(Franz) Joseph Haydn (c.1732 - 1809) MP

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Nicknames: "Father of the Symphony", "Father of the String Quartet"
Birthplace: Rohrau, Bruck an der Leitha, Lower Austria, Austria
Death: Died in Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Occupation: Austrian composer of the classical period
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
Last Updated:

About (Franz) Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809), known as Joseph Haydn, was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form.

A lifelong resident of Austria, Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family on their remote estate. Isolated from other composers and trends in music until the later part of his long life, he was, as he put it, "forced to become original". At the time of his death, he was one of the most celebrated composers in Europe.

Joseph Haydn was the brother of Michael Haydn, himself a highly regarded composer, and Johann Evangelist Haydn, a tenor. He was also a close friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Life

Childhood

Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau, Austria, a village near the border with Hungary. His father was Mathias Haydn, a wheelwright who also served as "Marktrichter", an office akin to village mayor. Haydn's mother Maria, née Koller, had previously worked as a cook in the palace of Count Harrach, the presiding aristocrat of Rohrau. Neither parent could read music; however, Mathias was an enthusiastic folk musician, who during the journeyman period of his career had taught himself to play the harp. According to Haydn's later reminiscences, his childhood family was extremely musical, and frequently sang together and with their neighbors.

Haydn's parents had noticed that their son was musically gifted and knew that in Rohrau he would have no chance to obtain any serious musical training. It was for this reason that they accepted a proposal from their relative Johann Matthias Frankh, the schoolmaster and choirmaster in Hainburg, that Haydn be apprenticed to Frankh in his home to train as a musician. Haydn therefore went off with Frankh to Hainburg (seven miles away) and never again lived with his parents. He was about six years old.

Life in the Frankh household was not easy for Haydn, who later remembered being frequently hungry as well as constantly humiliated by the filthy state of his clothing. However, he did begin his musical training there, and soon was able to play both harpsichord and violin. The people of Hainburg heard him sing treble parts in the church choir.

There is reason to think that Haydn's singing impressed those who heard him, because he was soon brought to the attention of Georg von Reutter, the director of music in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, who happened to be visiting Hainburg. Haydn passed his audition with Reutter, and in 1740 moved to Vienna, where he worked for the next nine years as a chorister, after 1745 in the company of his younger brother Michael.

Haydn lived in the Kapellhaus next to the cathedral, along with Reutter, Reutter's family, and the other four choirboys. He was instructed in Latin and other school subjects as well as voice, violin, and keyboard. Reutter was of little help to Haydn in the areas of music theory and composition, giving him only two lessons in his entire time as chorister. However, since St. Stephen's was one of the leading musical centers in Europe, Haydn was able to learn a great deal simply by serving as a professional musician there.

Like Frankh before him, Reutter did not always bother to make sure Haydn was properly fed. As he later told his biographer Albert Christoph Dies, Haydn was motivated to sing very well, in hopes of gaining more invitations to perform before aristocratic audiences—where the singers were usually served refreshments.

Struggles as a freelancer

By 1749, Haydn had matured physically to the point that he was no longer able to sing high choral parts—the Empress herself complained to Reutter about his singing, calling it "crowing". One day, Haydn carried out a prank, snipping off the pigtail of a fellow chorister. This was enough for Reutter: Haydn was first caned, then summarily dismissed and sent into the streets with no home to go to. He had the good fortune to be taken in by a friend, Johann Michael Spangler, who shared his family's crowded garret room with Haydn for a few months . Haydn immediately began his pursuit of a career as a freelance musician.

During this arduous time, Haydn worked at many different jobs: as a music teacher, as a street serenader, and eventually, in 1752, as valet–accompanist for the Italian composer Nicola Porpora, from whom he later said he learned "the true fundamentals of composition". He also was briefly in Count Friedrich Wilhelm von Haugwitz's employ, playing the organ in the Bohemian Chancellery chapel at the Judenplatz.

When he was a chorister, Haydn had not received serious training in music theory and composition, which he perceived as a serious gap. To fill it, he worked his way through the counterpoint exercises in the text Gradus ad Parnassum by Johann Joseph Fux, and carefully studied the work of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, whom he later acknowledged as an important influence.

As his skills increased, Haydn began to acquire a public reputation, first as the composer of an opera, Der krumme Teufel "The Limping Devil", written for the comic actor Johann Joseph Felix Kurz, whose stage name was "Bernardon". The work was premiered successfully in 1753, but was soon closed down by the censors. Haydn also noticed, apparently without annoyance, that works he had simply given away were being published and sold in local music shops. Between 1754 and 1756 Haydn also worked freelance for the court in Vienna. He was among several musicians who were paid for services as supplementary musicians at balls given for the imperial children during carnival season, and as supplementary singers in the imperial chapel (the Hofkapelle) in Lent and Holy Week.

With the increase in his reputation, Haydn eventually obtained aristocratic patronage, crucial for the career of a composer in his day. Countess Thun, having seen one of Haydn's compositions, summoned him and engaged him as her singing and keyboard teacher. In 1756, Baron Carl Josef Fürnberg employed Haydn at his country estate, Weinzierl, where the composer wrote his first string quartets. Fürnberg later recommended Haydn to Count Morzin, who, in 1757, became his first full time employer.

The years as Kapellmeister

Haydn's job title under Count Morzin was Kapellmeister, that is, music director. He led the count's small orchestra and wrote his first symphonies for this ensemble. In 1760, with the security of a Kapellmeister position, Haydn married. His wife was the former Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia Keller (1729–1800), the sister of Therese (b. 1733), with whom Haydn had previously been in love. Haydn and his wife had a completely unhappy marriage, from which the laws of the time permitted them no escape; and they produced no children. Both took lovers.

Count Morzin soon suffered financial reverses that forced him to dismiss his musical establishment, but Haydn was quickly offered a similar job (1761) by Prince Paul Anton, head of the immensely wealthy Esterházy family. Haydn's job title was only Vice-Kapellmeister, but he was immediately placed in charge of most of the Esterházy musical establishment, with the old Kapellmeister, Gregor Werner, retaining authority only for church music. When Werner died in 1766, Haydn was elevated to full Kapellmeister.

During the nearly thirty years that Haydn worked at the Esterházy court, he produced a flood of compositions, and his musical style continued to develop. His popularity in the outside world also increased. Gradually, Haydn came to write as much for publication as for his employer, and several important works of this period, such as the Paris symphonies (1785–1786) and the original orchestral version of The Seven Last Words of Christ (1786), were commissions from abroad.

Of these, a particularly important one was with Maria Anna von Genzinger (1754–93), the wife of Prince Nikolaus's personal physician in Vienna, who began a close, platonic, relationship with the composer in 1789. Haydn wrote to Mrs. Genzinger often, expressing his loneliness at Eszterháza and his happiness for the few occasions on which he was able to visit her in Vienna; later on, Haydn wrote to her frequently from London. Her premature death in 1793 was a blow to Haydn, and his F minor variations for piano, Hob. XVII:6, may have been written in response to her death.

The London journeys

In 1790, Prince Nikolaus died and was succeeded as prince by his son Anton. Since Anton had little need of Haydn's services he was willing to let Haydn travel elsewhere, and the composer accepted a lucrative offer from Johann Peter Salomon, a German impresario, to visit England and conduct new symphonies with a large orchestra.

The visit (1791–1792), along with a repeat visit (1794–1795), was a huge success. Audiences flocked to Haydn's concerts; Haydn augmented his fame and made large profits, thus becoming financially secure. Charles Burney reviewed the first concert thus: "Haydn himself presided at the piano-forte; and the sight of that renowned composer so electrified the audience, as to excite an attention and a pleasure superior to any that had ever been caused by instrumental music in England."

Musically, the visits to England generated some of Haydn's best-known work, including the Surprise, Military, Drumroll, and London symphonies, the Rider quartet, and the "Gypsy Rondo" piano trio. The only misstep in the venture was an opera, L'anima del filosofo, which Haydn was contracted to compose, but whose performance was blocked by intrigues. Haydn made many new friends and was involved for a time in a romantic relationship with Rebecca Schroeter.

While traveling to London in 1790, Haydn had met the young Ludwig van Beethoven in his native city of Bonn. On Haydn's return, Beethoven came to Vienna and during the time up to the second London visit was Haydn's pupil.

Final years in Vienna

Haydn returned to Vienna in 1795. Prince Anton had died, and his successor Nikolaus II proposed that the Esterházy musical establishment be revived with Haydn serving again as Kapellmeister. Haydn took up the position, though only on a part-time basis. He spent his summers with the Esterházys in Eisenstadt, and over the course of several years wrote six masses for them. But by this time Haydn had become a public figure in Vienna. He spent most of his time in his own home, a large house in the suburb of Gumpendorf, and wrote works for public performance. In collaboration with his librettist and mentor Gottfried van Swieten, and with funding from van Swieten's Gesellschaft der Associierten, Haydn composed his two great oratorios The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801). Both were enthusiastically received. Haydn frequently appeared before the public, often leading performances of The Creation for charity benefits. He also composed instrumental music: the popular Trumpet Concerto and the last nine in his long series of string quartets, including the Fifths, Emperor, and Sunrise quartets.

During the later years of this successful period Haydn faced incipient old age and fluctuating health, and he had to struggle to complete his final works. By about 1802, his condition had declined to the point that he became physically unable to compose. This was doubtless very difficult for him because, as he acknowledged, the flow of fresh musical ideas waiting to be worked out as compositions did not cease. Haydn was well cared for by his servants, and he received many visitors and public honours during his last years, but they could not have been very happy years for him. During his illness, Haydn often found solace by sitting at the piano and playing Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, which he had composed himself as a patriotic gesture in 1797. This melody was later used for the Austrian and German national anthems.

A final triumph occurred on 27 March 1808, when a performance of The Creation was organized in Haydn's honor. The very frail composer was brought into the hall on an armchair to the sound of trumpets and drums, and was greeted by Beethoven, by Salieri (who led the performance), and by other musicians and members of the aristocracy – many of whom probably sensed that they were saying goodbye to the elderly composer. Haydn was both moved and exhausted by the experience, and had to depart at intermission.

Haydn lived on for another year. He died, aged 77, at the end of May 1809, shortly after an attack on Vienna by the French army under Napoleon. Among his last words was his attempt to calm and reassure his servants when cannon shot fell in the neighborhood: "My children, have no fear, for where Haydn is, no harm can fall." Two weeks later, a memorial service was held in the Schottenkirche on 15 June 1809, at which Mozart's Requiem was performed.

Character and appearance

James Webster writes of Haydn's public character thus: "Haydn's public life exemplified the Enlightenment ideal of the honnête homme (honest man): the man whose good character and worldly success enable and justify each other. His modesty and probity were everywhere acknowledged. These traits were not only prerequisites to his success as Kapellmeister, entrepreneur and public figure, but also aided the favourable reception of his music."

Haydn had a robust sense of humor, evident in his love of practical jokes and often apparent in his music, and he had many friends. For much of his life he benefited from a "happy and naturally cheerful temperament", but in his later life, there is evidence for periods of depression, notably in the correspondence with Mrs. Genzinger and in Dies's biography, based on visits made in Haydn's old age.

Haydn was a devout Catholic who often turned to his rosary when he had trouble composing, a practice that he usually found to be effective.

Works

James Webster summarizes Haydn's role in the history of classical music as follows: "He excelled in every musical genre… He is familiarly known as the 'father of the symphony' and could with greater justice be thus regarded for the string quartet; no other composer approaches his combination of productivity, quality and historical importance in these genres."

Structure and character of his music

A central characteristic of Haydn's music is the development of larger structures out of very short, simple musical motifs, often derived from standard accompanying figures. The music is often quite formally concentrated, and the important musical events of a movement can unfold rather quickly.

Haydn's work was central to the development of what came to be called sonata form. His practice, however, differed in some ways from that of Mozart and Beethoven, his younger contemporaries who likewise excelled in this form of composition. Haydn was particularly fond of the so-called "monothematic exposition", in which the music that establishes the dominant key is similar or identical to the opening theme. Haydn also differs from Mozart and Beethoven in his recapitulation sections, where he often rearranges the order of themes compared to the exposition and uses extensive thematic development.

Haydn's formal inventiveness also led him to integrate the fugue into the classical style and to enrich the rondo form with more cohesive tonal logic (see sonata rondo form). Haydn was also the principal exponent of the double variation form—variations on two alternating themes, which are often major- and minor-mode versions of each other.

Perhaps more than any other composer's, Haydn's music is known for its humor. The most famous example is the sudden loud chord in the slow movement of his "Surprise" symphony; Haydn's many other musical jokes include numerous false endings (e.g., in the quartets Op. 33 No. 2 and Op. 50 No. 3), and the remarkable rhythmic illusion placed in the trio section of the third movement of Op. 50 No. 1.

Much of the music was written to please and delight a prince, and its emotional tone is correspondingly upbeat. This tone also reflects, perhaps, Haydn's fundamentally healthy and well-balanced personality. Occasional minor-key works, often deadly serious in character, form striking exceptions to the general rule. Haydn's fast movements tend to be rhythmically propulsive and often impart a great sense of energy, especially in the finales. Some characteristic examples of Haydn's "rollicking" finale type are found in the "London" symphony No. 104, the string quartet Op. 50 No. 1, and the piano trio Hob XV: 27. Haydn's early slow movements are usually not too slow in tempo, relaxed, and reflective. Later on, the emotional range of the slow movements increases, notably in the deeply felt slow movements of the quartets Op. 76 Nos. 3 and 5, the Symphonies No. 98 and 102, and the piano trio Hob XV: 23. The minuets tend to have a strong downbeat and a clearly popular character. Over time, Haydn turned some of his minuets into "scherzi" which are much faster, at one beat to the bar.

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(Franz) Joseph Haydn's Timeline

1732
March 31, 1732
Rohrau, Bruck an der Leitha, Lower Austria, Austria
1809
May 31, 1809
Age 77
Vienna, Vienna, Austria
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