I`m Salomon of London and I`ve come to fetch you; tomorrow we`ll establish an agreement.´´ This is how Haydn illustrated that critical moment which formed the start of his journeys to England to his biographer Dies. For the respectable sum of 5000 gulden Haydn agreed to compose one Italian opera, six new symphonies and 20 other compositions and to perform them under his direction. Johann Peter Salomon (1745-1815), a brilliant violinist and successful concert manager, immediately notified the English audience of Haydn`s imminent arrival. To Mozart`s objection that he could not even speak English Haydn replied: My language is understood throughout the world!´´ (Dies)
On 1 January 1791 Joseph Haydn set foot on English soil after an arduous journey via Munich, Wallerstein, Bonn and Calais. Seven days later Haydn wrote Marianne von Genzinger: ... [M]y arrival caused a sensation throughout the city and I went the round of all the newspapers for three successive days. It appears that everybody wants to know me.´´ An enormous uproar was caused by the fact that during a royal court ball at St. James`s Palace Haydn was greeted by the Prince of Wales with a noticeable bow. The first concert series began with a concert at the Hanover Square Rooms on 11 March and was continued every week until 3 June. These concerts were social events of the highest order and invitations were directly primarily to the aristocracy.
In the week of 23 May to 1 June 1791 Haydn attended the Handel Festival at Westminster Abbey, which was held every year under the king`s patronage. No other event impressed the composer more than this gigantic commemoration, which formed the highlight of English social life. For the first time Haydn heard Handel`s oratorios Israel in Egypt, Esther, Saul and, the pinnacle of the festival, the Messiah. At the conclusion of an immensely successful first concert season and by recommendation of music historian Charles Burney (1726-1816), in July 1791 Haydn was bestowed with an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Oxford (UK). The ceremonial festivities lasted three days and were held at Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford.
Until the beginning of the next concert season Joseph Haydn withdrew, giving private lessons to Rebecca Schroeter, a wealthy widow. During his first stay in England a deep bond had developed between Haydn and his student. Her letters, which Haydn had copied into his notebook, documented her feelings of passion for the great composer. No language can express even half of the love and devotion I feel toward you.´´ Haydn was a frequent guest at Mrs Schroeter`s, who took extreme care looking after the maestro`s emotional and physical well-being. During his second stay in London Haydn lived quite close to Rebecca Schroeter and in later years he dedicated his Op. 73 trios to her as a sign of his affection.
In August 1791 Prince Paul Anton Esterházy II expressed his wish that Haydn return to Eisenstadt. Haydn still had contractual obligations to meet, however, and only left the British Isles at the end of June 1782 after two successful concert seasons. He travelled to Vienna via Bonn, where he met the talented Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). It was agreed that Beethoven would come to Haydn in Vienna to study composition and counterpoint, though after a few lessons there was a falling out between teacher and student. Haydns favourite students were Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831) and Sigismund Neukomm (1778-1858).
In August 1793 Haydn signed the contract to purchase the new house in Gumpendorf near Vienna, which his wife had found during his stay in England. Joseph Haydn bought the single-storey house from master weaver Ignaz Weissgram and had another floor added on to it. It was only after his second trip to England that he moved into the new house, living there until his death and as a widower from March 1800 on. On 1 June 1840 a marble plaque was affixed with the inscription To Haydn.´´ Today the building houses the Haydn museum of Vienna known as Haydnhaus.
In January 1784 Haydn travelled to England for the second time together with Johann Elssler (1769-1843), his private secretary and servant. The spring 1794 concert season was a success. The Military Symphony, which was to become the most popular of his symphonies during his lifetime, had its premiere. During his stay Haydn established additional contacts with English publishers. The number of compositions which Haydn wrote for his two London visits would be a notable lifetime achievement for any composer. He wrote about 250 single compositions including the opera Orpheus, the 12 London Symphonies, over 200 songs and several string quartets and piano concertos.
On 1 February 1795 Haydn received the great honour of being the only living composer to be accepted into the programmes of the Ancient Concerts. He now found official admission to the concerts of the English King George III (1738-1820), to whom he was introduced on this occasion by Prince George of Wales (1762-1830). In spring of 1795 Joseph Haydn played, conducted and sang on various occasions for the Royal Family and at concerts which the Prince of Wales (from 1820 on King George IV) held at Carlton House. The English king and his wife Queen Charlotte tried to persuade Haydn to stay in England, offering him a suite of rooms at Windsor. Haydn moved back to Austria, however.