In keeping with tomorrow night's holiday, we present a small musical danse macabre, but not the Saint-Saens version. Those of you with too vivid imaginations or weak nerves might want to take this opportunity to go see if the mail came early, or to polish the toaster.

Still with us? Okay. Here goes. On June 5, 1954, a solemn procession wove through the streets of Vienna, ending up in a mausoleum in Soviet-occupied Eisenstadt. There an urn was taken inside and placed in a copper casket next to a body. Franz Joseph Haydn was re-united.

With whom, you ask? To find out, let's go back 145 years, to June 1st, 1809. Haydn had died in Vienna the day before, at the age of 77. The city was occupied by French forces under Napoleon, and in order not to attract the attention of the enemy, the composer was quietly buried in the parish church. However, there being great scientific curiosity at this time about the shape of human skulls and what they revealed of their owners, a group of phrenologists bribed Haydn's friend Joseph Rosenbaum to produce the goods. Some cemetery workers made a little extra money that night and soon Joseph had gotten ahead. With no one the wiser.

Years passed. In 1820, Haydn's patron and Rosembaum's boss, Prince Nicolaus II Esterhazy decided to remove the composer's body for reburial at his estate, but it was discovered that the parts list didn't tally. Rosenbaum was immediately suspected and his house thoroughly searched. Every where but under the bed, where Frau Rosenbaum lay ill. Rosenbaum hinted that the head might possibly be located, for a price. When the goods were delivered it was obvious a substitution had been made.

When the time later came for Rosenbaum to go to his own reward, he confessed to having the head, and bequeathed it to the Vienna Society of the Friends of Music. They would have been dismayed if they had known (pay close attention now) that Rosenbaum's physician had pulled off his own caper, substituted another head he must have had lying around, and given the Haydn skull to an Austrian professor. Who in turn died, and left it to the Pathological Museum at the University of Vienna. Learning they had been cheated of their inheritance, the musical Friends sued the Pathological boys, won, and placed the skull on display in their own museum in 1895, where the curious could view, and even handle it. (No, not that Handel). And there it sat until 1954, when Prince Paul Esterhazy talked the Friends of Music into letting it be reburied, along with its rightful owner. Papa Haydn no longer rested in pieces.

For Classical ninety-one five, betting they didn't teach you THAT in music appreciation, this is David Minor

© 1999 David Minor / Eagles Byte


Burk, Margaret & Hudson, Gary - Final Curtain: Eternal Resting Places of Hundreds of Stars, Celebrities, Moguls, Misers & Misfits (Seven Locks Press, Santa Ana, California, 1996)