Aug 28, 2012

The Haydn Hamburger

On 26 November 1760, at Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral, Joseph Haydn married Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia Keller, third daughter of the wigmaker Johann Peter Keller.

The entry concerning Joseph Haydn's and Maria Anna Keller's wedding on 26 November 1760 at St. Stephen's Cathedral (A-Wd, Tom. 59, fol. 417v)

As a craftsman Keller was "hofbefreit", which means he had the permission to receive commissions as a master wigmaker directly from the Imperial Court. This special status lead to Keller's relative wealth which enabled him own a house in the Viennese suburb Landstraße. As I already pointed out two years ago in my short essay "Einige Korrekturen und Ergänzungen zu Klaus Martin Kopitz' Aufsatz 'Anmerkungen und Korrekturen zu Haydns Wiener Wohnungen'", the Haydn literature is basically wrong as to where Johann Peter Keller's house was located, an error that was created by Albert Christoph Dies and Carl Ferdinand Pohl. This building, Landstraße No. 51 ("one half an acre of vinyard in front of the Stubentor on the Joÿsen", as it is described in the municipal land register), was not located in the Ungargasse, as stated by Pohl, but in the Raaben Gasse (today Beatrixgasse 21). Keller and his wife owned this house from 10 September 1734 until 1766. It can be seen here on a clip from Joseph Daniel von Huber's 1778 map of Vienna:

Johann Peter Keller's house Landstraße No. 51 in the Raaben Gasse

A page from a Viennese land register referring to the purchase of the house Landstraße No. 51 on 10 September 1734 by Johann Peter Keller and his wife Maria Elisabeth (A-Wsa, Patrimonialherrschaften B2/9, fol. 223r).

Although we have absolutely no documentation as to how Haydn made the acquaintance of his father-in-law, Pohl assumed that Haydn was introduced to the wigmaker's family by Keller's alleged brother Georg Ignaz Keller, a musician at St. Stephen's, whom Haydn had supposedly known since his days as choirboy at the Cathedral. Georg Ignaz Keller was born around 1699 in the Bohemian town of Chlumec nad Cidlinou and came to Vienna before 1726 as an employee of the Bohemian Court Chancellor Leopold Count Kinsky for whom he served as chamberlain and violinist. Therefore Haydn scholarship universally assumed that Haydn's father-in-law also hailed from Bohemia.

The entry concerning the first marriage of the (then) chamberlain Georg Ignatz Keller ("von Chlumetz aus Böhm[en]") on 17 November 1726 to Barbara Antonia Scheiblauer (A-Wd, Tom. 45, p. 286). When on 7 January 1770 Keller got married for the second time he was already a "K:K: Hof Musicus" (A-Wd, Tom. 65, fol. 132v)

In his article "Joseph Haydns Jugendliebe" (Festschrift Wilhelm Fischer zum 70. Geburtstag, Innsbruck: Sprachwissenschaftliches Seminar der Universität Innsbruck, 1956) Ernst Fritz Schmid vividly describes Georg Ignaz Keller's progress as a musician in Vienna and how in 1731 he rose from a simple servant to a violinist at St. Stephen's Cathedral and a court musician in 1765. In spite of complete lack of evidence Schmid presents the kinship between the "Keller brothers" as a fact:
Der kaiserliche Hofmusikus Georg Ignaz Keller ist es nun gewesen, der Haydn die Bekanntschaft mit der Familie seiner Jugendliebe und damit auch seiner späteren Frau vermittelte. Kellers älterer Bruder, der "hofbefreite" Perückenmacher Johann Peter Keller, der um 1691 ebenfalls in Chlumetz in Böhmen geboren war, besaß zu Wien in der Vorstadt Landstraße in der Ungargasse ein eigenes Haus und einigen Wohlstand [...] Georg Ignaz Keller brachte Haydn in das Haus des Bruders, wo mehrere Kinder, darunter anmutige Töchter heranwuchsen, deren Klavierunterricht der junge Meister übernahm.
It was the imperial court musician Georg Ignaz Keller who established Haydn's acquaintance with the family of his early love and also of his future wife. Keller's older brother, the wigmaker to the court Johann Peter Keller, who had been born around 1691 also in Chlumetz in Bohemia, was considerably wealthy and owned a house in Vienna in the suburb of Landstraße in the Ungargasse [...] Georg Ignaz Keller brought Haydn into his brother's house, where several children were growing up, among them lovely daughters whose piano lessons were taken over by Haydn.
Schmid did not let himself be distracted by the fact that the primary sources do not support the assumption that the wigmaker Johann Peter and the violinist Georg Ignaz Keller were brothers or had any relation to each other. Not once did both Kellers or their wives serve as godparents of each other's children: Johann Peter Keller chose (among others) the "Stiftsverwalter bei St. Joseph" Johann Heinrich Reischmann and his wife, a "k.k. Cammer-Fourier" Anton Joachim and the surgeon Johann Franz Schlegelhofer as godparents. Georg Ignaz Keller on the other hand, relied (among others) on the services of his employer Count Kinsky, the merchant Leopold Wührer (Joseph Jenamy's best man at his wedding with Victoire Noverre in 1768), Maria Sophia Muffat (Georg Muffat's daughter-in-law) and the wealthy apothecary Georg Friedrich Eulenschenk and his wife (whose daughter in 1768 would marry Franz Anton Mesmer and in 1772 was still rich enough to eventually buy her husband his country estate on the Landstraße with its "mesmerizing" garden).

What do we know about Johann Peter Keller's origin? He was born around 1691 and on 12 November 1722 at St. Michael's in Vienna got married to Maria Anna Seiller. As usual, the marriage records of this parish provide only meager information concerning the bridal couple, such as the date of the wedding, the names of the couple and their parents and the names of the witnesses. No places of birth of groom and bride are given:

The 1722 marriage entry of Haydn's parents-in-law: "Dominus Joannes Petrus Keller, Joannis Georgij, et Aloysiæ filius, cum Virg:[ine] Maria Elisabetha Seillerin, Georgij et Elisabethae filia, Tes:[tes] Do[min]us Ferdinandus Marher, et D:[ominus] Antonius Geissnhoff. 12. [November]" (A-Wstm, Tom. 4, p. 345).

This is the official marriage record on which Haydn scholarship in general and Ernst Fritz Schmid in particular always relied. But the sparseness of the entries in the marriage records of St. Michael's has a special reason: there is an – unfortunately not complete – series of "Verkündbücher", i.e. records of the basic personal information that the parish priests wrote down, when the engaged couple first appeared and announced their intention of getting married and the banns were to be published. The entry concerning Johann Peter Keller's wedding is (as was regularly the case with these first and only provisional entries that were to be crossed out later) much more detailed. Among other information – such as the date of the first announcement and the couple's address – this entry gives Johann Peter Keller as being of German origin, namely having been born in Hamburg:

The entry concerning the publication of the banns on 31 October 1722 for the wedding of Haydn's parents-in-law (A-Wstm, Verkündbuch 15)
Den 31 October 1722 copulati sunt 12 9ber 1722 / Der Kunstreiche Herr Johann Peter Keller, ein Keÿ[serlich] Hofbefreiter Porakhenmacher, b in dem / 3 tauben in der unde[r]n Preinerstrasen wonhaft. / Zu Hamburg gebirtig, des H[errn] Johann Georg Keller, undt Frau Aloysiæ sel[ig] beder / ehlicher Sohnn. nimbt zur ehe die tugent / same Jungfrau Mariam Elisabetham / Seillerin, des H[errn] Georgij Seiller und Elisabethæ sel beeder eheliche tochtor / Zu Wacheram in Österreich gebürtig, / beÿ den 3 taube[n] in der under / Preinerstrass wonhaft. /     1 2 3     Ambo in parochia / per plures annos.


And there we have it: a Haydn-trifle of world-shattering insignificance. Haydn's father-in-law, the wigmaker Johann Peter Keller and the musician Georg Ignaz Keller were not brothers, but came from very different regions in Europe. It remains to be investigated if Georg Ignaz Keller played any role at all in Haydn's life. Of course one could argue that in the above entry the priest actually referred to the Austrian town of Hainburg an der Donau. But the fact that the word definitely has an "m" and only Wagram bears the attribute "in Österreich" (as if to set it apart from the non-Austrian birthplace of the groom) makes it very clear that (apart from Brahms having written variations on a tune not by Haydn) this Hansa City has finally gained a family relationship to the composer of the Deutschlandlied.

Approaching the end of his life, Johann Peter Keller suffered hard times, which in a fascinating way may reflect the demise of the wig as a social and economic factor in eighteenth-century Vienna. He died on 9 August 1771, absolutely destitute, in the "Klerfisches Haus" on the Hoher Markt and was buried the following day in the new crypt of St. Stephen's. His relatively wealthy children (and maybe his son-in-law) made sure that his ´third-class funeral cost 27 gulden 36 kreuzer and even comprised a "Music vors Miserere" for 4 gulden.

The entry concerning Johann Peter Keller's obsequies on 10 August 1771 at St. Stephen's (A-Wd, Bahrleihbuch 1771, fol. 227r). Keller was buried in the new crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2012

Updated: 1 March 2017



The information concerning Haydn's wife at the beginning of this post has been superseded by research which I published in September 2014 in a blogpost titled "Joseph Haydn's Real Wife".

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