Sunday morning music

This Sunday, let’s listen to a composer who was almost completely overshadowed by his successor, and is largely forgotten today:  Gregor Joseph Werner.  He had a difficult relationship with Franz Joseph Haydn, who was initially employed as his deputy, but rapidly supplanted him in the affections of his employer.  According to Wikipedia:

Werner’s period of semi-retirement began in 1761 when the Esterházy family hired the 29-year-old composer Joseph Haydn as their Vice-Kapellmeister. The contract by which Haydn was hired shows the family’s loyalty to their elderly musical servant by retaining him, at least on a titular basis, in the top post of Kapellmeister. However, after this time Werner’s musical duties were limited to church music, and Haydn, 39 years younger than Werner, had the primary duties, with full control over the secular musical events of the household, including the orchestra.

This was a time of changes probably unwelcome to Werner. His longtime patron Paul Anton died in March 1762, succeeded by his younger brother Nikolaus Esterházy. Nikolaus was also a very musical prince, but his interests (Jones) “lay with Haydn and the development of instrumental music.” Haydn initially received the same salary (400 florins per year) that Werner had long received, but in June 1762 this was increased to 600.

In addition, Werner had lived to see the kind of music he composed become outmoded. His own work emphasized the contrapuntal textures of the Baroque era, whereas by 1761 the new forms of the Classical period, often with a single melody set over an accompaniment figure, had come to the fore. Jones says, “he had become too old to appreciate the rapidly developing fashion for symphonies, quartets, and keyboard sonatas, genres in which Haydn was already acquiring a name for himself.” Werner expressed his distaste by calling Haydn a “G’sanglmacher” (writer of little songs) and “Modehansl” (“fashion follower,” literally “little Hans of fashion”).

There’s more at the link.

Very little of Werner’s prolific output has survived.  To whet your appetite, here’s his Prelude and fugue for string orchestra in C minor.

YouTube has several of his pieces, but apart from that, his music is often hard to find.  Some may be found in Baroque collections.  Despite their strained relations, Haydn helped to ensure that Werner’s music would be remembered.  Wikipedia again:

Haydn himself clearly held Werner in high esteem, whatever their personal difficulties may have been. In his own old age (1804) Haydn published “six introductions and fugues for string quartet, taken from Werner’s oratorios”. The title page read that the works were “edited by his successor J. Haydn out of particular esteem towards the famous master.”



  1. Very soothing Sunday morning music.
    In fact, this might be the very thing for getting back to sleep, either before the rest of the house wakes up, or for a nap later on in the day.

  2. That was beautiful. I have really enjoyed your Sunday morning music posts. With so much music out there and so little time, it's nice to get suggestions from someone who's musical tastes are much more eclectic than mine! Keep up the good work.

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