Joseph Haydn was one of the most prolific composers in the history of music, and one of the most influential. He was the man whose template gave us the symphony as we know it.
It certainly helped that his place of work was out in the country.
He was based in a small town called Eisenstadt, 50-odd kilometres from Vienna, which was the musical capital of the time. Haydn was the resident bandleader for the Esterházys, one of the wealthiest families in the Austrian empire.
With the finest of talent at his disposal in the in-house orchestra, and with no concerns about what everybody else was up to, Haydn could follow his instincts into new territory, and that is precisely what he did.
By the time his prosperous patron passed away, leaving the estate to a son who didn’t much fancy spending his money on music, Haydn had built up a formidable body of work that had made his name right across Europe.
London beckoned. By now, almost 60, he made his way there, en route catching his first sight of the sea! The English loved him, and he repaid their loyalty with 12 new symphonies that took his tally past a hundred.
Haydn ended his life in Vienna, where he produced his masterwork, The Creation.
Then the plot thickens, for something curious happened after he died at the age of 77 in 1809.
Some days after the funeral, a plot was hatched to steal Haydn’s head. There was a theory at the time that various aspects of an individual’s mental make-up could be determined by examining bumps on the skull. Phrenology was the name of this pseudo science.
Haydn was deemed a suitable case, because he was unquestionably a genius. So the local prison governor – whose own investigations into criminal behaviour gave him reason enough to test the theory – conspired with a former employee of the Esterházys.
They bribed a gravedigger, he opened the coffin, took off the head, and they took it away.
The theft only became apparent when plans were made to honour Haydn by removing his remains from the municipal ceremony where he’d been buried and reinterring them at the Esterházys’ country seat.
It didn’t take long to find out who was responsible, and they were pressed into returning the head. Except they didn’t want to give up their prized possession. They bought another skull and handed it over.
The reinterment took place, while Haydn’s real head continued a journey that eventually brought it to Vienna’s principal musical society. It was put on display in the Musikverein, and stayed there for over 50 years.
It wasn’t until 1954 that this macabre tale reached a conclusion.
A congregation of several hundred, among them the President of Austria, gathered at the church in Eisenstadt to witness Haydn’s skull being ceremoniously reunited with the rest of his remains and placed in his white marble tomb.
There was a final twist. The substitute skull was not removed. The final resting place of Joseph Haydn contains two heads.
Jean-Marie Périer was at the heart of the pop explosion of the 1960s, capturing homegrown stars such as Jacques Dutronc and Johnny Hallyday – along with The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis – for the French magazine Salut les Copains.
The Beatles, Paris, 1964
Périer left the magazine Salut les Copains in 1974, and largely gave up photography to pursue a career in filmmaking.
John Lennon (left) and Paul McCartney, pictured here circa 1960, met as teenagers in July 1957. Image Credit: Keystone/Getty Images
Sixty years ago, two young musicians happened upon each other in Liverpool, England, in a meeting that would change the course of popular music forever.
It was 6 July, 1957. John Lennon, then 16, was playing with his skiffle group The Quarrymen at a church garden party in the midst of a stultifying heat wave. Paul McCartney, 15, was in the crowd, wearing a white sports jacket with a pink carnation.
In the documentary The Beatles Anthology, McCartney remembers the spectacle of Lennon strutting around in a checked shirt, “and sort of blondish kind of hair, little bit curly, [sideburns], looking pretty cool. And he was playing one of these guitars — guaranteed not to crack, not a very good one — but he was making a very good job of it.”
The Quarrymen performed “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings, and though Lennon clearly didn’t know the words, he adapted lyrics from blues songs instead. That ingenuity impressed McCartney, who met Lennon after the set.
Backstage, McCartney played Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” which in turn impressed Lennon — perhaps in part because McCartney actually knew all the lyrics.
Later, Lennon remembered being uncertain about partnering with such a strong musician, who might challenge his leadership in the group.
But that hesitation was short-lived. “I turned around right then on first meeting and said, ‘Do you want to join the group?’ And I think he said yes the next day,” Lennon said, as quoted in The Beatles Anthology.
Now a humble parking lot, the Washington Coliseum has seen a lot in its days. Malcolm X once spoke there, circus lions jumped through hoops there — and on 11 February, 1964, The Beatles played their first-ever U.S. concert there.
Photographer Mike Mitchell was photographing that day.
He was 18 years old, he recalls in an interview with NPR’s Scott Simon, and couldn’t afford a flash for his camera.
He took concert photos using only the available light.
“I had to take my cues from what the light was doing,” Mitchell said. “And the light was very kind.”In the 50 years since that day, a lot has changed.
The building fell into disrepair after being sold, and for 10 years was a transfer station for Waste Management”.
The Coliseum for a very long time was a vacant shambles compared to its former glory. (NPR).
Still, on any given day, beautiful shafts of light can been seen spilling through the circular windows in the vaulted ceilings onto the abandoned clusters of stadium seating lurking in dark corners along the walls.
For playing host to a musical happening that became a cultural byword for the entire 1960s the venue for Woodstock is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in the Hudson Valley town of Bethel has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Cuomo says the festival that drew nearly half a million people to Max Yasgur’s dairy farm was a “pivotal moment in both New York and American history,” and the recognition will preserve the landmark for future generations.
The venue is, of course, no longer a farm turned giant mud pit populated by hippies. NPR explains that it is now more of an arts complex: Bethel Woods, which was a farm when half a million people trekked to upstate New York for the festival that created its legend, includes an 800-acre “campus” with a museum, a 15,000-seat amphitheater, a smaller gallery space and arts conservatory.