Schroeder here sets out to challenge the widely held view of Haydn as an inspired instrumental musician who composed in isolation from 18th-century enlightened thinking. By means of both documentary and musical investigation the author seeks instead to present him as a culturally and politically sensitive representative of the Age of Englightement. Haydn's awareness of contemporary aesthetic opinion and the tenets of the Enlightenment is reflected by the transformations in his own compositional style, and there are fascinating implications here for our understanding of instrumental music from the second half of the eighteenth century. Of fundamental importance in this survey is Haydn's relationship with his audience, which, it is argued, had a significant bearing on the nature of the works. The author suggests that Haydn was well acquainted with the contemporary view that works of literature or music should serve a moral function and he points to numerous instances in the late symphonies where this end is effectively pursued.
For the eighteenth century, however, morality did not imply dullness; indeed, its goals were best served through wit, humour, popular appeal, and beauty, as well as through intellectual challenge.