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Rare and Effusive Signed Letter Declining Membership in the Société Académique des Enfants d’Apollon, Discussing His Advanced Age and the “flowers on the road of life…left to me to travel”

Item: 22317
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HAYDN, FRANZ JOSEPH. (1732-1809). Austrian composer of symphonies, chamber works, oratorios and masses; one of the world’s greatest composers. LS. (“Joseph Haydn”). 2pp. 4to. Vienna, April 7, 1808. To the Academic Society of the Children of Apollo. In French with translation.

The choice, which the Société Académique des Enfants d’Apollon has deigned to make in inscribing my name on the list of its members has so flattered me that it has filled me with the keenest emotion. In assuring it through your agent that it could not have honored anyone better able to appreciate its esteem, and more able to feel the value of the honor which arises from it, I beg of you, Messieurs, to allow my feelings to be made clear by your own, and at the same time to be the interpreters of my gratitude for the marks of distinction which you have transmitted to me by the sending of a copy of the statutes and regulations, accompanied by a gold medal.

You have scattered, Messieurs, a few flowers on the road of life which still is left to me to travel. I am profoundly touched by it, and I feel very strongly, that though old age can well enfeeble the faculties, that it does not affect the emotions at all for it is that which makes me regret that my great age prevents me from nourishing the hope of seeing myself among you, to share in your labors, to cooperate in the cultivation of an art which is the charm of the Society and to participate in the celebrity in whose titles, so dear and so precious, the Academy rejoices.

It is a consolation to that which my infirmities force me to renounce; and my regrets are also as lively, as my gratitude is profoundly felt; deign to receive the assurance, accompanied by the sincerest expression of the sentiments of esteem, and of the most distinguished consideration with which I have the honor of being Messieurs, You very humble and obedient Servant…”

Portrait of Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn

Haydn began composing his oratorio The Creation in 1796 after hearing Handel’s oratorios performed during the Handel Festival of 1791. Based on a libretto by Baron Gottfried van Swieten, The Creation was first publicly performed in 1799 and published by Haydn himself in 1800. Subscribers to the score’s publication included the Empress of Austria, the King and Queen of England, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and other members of European royalty. “Perhaps no other piece of great music has ever enjoyed such immediate and universal acceptance. The success of The Creation naturally called for a sequel,” (The New Grove Dictionary). Haydn obliged with The Seasons, another oratorio based on a van Swieten work, finished in 1801 and first performed in April of that year. Shortly after The Creation was performed at the home of Prince Schwarzenberg in mid-April 1800, Haydn was afflicted by rheumatic fever and his health continued to weaken substantially following the completion of The Seasons; in fact, he later wrote (in 1805) that his health had taken such a turn for the worse after completing The Seasons that he should never have undertaken such a strenuous project.

Our letter, written three years later when Haydn was age 76, regards the December 30, 1807 offer of membership extended by the prestigious Société Académique des Enfants d’Apollon, an association of musicians and composers, founded in Paris in 1741 and named for Apollo, the god of music, poetry and art. Despite its demise in 1790, the society was reorganized in 1806 and continued until 1880. Among other functions, the Société gave public concerts of its members and included performances of Haydn’s symphonies.

Published, along with the Société’s letter to Haydn, in Joseph Haydn: Two Contemporary Portraits transl. Gotwals.

Provenance: Gerd Rosen, Berlin, April 28-29, 1950, Auktion 11, no.27; Lucien Goldschmidt; Dr Max Thorek, Chicago; Parke Bernet, New York, November 15-16, 1960.

With the decorative ink stamp of the Société in the upper left corner. Normal folds and carefully tipped into an album. On the left side of the verso is the ink ownership stamp of Chicago autograph collector Dr. Max Thorek. Enclosed in a custom-made, blue cloth slipcase. Letters of Haydn are rare.

Rare and Effusive Signed Letter Declining Membership in the Société Académique des Enfants d’Apollon, Discussing His Advanced Age and the “flowers on the road of life…left to me to travel”

$25000 • item #22317

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