“…Well, here I sit in my wilderness – forsaken – like a poor waif – almost without any human society – melancholy – full of the memories of past glorious days – yes! past alas! – and who knows when these days shall return again? Those wonderful parties? Where the whole circle is one heart, one soul – all these beautiful musical evenings – which can only be remebered and not described – where are all these enthusiastic moments? – all gone – and gone for a long time…”
This is the beginning of one of Haydn’s remarkable letters, written to Maria Anna von Grenzinger in February 1790 shortly after his return to Eszterháza from the Christmas season in Vienna. This letter contains a rare glimpse of Haydn out of livery as “Capellmeister of His Highness the Prince (Esterházy) in whose service I live and die”, as Haydn had styled himself in another well-known letter, his autobiography of 1776.
When Baron Riesbeck visited Esterháza in the 1780s he observed that “The Neusiedler See, from which the castle is not far removed, makes miles of swamp and threatens in time to swallow up all the land right up to the Prince’s dwelling.” When Haydn used the term Einöde to refer to Esterháza he was perhaps translating the Hungarian term for the marshy plains of the area – puszta, which means “wilderness”.
Haydn’s life at Esterháza apparently hinged on extremes of luxury and privation. Descriptions of the Hungarian Paradise invariably dwell on the lavish furnishings, exquisite collections, and dazzling theatrical entertainments that won it so many accolades.
At Esterháza Haydn lived with the other musicians, singers and traveling players in the Musicians’ Building, a two stried building of 250 rooms. It was from his appartment there that he wrote his letters to von Genzinger.
link to my article “visiting Esterháza Palace”