to the public. In other words, this tendency of secularization is just a manifestation of the spirit of comedy, which greatly expands people's imagination and breaks people's rigid understanding of the beauty of music. Playful, naughty and mischievous music language is quietly entering serious music.

Haydn's inheritance and transformation of Baroque instrumental music language

Undoubtedly, the antireligious reform movement promoted the formation of Baroque, under the intense stimulation of religious struggle, the quiet, elegant and harmonious atmosphere we had been longing for gradually faded away, replaced by fanatical emotion and dramatic expression. The "drama fever" of this period is the best explanation, and drama also became the synonym of Baroque spirit. Interestingly, the Baroque spirit was soon embodied in some 18th century instrumental music. The opera art in the Baroque period made many people feel the drama of music. Drama provides a strong contrast, which can be reflected in dynamic, tempo, rhythm, timbre, harmony, texture, tonality and other aspects, or can be a comprehensive embodiment of these factors. Comedy is a dramatic expression, and change and contrast are indispensable to them. The difference is that the comedic contrast is more subtle and unexpected. Haydn, who was born in the 1730s, inherited the dramatic spirit of the Baroque boldly and realized the comic transformation of the dramatic spirit.

In addition, in order to meet the needs of the development of new style, Haydn also creatively transformed the Baroque music language and music texture, which mainly refers to the application of polyphonic texture and irregular syntax in the Baroque period. As we all know, the texture of Baroque music is mainly polyphonic. Due to the use of basso continuo, polyphony in this period has become counterpoint with harmony as the pillar, which is different from the absolutely independent line structure. By the 18th century, Bach's single motive development technique had become more and more diluted. Composers in the 18th century once hoped to get rid of the network intertwined by lines. The music was full of Alberti bass, the melody was no longer continuous, and the syntax was becoming clearer and clearer. But soon after, the boring accompaniment figure gradually occupied the dominant position, and the composers tried to resume counterpoint writing. Germany is lucky at this point. They have Fux (Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741), Austrian composer and theorist. He is the author of a collection of contrapuntal essays, Gradus ad Parnassum (1725), which is used as a standard textbook), the "Defender of Baroque", who trained German composers by classifying the writing rules of Baroque era. Haydn once studied Fux's contrapuntal thesis collection Gradus ad Parnassum. Haydn is worthy of being a master of music. On the one hand, he maintained the gorgeous melody style, bright harmony and light texture. On the other hand, he restored his polyphonic skills. The fugue in Op.20 shows a renewed emphasis on counterpoint writing, while the middle and late works reflect the high combination of homophonic texture and polyphonic texture, and the two achieve coordination and coexistence.

Of course, this coordination is due to Haydn's innovative use of polyphony, that is, polyphony appears in the form of figure. This is a form of free counterpoint, polyphony in the form of figure rather than the original line. This simplified polyphony can add interest to the works, and they can appear in the details of the music, and the timing can be very flexible. Generally speaking, rigorous polyphonic writing is difficult to have humor. It often gives people a sense of strictness and compactness. It is like an ancient castle, with historical precipitation but lack of vitality, and connotation but difficult to get close to. Haydn is well aware of this. The simplified polyphony is more conducive to secular music, and humor is easy to produce. This kind of polyphonic writing can make the texture flexible and often play a decorative role in the progress of music. Many of Haydn's fugue themes are homophony, and the theme itself is very pleasant. More folk and secular music factors appear in the fugue. Haydn gives new impetus to polyphonic texture writing.

In addition, syntactic irregularity is also one of the distinctive features of the Baroque musical language, which Haydn also reserved. In his more than sixty string quartets which can be identified, irregular syntactic structures can be seen everywhere. His flexible use of syntax did not destroy the logic of music, but made the expression of music more human, breaking through the stylized, mechanical music progression, the expression of emotion more subtle, music full of interest. Of course, although the irregular use of syntax has appeared in a large number in the Baroque period, it has become more and more ingenious in Haydn's hands, sometimes confusing, sometimes leading to contrast, and sometimes causing accidents.

In a word, there are many aspects in the Baroque period that can be absorbed by the composers of the 18th century Viennese Classical School, both in spirit and in the use of musical language and texture. But the important thing is that these precious assets can only shine again if they are creatively transformed in accordance with the new style. Of course, in the history of music, only the best composers, such as Haydn and Mozart, can change and develop the tradition, make it adapt to the aesthetic ideal of the new era, and form a kind of music style they yearn for. Their greatness lies in the fact that when they are in the transformation of musical style, they can seize the opportunity to extract the essence from tradition and use it for their purposes.

The influence of comic opera language on the Viennese Classical School

As we all know, in the historical process of western music in the 18th century, an important phenomenon that cannot be ignored is the birth of comic opera. The language characteristics of this new opera genre have a great influence on the formation of the music language of the whole Viennese Classical School. Comic opera opposed the affectation of opera seria and was in tune with the spirit of the Enlightenment, which pursued the aesthetic ideal of "returning to nature". At that time, a group of composers, such as Galuppi, Anfossi, Piccinni, Guglielmi, and Paisiello, emerged in Europe with comic opera as the center of their creation. They made great efforts to form the language of comic opera, and their works show the creative thoughts of comic opera, including beautiful and vivid music, rondo aria, folk melodic form and ensemble finale [2, P. 45]. Thus it can be seen that comic opera injected fresh and lively blood into the musical language at that time, showing the trend of music secularization in the 18th century.

Italian comic opera is developed from intermezzo. Intermezzo is short in scale but has a unified plot. The difference between intermezzo and opera seria is that it describes layfolks. The script and music are scene buffe [3, P. 64], mostly from the people. Some of the techniques commonly used in Italian comic opera, such as repetition, the repetition of certain words and figures was a favorite technique of comic opera in the 18th century. In a sense, the emergence of Intermezzo is in line with the taste of the middle class in the 18th century. The content of the comic opera is lively and humorous, and many of its lines were comedic in nature. Comic content not only puts forward many new requirements for music language, but also breaks the conventional music thinking. Everything must conform to the comic effect. This forces the music language to "change its face". The organized, rigid and boring music should be discarded and replaced by flexible and innovative music to meet the comic needs of the script [4, P. 565].

In addition, in Italy, the humorous and funny lyrics of the comic opera changed the structure of vocal melodies and the instrumental syntax of the accompaniment, which was soon reflected in the instrumental music of Scarlatti, Gallupi, Alberti and other early classical Italian composers. At the same time, there are some new changes in aria and recitativo in comic opera, In the recitativo, we not only continue to use parlando (which means "talk like", is a style of singing unique to opera in which the tone mimics intonation), but also greatly increase the use of repeated notes. The recitativo is often broken down into some short phrases to imitate folk fast words. Piccinni's famous comic opera La buona figliuola is an example [5, P. 49-50]. The use of those serious recitativo accompagnato in comic opera often satires the scene in opera seria with the identity of "imitator". Sometimes the arias in the comic opera also "learn" from the recitativo secco, while the representative da capo aria in the opera seria does not have the original "honor" in the comic opera, and its appearance is often just to satirize the opera seria. In addition, the four voices regained their "self", especially the bass part, which often performed basso buffo arias. This aria will change in form according to the needs of the plot, such as rondo form, binary form (consisting of a slow part and a fast part, the music is popularized). The aria in comic opera is no longer stylized and influenced by folk music, it often shows a comedic side.

When this novel opera style spread quickly, it also brought a great impact to the composer's instrumental music creation style, comic opera language soon appeared in instrumental music works. The new instrumental music language is light and lively, which is in sharp contrast to the steady and dynamic development of the traditional instrumental music language. This kind of music language adapted to the Enlightenment's pursuit of the ideal of "natural, simple and vivid", and also coincided with the appreciation interest of the new middle class. Thus, the playful, funny, humorous and witty instrumental music language developed step by step. There is no doubt that the spirit and language of comic opera did influence the formation of the music style of the Viennese Classical School. Rosen once wrote in The Classical Style: "The buffoonery of Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart is only an exaggeration of an essential quality of the classical style. This style was, in its origins, basically a comic one. I do not mean that sentiments of the deepest and most tragic emotion could not be expressed by it, but the pacing of classical rhythm is the pacing of comic opera, its phrasing is the phrasing of dance music, and its large structures are these phrases dramatized" [6, P. 96].

It should also be noted that in this context, Haydn also wrote comic opera and the influence of comic opera language is evident in his instrumental music. In this field, he went his own way and did not imitate Gluck. Haydn's opera has a folk - world custom. What plays a great role in opera is comedy, sometimes exotic. Haydn's Opera reminds us of Singspiel. This opera is a small and simple work, in which the aria has the nature of songs, dances and folk songs.

As early as the 1760s, Haydn had been commissioned to write a series of small Italian comic operas. La canterina, composed in 1766, introduced him to the world of Italian comic operas. Haydn's comic operas not only reflected the humorous side of life, but also showed a concern for reality, often with a touch of irony. The same treatment was common in instrumental music. Then Lo speziale in 1768, in consideration of the comic content of the script, he tied the musical progression together, changing beats to speed it up. Haydn's string quartet may have been inspired by this, with its rapid rapping of four instruments, to create a very funny feeling. Another typical Italian comic opera of Haydn is Le Pescatrici, composed in 1769, which makes good use of ensembles, and the music is filled with strong secular atmosphere [7, P. 174].

What is more interesting is that Haydn did not resume writing string quartets for nearly a decade after the completion of Op. 20 (1772). Op.33 was born in 1781. The string quartet is so different in style from the past that it is no wonder that Haydn claimed to have written it in a new way, and that it was clearly influenced by the language of comic opera. L’infedeltà delusa (1773) is more concise and sensitive in music. This work also focuses on the life of the lower class. The characters have comedic personality, and realize the combination of Italian opera and Vienna symphony. By this time, Haydn had completely liberated himself from the conventions of Italian opera, and the original pattern continued, but the music was entirely Haydn's [9, P. 187-188].


To sum up, if you pay attention to observation, you will find that Haydn's humor is not just for entertainment, or to fool the players and audience, to make a joke with them and to lighten the atmosphere. At the same time, it plays a great role in in optimizing the formal structure and pursuing the beauty of music form. Specifically, Haydn knew how to use humor to provide relaxation, ingenious transformation, succession and change for formal structure. In this way, comedy (humor) is not only a mood and tone, but also a skill. In short, The simple and secularized language of comic opera had a great influence on the development of the instrumental language of the Vienna Classical School. It injected a lot of light and lively factors into the music, prompting the music style to undergo another change in the 18th century, that is, the formation of the classical style.

Of course, the development of musical comedy has its own historical context. As early as the Baroque period, when music was still in a large number of typed creation, Bach had played a "music game" with people. In his work The Art of Fugue, he wrote a theme composed of four tones: B♭, A, C and B♮ (in the German musical alphabet system, B means B♭, and H is B♮) according to his surname Bach. Although it seems that this is only a relatively low comedy technique now, but this kind of flexible thinking is very valuable at that time, which adds a lot of interest to the music and adds a bit of color to the dull musical environment at that time. In the 18th century, with the spread of Enlightenment thought and the maturity of tonality language, comedy was more colorful in the hands of Vienna classical composers, with wit and humor everywhere. Today, the most familiar example is Haydn's Symphony No. 94 "Surprise". As we all know, Haydn wants to make a joke here to stimulate the apparently inattentive audience, using a sudden technique – the beating of the timpani like a bolt from the blue – to free the audience from boundless fantasy. In this case, it is impossible for the audience not to guess the composer's intention. However, this is just evidence that music has the possibility of arousing comic effects without resorting to non-musical means. Haydn is a worthy master of musical comedy. It is recognized that his comic expression techniques and comic effects are diversified. No matter in his piano works, string quartet music or symphonies, we can clearly feel the comic temperament of his music. What is more valuable is that Haydn also runs comedy through his music creation, making comedy his important music style. From this, we can clearly see the process of Haydn's development from simple playfulness to comedy.

Финансирование Статья финансируется молодежным фондом гуманитарных и социальных наук Министерства образования, «Исследование комедийного выражения и эстетической эффективности чистой музыки» (19YJC760003). Funding The paper is funded by the youth fund for humanities and social sciences of the Ministry of Education, "A study on comedy expression and aesthetic efficiency of pure music" (19YJC760003).  
Конфликт интересов Не указан. Conflict of Interest None declared.

Список литературы / References

  1. Long P. H. Music in Western Civilization / Paul Henry Long. W. W. Norton, 1997.。
  2. The New Oxford History of Music / eds. Egon Wellesz and Frederick Sternfeld. Vol. 7, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
  3. The New Oxford History of Music / eds. Egon Wellesz and Frederick Sternfeld. Vol. 5. London : Oxford University Press, 1975.
  4. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music / eds.Don Michael Randel, Harvard University Press, 1986, p. 565.
  5. The New Oxford History of Music / eds. Egon Wellesz and Frederick Sternfeld. Vol. 7, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
  6. Rosen Ch. The Classical Style / Ch. Rosen. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997, p.96.
  7. The New Oxford History of Music / eds. Egon Wellesz and Frederick Sternfeld. Vol. 7, New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. P.174.