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Wednesday, December 7, 2016


A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works. Learn more about Nupur and her books at her website and blog.

The Diligent Composer

I did, of course, have talent. With that and great diligence I progressed.—Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
It was on Mother's Day 2012 that I decided to write a mystery series about a composer. I had just become a mother, and, like Fanny Mendelssohn, discovered I had little time to spare for the piano. Reading and writing about music would, I hoped, make up for that.

Which composer, was the big question. Neither Beethoven nor Mozart seemed suitable.

A good detective must be approachable, a shrewd observer of men and manners, and discreet enough to inspire confidence in those who seek his help. Plagued with deafness and many other illnesses, Beethoven had an irascible, volatile temperament that ruled him out. And Mozart's observations tend to be filtered through the self, confined only to what pertains to him.

Either Bach or Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, would have served. But it was Haydn who appealed to my imagination, whose life resonated with me, and whose vision of himself, as a craftsman rather than a divinely inspired artist, accorded with my own.

Born to a simple wheelwright and his wife, Haydn lacked the advantages Mozart had. His father played and sang a little by ear, but neither parent had any formal musical training or the means to provide Haydn with one. It was a stroke of good fortune that took Haydn to Vienna as a choirboy at St. Stephen's. Although the practical instruction he received served him well, when it came to music theory and composition, Haydn was largely self-taught.

It took ten long years of grinding poverty before he received his first job as a Kapellmeister—Director of Music. By the time my novel opens in 1766, he was employed by the Esterházys, wealthiest magnates in the Habsburg Empire, and the imperial court newspaper was hailing him as the "darling of the nation." He would never look back.

But he never forgot his humble origins or the people who helped him—the impoverished friends in Vienna who offered him a space in their crowded attic or lent him money for coal or food. And he was ready to help anyone in need. His musicians approached him with their problems, and he frequently interceded on their behalf with his employer.

So, when a violinist disappears, and no one could care less, who better than Papa Haydn to take on the task of discovering the truth?

A Minor Deception, a Joseph Haydn Mystery

When his newly hired violinist disappears just weeks before the Empress's visit, Haydn is forced to confront a disturbing truth. . .

Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa’s visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.

But when Bartó disappears—along with all the music composed for the imperial visit—the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.

Before long Haydn's search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle. Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief—and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.

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Lori L. Robinett said...

Sounds interesting. Perfect gift for music-loving reader friends!

NT said...

I'm glad you think so, Lori. Haydn was a truly fascinating person! There are countless anecdotes that speak to his unassuming personality--the story about how he was mistaken for a servant, for instance--and his helpful nature--the story of the Farewell Symphony. He also lived in a fascinating time.

Maria Theresa was Empress at the time, and in the north, Frederick the Great ruled over Prussia. Maria Theresa was able to win the Hungarians over by her charm, but taxes continued to be a bone of contention, and given events prior to her reign and those following, I thought it would be interesting to for the mystery plot to revolve around Austria's troubled relations with Hungary.

NT said...

Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Lois. This page looks so beautiful, and how wonderful that you were able to find a picture of Haydn to include with the post. Thanks!

mickibrowning.com said...

I wondered how you decided upon your protagonist. This is wonderful insight, Nupur. Best of luck!

Ann Myers said...

What a wonderful and interesting protagonist, Nupur! You must have had fun researching this too.

NT said...

Thanks, Ann. And yes, I really enjoyed researching Haydn and his life and times. What I didn't enjoy researching so much, although I felt I had to, was forensic pathology and investigations into all types of gruesome deaths. That gave me nightmares.

Death was no stranger to the eighteenth-century individual, and many of the changes that take place in the body after death would have been quite familiar to people back then.

NT said...

Thanks for visiting, Micki! Why I chose Haydn as my protagonist is the one question I'm most frequently asked. So, a post on that was long overdue.