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The Haydn Economy

Music, Aesthetics, and Commerce in the Late Eighteenth Century

Analyzing the final three decades of Haydn’s career, this book uses the composer as a prism through which to examine urgent questions across the humanities.
In this far-reaching work of music history and criticism, Nicholas Mathew reimagines the world of Joseph Haydn and his contemporaries, with its catastrophic upheavals and thrilling sense of potential. In the process, Mathew tackles critical questions of particular moment: how we tell the history of the European Enlightenment and Romanticism; the relation of late eighteenth-century culture to incipient capitalism and European colonialism; and how the modern market and modern aesthetic values were—and remain—inextricably entwined.

The Haydn Economy weaves a vibrant material history of Haydn’s career, extending from the sphere of the ancient Esterházy court to his frenetic years as an entrepreneur plying between London and Vienna to his final decade as a venerable musical celebrity, during which he witnessed the transformation of his legacy by a new generation of students and acolytes, Beethoven foremost among them. Ultimately, Mathew asserts, Haydn’s historical trajectory compels us to ask what we might retain from the cultural and political practices of European modernity—whether we can extract and preserve its moral promise from its moral failures. And it demands that we confront the deep histories of capitalism that continue to shape our beliefs about music, sound, and material culture.

256 pages | 49 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2022

New Material Histories of Music

History: European History

Music: General Music


“Tracing the conceptual overlap of aesthetics and economics as they developed in the eighteenth century, Mathew not only offers a startlingly original vision of Haydn and his relationship to ‘commerce,’ but also makes a major contribution to current debates about the nature and mission of music scholarship. Not just boundlessly informative, but compulsively readable and entertaining.”

W. Dean Sutcliffe, University of Auckland

“In this dazzling and timely book, Mathew reveals not only how Haydn’s music functioned in the late-Enlightenment economic landscape, but also how musical culture helped shape modern market society. As the field of music studies today ponders the future of canons and canonical works, The Haydn Economy shows us that we are far from done with Haydn and the eighteenth century—indeed, perhaps we are only just beginning to understand how this period’s deep-seated legacies continue to reverberate today.”

Emily I. Dolan, Brown University

The Haydn Economy seems to signal a new era in musicology. This is a book about Haydn that is certain to draw in, rather than repel, those of us who think of colonialism and slavery before the symphony when we hear the words ‘eighteenth-century Europe.’ An intellectual tour de force.”

Gavin Steingo, Princeton University

“Combining deft musical analysis and broad learning across disciplines, this book charts Haydn’s long career less as an evolution of style than as a series of orientations toward the newly mobilized cultural economies of Vienna and London. In Mathew’s account, Haydn achieved a major body of work that, unlike the Romantic differentiations of value that soon would follow him, managed to avoid setting aesthetic norms and market forces at odds. The Haydn Economy is a must-read for anyone interested in ‘the most abundantly mediated musician of his age’ or in the music and culture of the world in which he moved.”

James Chandler, University of Chicago

Table of Contents

  Ringing Coins
  Haydn and the City
  Media, Motion, Connection
  Commerce, Interest, Objects, Work, Value
1 Commerce
  Importation of Haydn
  Warehouse Aesthetics
  Mobility and Credit
  A Resonant World
  New Addresses
  Music before the Cliché
2 Interest
  Taking Note(s)
  Psychic Investments
  Disinterest and Boredom
  Making Musical Interest
  The Fate of Interest
3 Objects
  Little Boxes
  Pursuit of Objects
  Objects, Animals, People
  Haydn’s Musical Objects
  Surface Fantasies
4 Work
  Chapel Master, Chapel Servant
  Liberty, Work, Stress
  The Work of Comedy
  Work, Property, Works
  The Creation Concept
  The Industry Concept
  Working Concepts
Epilogue: Value (1808)
  Of Time and Fashion
  Romantic Infrastructures
  Haydn Recalled
  Gold Is a Mighty Thing
Works Cited

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