Thefullscore 14 BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE Soundbites The dying Haydn receives a French military tribute MAY 1809 O n 10 May Napoleon Bonaparte arrived outside Vienna. ★is French forces had been at war with Austria since mid-april and, with successes at Abensberg, Landshut and Eckmuhl under his belt, the Emperor now had the capital city in his sights. ★e had been here before, of course – in November 1805, when the city had given itself up to him without a fight (leading to an audience consisting almost entirely of French soldiers at the premiere of Beethoven’s Fidelio that same month). On this occasion, too, he promised that, should his army meet no resistance, he would show lenience in victory. ★owever, Archduke Maxmilian, commander of the Austrian forces, fancied his chances of holding out and declined the o er. Stationing 20 howitzers around the city, Napoleon began his bombardment in the early hours of 12 May. As shells fell around them, Vienna’s residents were sent into panic. One of them, Ludwig van Beethoven, headed to the basement of his brother Carl’s house where, fearing further damage to his already declining hearing, he covered his ears with pillows. Another, Joseph ★aydn, proved a more reassuring presence. ‘Children, don’t be frightened,’ he told those close to him; ‘where ★aydn is, nothing can happen to you.’ The great man was correct – for all the chaos, the bombardment caused relatively little damage. Maximilian nonetheless saw sense and surrendered, and within 24 hours French forces were again occupying the city. This month in history TIME PIECE
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