The royal music director and his bourgeois residence


In the position of music director at Esterhazy court, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) acquired the baroque house in 1766 and lived there for 12 years.  The house burned down in 1768 and 1776 but it was restored every time. The preserved fire damage list- a register of burnt furniture and valuables- offers detailed insights in the former equipment of the house.

On 2nd May 1766 the royal chapel master Joseph Haydn bought the property Klostergasse No. 82, today Joseph Haydngasse No. 21, where he and his wife Maria Anna Theresia have lived for twelve and a half years.

Five years before the purchase, almost on the exact day, Haydn was employed as vice music director at Esterházy court by signing the contract on 1st May 1761. During the first five years of his occupation he and his wife lived as lodgers in Eisenstadt. Two months before the purchase of the house, on 3rd May 1766, the music director Gregor Joseph Werner, current since 1728, died and Haydn was promoted to the position of music director.

Haydn’s contract of 1761 contains under point 3 the explicit exhortation that the vice music director will refrain “from any sort of familiarity, community at table and in drinking and any other association in order to keep and not lose his musicians’ respect due to him…” For this reason the current music director Haydn felt that he ought to afford a house of his own, which represents his position of a higher royal official to the outside world. Joseph Haydn acquired the house Klostergasse No. 82 from Euphrosina Schleicher, widow of Jakob Schleicher, member of the “Äußere Rat”.

The year 1747 is engraved on the archway of the cellar entrance .The year does not indicate the date of the construction of the building but the date of completion of the last rebuilding before Haydn. The structure of the house goes back to the 16th century which is specifically verified by the late Gothic window that was uncovered in the rear courtyard in 1974/75.

The backsides of the premises in the Klostergasse adjoin to the Northern city wall of Eisenstadt. The inner courtyards of the houses are turned to each other. It was predominantly craftsmen and officials who lived in the houses.

The land register of Eisenstadt of 1758 clearly indicates that the house that was bought by Haydn, consisted of two apartments, one each per floor. The upper floor which was inhabited by Haydn comprises five rooms including an anteroom. The pre-owner Euphrosina Schleicher was granted the right to live on the ground floor, consisting of three rooms, until her death in 1767.

The protocol of the land register illustrates that even though the interior design of the house corresponds to the present state, the original house constituted only one part of the complex that is left to posterity. The wing (containing the three rooms located into the direction of the city wall) which can be reached by the stairs in the right corner of the courtyard, was attached to Haydn’s former sheds by the follow-up owner of the house in the 19th century.

Finally, the plots of lands: as most of the house owners in Eisenstadt the property of Klostergasse No. 82 included plots of lands in the environs of Eisenstadt such as a kitchen garden outside the city walls behind the citizen’s hospital. The carefully groomed garden, including the garden shed, still exist in the present day and is one of the main attractions of historical Eisenstadt.

The purchase of the house has probaly not been a long-planned project by the married couple Haydn. Haydn, who derived in his position as music director a fixed income of 782 gulden per year, was not able to finance the house. The purchase price is estimated with 1500 gulden.

An entry dating back to autumn 1170 and written by his employer indicates that Haydn took up a loan of 400 gulden. Additionally, it is assumed that Haydn arranged with the pre-owner Euphrosina Schleicher that he cleared the purchase price by paying instalments of 350 gulden per year until 1768. After her death in 1767 Haydn was required by law to clear the rest of 700 gulden. In order to raise the sum quickly, he was forced to take up a loan of 500 gulden by his father in law, Johann Peter Keller, wig maker in Vienna. Only after Keller died in 1778 and just before Haydn sold the house he was able to clear the debt by using his money legacy.


The fires 

Just in those twelve and a half years, when Haydn occupied his own residence inside the city walls, the city of Eisenstadt was afflicted by two great fires.  On 2nd August 1768 a fire started in the free city, which lasted two days and especially affected the Klostergasse. The Parish church St. Martin and 19 houses were the only buildings in the city that have been spared by the fire.

The magistrate of Eisenstadt put the total number of 1148 gulden and 27 kreuzer at the damage of Haydn’s house, including all his material, works and personal assets. At that time, Haydn had been ruined, if Prince Nikolaus would not have ordered the house restored at the expense of the royal personnel. Haydn seized the opportunity and had another room added to his original apartment. However, in order to do so he had to pay 50 gulden. The newly established room is the last big room in the upper floor of the house, which has been attached to an already existing vault. It was only one of the following owners who closed the existing gap to the city wall by establishing a narrow wing which constitutes the rear facade of the building.

Concerning Haydn’s biographic as well as a general music historical aspect the fire can be regarded as a fatal event, since a great number of copies fell prey to the fire and left significant gaps in the catalogue of Haydn’s works.

The second fire of 17th July 1776 again claimed both monasteries in the Klostergasse and 104 houses as a whole in the free city, among them once again the house of Joseph Haydn. However, this time the damage was not as fatal as last time: in a conscription listing the distribution of fifteen thousand gulden to the people concerned by the fire, Haydn’s house was numbered with 363 gulden. Haydn did not receive any money of the loan, but the Prince once again made good the damage.

In the course of restoration in 1994/95 by the Austrian Federal Monuments Office it turned out that the anterior rooms have got the same amount of colour layers as the grand room in the back of the house. It appears that after the great fire of 1768 Haydn ordered to have every room in his house shorn off and re-painted so that concerning the interior design of the Haydn House the year 1768 has to be set as “year zero”.


Trouble with the neighbours 

Both fires have been equally an initial point for considerable trouble which concerned Haydn and both of his neighbours. The house No. 81, which shared the inner courtyard with Haydn’s house, was in possession of widow Magdalena Frumwald. The house on the other side, No. 83, was inhabited by Theresia Spächin, widow of royal official Georg Spächin. In the course of the restoration of Haydn’s house the roofing was propped up on the common fire wall which parted the courtyard between Haydn and widow Frumwald. After Miss Frumwald caused the roof of Haydn’s house to collapse by removing the pillar in spring 1769, at half past four in the morning, the couple Haydn sued their neighbour. After an official inspection and according to an extensive protocol of 29th April a settlement has been reached between both arguing parties.

According to this, the partition wall was declared as communal and it was prohibited for both parties to build up on parts that have already been established by one of them. In 1773 Haydn submitted a letter of indemnity to the city since Miss Frumwaldin did not adhere to the agreed settlement and built up on her part of the wall. In 1776, immediately after the second fire, Haydn himself was sued by the owner of house No. 83, Miss Theresia Spächin because the reconstruction led to an unfavourable roofing of her own house. This argument however has been much more moderate.

During the beginning years of 1770 Haydn’s financial situation slightly improved. Since he and his wife inhabited the upper floor, he accommodated his pupils in the ground floor rooms after the death of Miss Schleicher. Between the years 1772 and 1777 and through the medium of Count Ladislaus Erdödy the composer accommodated Ignaz Pleyel (1757-1831), born in Lower-Austria, as boarder and pupil. Pleyel experienced later a brilliant career in revolutionary and imperial France. For this service the count paid Haydn 100 luisdors per year.

The ground floor was exclusively reserved for Pleyel and other pupils, also especially for Johann Elssler, copyist at court Esterházy. Due to the considerable demand of new music for the royal employer it was absolutely essential to have a copyist within reach. For this reason, Haydn’s residence has never been exclusively a private house but also a sort of “manufacture Haydn”.


After Nikolaus I. Esterhazy began to reign in 1762 he decided to rebuild his hunting château in Süttör at the South bank of Lake Neusiedl into his new residence Castle Esterháza. In the year 1768 the construction of the opera theatre and accommodations for the musicians were finished. Due to the opera season, which was established in 1776 and lasted from February to November, the centre of Haydn’s functional and musical life was forced to move to Castle Esterháza. As a result, Joseph Haydn had no longer use for his private house.

With the sale contract of 27th October 1778 he sold the house and all inclusive plots of land for 200 gulden to the royal accountant Anton Lichtscheidl. From that date on until 1790 the main residence of the couple was the musicians’ house in Esterháza. 

After Haydn 

Until the mid of the 20th century it has been exclusively citizens of Eisenstadt who inhabited the former residence of Joseph Haydn. Near the turn of the century the house was appreciated as memorial site by the male choral society of Eisenstadt which dedicated a memorial plaque in 1898 with the following text: “To the immortal fellow citizen, who has been taken from these narrow walls by his fertile spirit and brought among the greats of the world.” Another plaque followed in 1923: “Josef Haydn lived and worked in this house. 1766 - 1778”.

In 1932, on occasion of the 200th birthday of Joseph Haydn Sandor Wolf exhibited a “Haydn memorial exhibition” in his private museum with objects taken from his own collection. In June 1953 the association for local and ecological conservation, founded in 1925 and aiming at gaining a broad collection of natural- and cultural historical memorability, was successful in renting three rooms in the Haydn House and creating a persistent Haydn museum.

The master carpenter and city council of Eisenstadt Karl Kritsch, founding member and chairman as well as Head of Conservation for the province of Burgenland, is considered as the originator of the Haydn museum. After the Second World War the house together with the various collections were passed into the ownership of the province of Burgenland. In the seventies the building was gradually formed to a museum memorial site, exclusively dedicated to Joseph Haydn.

The acquirement of the adjacent Frumwald-house in 1998 by the International Joseph Haydn private foundation Eisenstadt enabled not only a spatial extension of the collection but also triggered a re-development. The fundamental idea in this aspect was to equip the museum with modern features and to provide the memorial site a specific form of presentation which conforms to modern standards.

The newly acquired exhibition rooms offer an ideal space for annually changing special exhibitions which have complemented the permanent exhibition of the Haydn House since 1998.

In 2008 the Haydn House obtained the museum quality seal by the international Council of Museums (ICOM). The awarding took place at a solemn ceremonial in the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna.

On occasion of the Haydn year in 2009 the entire interior equipment was renovated. Safety- and fire technology as well as the full air conditioning in every room meet international standards. In the course of a comprehensive restoration work under the guidance of the Federal Monuments Office elaborate mural painting were uncovered and restored in Haydn’s former living room and bedroom.

The complete complex is supervised by Kultur-Service Burgenland GmbH since 16th December 2012.

In spring 2011 the original wall painting dating back to Haydn’s time was uncovered in Haydn’s living room on collaboration with the Federal Monuments Office.  The extravagant painting indicates the use as a state room.