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Franz Josef Haydn (1732 - 1809)

Austrian composer, recognized as a dominant force in the development of the musical style of the classical era (circa 1750-circa 1820). Of humble origins, Haydn was born born into a family of twelve children in the village of Rohrau, near Vienna, on March 31, 1732 (the same year as George Washington). When eight years old he was accepted into the choir school of Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where he received his only formal education. Dismissed from the choir at the age of 17, he spent the next several years as a struggling free-lance musician. He studied on his own the standard textbooks on counterpoint and took occasional lessons from the noted Italian singing master and composer Nicola Porpora. In 1755 Haydn was engaged briefly by Baron Karl Josef von Fürnberg, for whom he apparently composed his first string quartets. A more substantial position followed in 1759, when he was hired as music director by Count Ferdinand Maximilian von Morzin. Haydn's marriage in 1760 to Maria Anna Keller proved to be unhappy as well as childless.

Career at Esterháza

The turning point in Haydn's fortunes came in 1761, when he was appointed assistant music director to Prince Pál Antal Esterházy; he became full director, or Kapellmeister, in 1762. Haydn served under the patronage of three successive princes of the Esterházy family. The second of these, Pál Antal's brother, Prince Miklós József Esterházy, was an ardent, cultivated music lover. At Esterháza (Hungarian Eszterháza), his vast summer estate, Prince Miklós could boast a musical establishment second to none, the management of which made immense demands on its director. In addition to the symphonies, operas, marionette operettas, masses, chamber pieces, and dance music that Haydn was expected to compose for the prince's entertainment, he was required to rehearse and conduct performances of his own and others' works; coach singers; maintain the instrument collection and music library; perform as organist, violist, and violinist when needed; and settle disputes among the musicians in his charge. Although he frequently regretted the burdens of his job and the isolation of Esterháza, Haydn's position was enviable by 18th-century standards. One remarkable aspect of his contract after 1779 was the freedom to sell his music to publishers and to accept commissions. As a result, much of Haydn's work in the 1780s reached beyond the guests at Esterháza to a far wider audience, and his fame spread accordingly.

After the death of Prince Miklós in 1790 his son, Prince Antal, greatly reduced the Esterházy musical establishment. Although Haydn retained his title of Kapellmeister, he was at last free to travel beyond the environs of Vienna. The enterprising British violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon lost no time in engaging the composer for his concert series in London. Haydn's two trips to England for these concerts, in 1791-92 and 1794-95, were the occasion of the huge success of his last symphonies. Known as the “Salomon” or “London” symphonies, they include several of his most popular works: Surprise (no. 94), Military (no. 100), Clock (no. 101), Drum Roll (no. 103), and London (no. 104). In his late years in Vienna, Haydn turned to writing masses and composed his great oratorios, The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801). From this period also comes his “Emperor's Hymn” (1797), which later became the Austrian national anthem. He died in Vienna, on May 31, 1809, a famous and wealthy man.


Haydn was prolific in nearly all genres, vocal and instrumental, sacred and secular. Many of his works were unknown beyond the walls of Esterháza, most notably the 125 trios and other assorted pieces featuring the baryton, a hybrid string instrument played by Prince Miklós. Most of Haydn's 19 operas and marionette operettas were written to accommodate the talents of the Esterháza company as well as the tastes of his prince. Haydn freely admitted the superiority of the operas of his young friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In other categories, however, his works circulated widely, and his influence was profound. The 107 symphonies and 68 string quartets that span his career are proof of his ever-fresh approach to thematic materials and form, as well as of his mastery of instrumentation. His 62 piano sonatas and 43 piano trios document a growth from the easy elegance suitable for the home music making of amateurs to the public virtuosity of his late works.

Haydn's productivity is matched by his inexhaustible originality. His manner of turning a simple tune or motive into unexpectedly complex developments was admired by his contemporaries as innovative. Dramatic surprise, often turned to humorous effect, is characteristic of his style, as is a fondness for folklike melodies. A writer of Haydn's day described the special appeal of his music as “popular artistry,” and indeed his balance of directness and bold experiment transformed instrumental expression in the 18th century.

"Haydn, (Franz) Joseph," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.

When Haydn died at the age of 77 he was a famous and wealthy man.
(Mozart often referred to Haydn's work as..... 
                      the standard by which all chamber music was measured.... )

Here is a very short list of some of his compositions that made him rich and famous.

Compositions for mechanical clock (music box)

  • 32 andantes, marches, prestos, allegrettos, menuets, fugues and other compositions, most of them are composed between 1792 - 1793, some of them are composed in 1789, others in 1796.
    Various orchestra works
  • 1. Menuet, trio and final in C, around 1773, partly used in early edition Symphony nr.63
  • 15. Ouverture 'Windsor Castle', 1795, at Salomons Opera with the same name
  • 1. Concert for violone (or contraviolone), lost!
  • 13. Concert for trumpet in E flat ('Concerti per il Clarino'), 1796, published London 1951
    Chamber music
    Many Divertimenti ('Cassations') for 2 oboes, 2 French horns, 2 violins, 2 violas, bass, bassoons, and other instruments.
    Over 200 Menuets, Counter-dances and German dances from which the copyright is doubtful!
  • 2 marches (in E flat and C), ('Derbyshire'); 1795
  • March (in E flat), 1792 for the Prince of Wales, 2 versions
  • Marche Regimento de Marshall (in G), around 1772, published 1960
  • 1. Acide, 1763, 'festa teatrale' -1 act
  • 13. L'anima del filosofo, ossia orfeo ed euridice, 1791 London
    Other theatre works
    Haydn composed a lot of music for the puppet-theatre in Eszterhaza (from 1752 - 1791)
  • 1. Der krumme Teufel, 1752, 'Singspiel'
  • 25. Hamlet, music for the Shakespeare-play (lost!)
  • Solo cantatas and arias with orchestra
    • 1. Miseri noi...funesto orror,recitative and aria for soprane, around 1786, published 1960
    • 25. Veni tandem expectatus, for soprane
      Furthermore Haydn made a lot of variations of aria's from Dittersdorf, Salieri, Anfossi, Gazzaniga, Piccini, Traetta, Prati and Cimarosa. The variations existed of adding instruments, adding measures, changes in singing parts etc.
      Songs (voice and piano)

      In the period 1792-1804 Haydn modified about 600 English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh melodies for voice and piano, sometimes with violin or violin and cello.
    • 1. Stabat Mater, for 4 soli, choir, orchestra and organ, composed in 1767
    • 6. Die Jahreszeiten, or 3 soli, choir and orchestra, text: G. van Swieten
      (J. Thomson, C.F. Weisse and G.A. Burger) 1801
    • 1. Missa Brevis in F Major, 1749 (second version 1805)
    • 15. Missa in B flat Major, (Harmoniemesse) 1802 Furthermore about 100
      Masses, thougth to be composed by Haydn, but the copyright is doubtful.
      Spiritual choirs
    • 1. Libera Me, Domine, for 4 solo voices, choir and organ, around
      1777-1790, published 1969
    • 18. Te Deum in C Major, for choir and orchestra, okt.1800,
      published in 1959
    • 30. 6 English psalms, for 2 sopranes and bass, 1794-1795
    • 1. Die heiligen zehn Gebote als Canons, around 1791-1795
    • 46. Turk war a faithful dog, 46. Thy voice, o harmony, 47. no text
      Profane Choirs
    • 1. Vivan Gl'illustro sposi, cantata for -, 10-01-1763, lost
    • 13. Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, for voice, nine wind instruments, timpani and strings, 1797
      Sonatas for piano
    • 1. in G Major, before 1766
    • 66. Sonata Militaire, not from Haydn, composed by Kauer
      Other piano works
    • Capriccio in G Major, 1765 'Acht Sauschneider mussen sein'
    • 20 variations in G Major, around 1771, published in 1788 in A Major
    • Allegretto in G Major,
    • Many many more
      Piano Trio
    • 1. in F Major, around 1766
    • 45. in E flat Major, 1795-1797, from the Andantino also exists a variation for voice and piano

      Piano concertos
      instruments: harpsichord and string instruments (2 violins and cello / bass) There are many of them.
      Haydn is regarded as the 'father' of the stringquartet. 83 stringquartets are known today.
      Works for 2 'Lire organizzate'

    • 5 concerti per la lira organizzata, for two lyres, 2 French horns and strings 1786-1787
    • 8 Notturni, for 2 lyres, 2 French horns, 2 clarinets, 2 violas and cello or bass, around 1788-1790
      Trio for string-instruments
      instruments: 2 violins and cello (or bass)

    • 1. in E Major, Paris around 1768
    • 21. in D Major, around 1765, published in 1803
      A baryton
      The favorite instrument of Prince Esterhazy.
      This instrument is not used today anymore.
      44 Compositions for one or two barytons
      Trios for baryton, viola and bass
    • 1. Trios, around 1765-1766 and later
    • 131. Trio in C Major, Hob.XI:C3, for cello, viola and bass, looks like barytontrio of L. Tomasini
      Compositions for 2 or 3 string instruments/wind instruments
    • 1. duets ('sonatas', 'soli'), for violin and viola, around 1777
    • 47. Divertimento in E flat, for violin, viola d'amore and cello, variation of a part from a baryton-trio
      Violin concertos
      Only 4 are certainly composed by Joseph Haydn, one of them is lost!
    • 1. Concert in C, Hob.VIIa:1; around 1769 (or 1761-1765), composed for Luigi Tomasini
    • 9. Concert in B flat, around 1767, from C. Cannabich
      Cello concertos
    • 1. Concert in C, around 1761-1765
    • 6. Concert in g minor, around 1773 lost!
      About 107 known symphonies
    • Nr. 1 in D 1759
    • Nr. 104 in D, Hob.I:104 1795 'London'/'Salomon'
    • Nr. 108 in B flat, Hob.-, composed before 1765, published in 1934, also named Symphony 'B'

                                      ...and many, many others.

      So great had been his influence on the musical world that
      the entire European community mourned his passing.

      To see an almost complete list of his compositions, visit Hayden's Site