The Haydns’ employers

There was a significant difference, though:

Joseph, working for the Esterhazy Court, produced vast quantities of secular music in the form of symphonies, string quartets, sonatas (including over 200 for the Baryton – the Prince’s favourite instrument). He was less frequently called upon to write sacred music.

Michael, on the other hand, in the employ exclusively of Archbishops, wrote a substantial amount of church music. His output of secular music became more limited by the time he reached his mid-30s. In his day, there were those who rated his church music more highly than that of his now more illustrious brother.


Michael Haydn

Michael Haydn was five years younger than his more famous brother Joseph.

Both brothers were stars of the Vienna Boys’ Choir in their time, and both went on to spend most of their professional lives working for one employer.

Michael had the better start: while Joseph was still trying to scrape a living teaching the piano and doing free-lance work, Michael landed the job of Kapellmeister to the Archbishop of Grosswardein (now Oradea in Romania). Then in 1762 he was offered a position with better prospects, in the court of Archbishop Schrattenbach of Salzburg. He remained in Salzburg for the rest of his life. He soon was promoted to the position of Konzertmeister in which capacity he was called upon to write dramatic music for the Benedictine University Theatre. This included at one point a collaboration with the 11-year-old W.A.Mozart. When Archbishop Schrattenbach died nine years later, his successor, Heironymus Colloredo, did not support the theatre and it closed. From now on, his output would be mainly for the Church.

He thrived under the rule of Archbishop Colloredo, producing much of his best work, and it appeared he might become Kapellmeister. This stirred jealousies and suddenly there were vicious rumours about his weakness for alcohol and so he was given the position of organist at the Dreifaltigkeitskirche instead.  His colleague Leopold Mozart’s nose was instantly put out of joint, because he had hoped his 21-year-old son Wolfgang would get the job at the Dreifaltigkeitskirche – and spiteful things were  said.

By the 1790s he was highly regarded both as a composer and teacher – his pupils including one Carl Maria von Weber. His music was in demand in Vienna including at least one commission from his brother’s personal friend the Empress Maria Theresia. Indeed he was much drawn towards Vienna, particularly since Napoleon’s troops had over-run Salzburg exiling the Archbishop. But in 1803 the Archduke Ferdinand stepped in, and on the Archbishop’s behalf gave him a rise in salary which kept him securely in Salzburg until his death on August 10th 1806.

Michael Haydn’s Run, ye shepherds

Michael Haydn (1737 – 1806)

Run ye shepherds was probably composed in 1775, in Salzburg. Michael Haydn worked for the Archbishops of Salzburg for most of his professional life. This was early in the reign of Archbishop Colloredo who was famous for favouring simplicity in church music (causing problems for some of his composers). Michael Haydn had already been working towards a simpler style of composition and he flourished under this new Archbishop.

The words of Run ye shepherds are simple and direct. Haydn sets them to music of a näive charm which perfectly matches their simplicity. The centre-piece of the work is a contemplative soprano solo ‘O happy shepherds’. This is framed by two short choruses: first the excited shepherds hurrying to the stable; then a lullaby which ends with the baby asleep.