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Franz Joseph Haydn

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Franz Joseph Haydn

Biography

Franz Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732, Rohrau, Austria - 31 May 1809, Vienna) was born in a lowly peasant cottage in Rohrau, Austria. His father, Matthias Haydn, was a third-generation wheelwright, a farmer, and a sexton at the local church. He also played organ and was proficient enough at the harp to accompany his wife, Maria (Koller), himself, and the singers among the 12 children in their home.

Joseph showed signs of musical ability very early, and at the age of five was sent to live and study with a distant relative, Johann Frankh, in Hainburg. Frankh was strict with the lad but gave him an adequate foundation in Latin, violin, singing, and the rudiments of music. When he was eight Joseph joined the St. Stephen’s Cathedral Boys Choir in Vienna where he studied religion, Latin, writing, arithmetic, violin and harpsichord in addition to singing in the famous choir. The music program was directed by Karl George Reutter, a greedy and ruthless taskmaster who almost starved the boys and seldom, if ever, fulfilled his obligations as a teacher of harmony. When young Haydn’s voice began to change, Reutter looked for an excuse to find a replacement immediately. Accused of cutting off another choir member’s pigtails, the boy was replaced by his brother Michael and turned out into the street, destitute and starving; he managed to survive by becoming a street musician, singing under windows, playing dance music in the taverns, and giving music lessons to younger children. He studied for a time with the opera composer and voice teacher Niccolo Porpora, a one-time rival of Handel and reputedly the best teacher in Vienna.

Following several more years of hardship, Haydn gradually became known for his compositions and his conducting ability. In 1759 he gained his first permanent position as music director to Count Maximillian Morzin. Two years later he was hired by the wealthy Prince Paul Esterhazy, first as an assistant and later as director of music, a position he kept for nearly 30 years.

During Haydn’s struggle against poverty in Vienna, he had fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of a hairdresser. When the young lady entered the convent in 1760, Haydn made the mistake of marrying her older sister, Maria Anna Keller, a decision he regretted for the rest of his life. He later found consolation for the frustration of his marriage in his love for Luigia Polzelli, a singer at Esterhaza. In spite of his domestic problems during those years, Haydn composed most of his best-known works while living at the famous Eisenstadt estate.

In 1790, Johann Peter Salomon, a German-born violinist and impresario, persuaded Haydn to go to London and conduct several new symphonies. He arrived in 1791 and, feted by royalty and the nobility, stayed for 18 months. During another triumphant visit in 1794-1795 he received an honorary doctorate of music degree from Oxford University.

After gaining fame and fortune in London, Haydn returned to Austria and continued composing and helping other composers, especially Mozart, who credited the older man for his own knowledge of string quartet writing. Haydn, in turn, willingly admitted his young friend’s superiority in the field of dramatic composition. Two of his greatest works, the immortal oratorios The Creation and The Seasons were completed when he was in his late sixties.

Haydn was 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 the sonata form. He composed at least 104 symphonies, 18 operas, 12 Masses, 20 miscellaneous church pieces, 11 choral works with orchestra, 25 solo cantatas and arias, 16 overtures, and over 150 solo works. His trumpet and horn concertos are still extremely popular. Haydn inserted marches in his dramma giocoso Il mondo della luna (1777) and his dramma eroica Armida (1783), and he also wrote many works for the wind bands and wind players he knew in Vienna, Esterhaza, and London. Many of those pieces have only recently been rediscovered.


Works for Winds

Adaptable Music

  • Menuetto (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Glover) (1795/2019)


All Wind Works


References