Franz Joseph Haydn

Composer Franz Joseph Haydn

“Papa” Haydn; the most celebrated composer of his time, developer of the string quartet and a major influence on symphonic composition.

Vital Statistics
Mar. 31, 1732 in Rohrau, Austria
May 31, 1809 in Vienna, Austria
Performed As:
During Lifetime:
The industrial revolution. Changes in musical patronage: Haydn was the last major composer to be in service to a noble family.
Biographical Outline
  • Training: At about seven, Haydn enters the choir school at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He learns singing, harpsichord, violin, and probably some theory.
  • First breaks, 1753: Haydn is introduced to the Italian opera composer Nicola Porpora. Porpora teaches him opera composition and introduces him to noble patrons and famous musicians.
  • In service: Haydn’s first regular employment is with a Count Morzin from about 1757 to 1760. Haydn is then hired as Vice-Kapellmeister (chapel-master) to Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy (and after Paul’s death, in 1762, to his brother, Nikolaus). The Esterhazys are the richest, most powerful noble family in Hungarian nobility.
  • Opera on demand, 1766-90: Shortly after Haydn becomes full Kapellmeister (1766), Prince Nikolaus’ private opera house is built in his new palace, Esterhaza. By 1778, the Prince is paying for full theater seasons; opera directing and composing become Haydn’s full-time job. Between 1776 and 1790, he produces all the operas there - 88 productions in all - writing six of them himself.
  • Royalties: In 1779, Haydn signs a new contract with the Prince allowing him, for the first time, to sell compositions to publishers. He begins issuing publications right away, mostly chamber music, opera excerpts, and 2 books of lieder. His music is wildly popular.
  • End of an era: In 1790, Prince Nikolaus and his wife both die, and his son, Anton, dismisses the musicians. Haydn continues to receive an annuity from the estate. He moves to Vienna.
  • London calling: Haydn is invited to London for the 1791-92 season, and then returns in 1794-95. The London visits are the high point of his career. He is received as a celebrity and feted by royalty. He composes a wide variety of music for England, including his last 12 symphonies (nos. 93-104) and his last opera, Orfeo ed Euridice.
  • Vienna again: Haydn is rehired as Kapellmeister by the next Esterhazy prince, Nicolaus II. The new prince lives mainly in Vienna, and only requires one mass composition a year for the name-day of his wife. In addition to this great series of masses, Haydn writes two oratorios for performance in Vienna, The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801).
  • The end: In his last years, Haydn receives a stream of important visitors, but ceases to compose.
Fun Facts
  • Home away from home: Prince Nicolaus spent up to 10 months a year at his new palace, Esterhaza. But Haydn and his musicians had homes in Eisenstadt, the traditional Esterhazy seat. In order to emphasize the difficulty of being away for so long, Haydn wrote his “Farewell” Symphony (no. 45), which ends with the musicians leaving the stage one by one, during a tearful slow movement.
  • Esterhaza: Haydn said of the years at Esterhaza, “I was cut off from the world … so I was forced to become original.”
  • “Papa” Haydn: Haydn was modest, honest, conservative in his habits, and good-humored. He took care of his musicians, and did favors for friends. Without any sense of jealousy or despair, he wrote that his friend Wolfgang Mozart was “the greatest musician known to me either by name or reputation.”
  • Sharp businessman: Since there were no effective copyright laws at the time, Haydn often managed to sell the same work to several different publishers. He was known to drive a hard bargain, and maximized his income wherever he could.
  • The man: Haydn was short, with a broad forehead, brown skin, lively eyes, and a large nose with a polyp on it (which he eventually had removed.)
Recommended Biography
Explore the Music
  • Music man: Like the man, Haydn’s music was witty and jocular and sublimely serious by turns.
  • Taking requests: Prince Nicolaus played the baryton, a now-disused type of viol. Haydn composed 126 trios for the instrument in the 1760s and played them with the Prince. Later, for the King of Spain, he composed concertos for the hurdy-gurdy, which he called lyra organizzata (organ-lyre).
  • Symphonic thoughts: Haydn didn’t invent the symphony, but his 106 works were the most important stimulus to the genre’s development.
  • Symphony: Three of Haydn’s earliest works from the Esterhazy period, and several from the early 1770s to 1784, show his intensive development of the genre’s possibilities. The larger, public symphonies, beginning with No. 82, are the more famous ones.
Recommended Websites
  • Symphonies:
    • Symphonies Nos. 6 “Morning”, 7 “Afternoon”, 8 “Night
    • Northern Chamber Orchestra/ Nicholas Ward (Naxos, 1994)
    • Symphonies Nos. 44, “Mourning”, 45, “Farewell”, 49 “Passion”
    • Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/ Ton Koopman (Erato, 2003)
    • Symphonies Nos. 76 in E-Flat Major, 77 in B-Flat Major, 78 in C Minor
    • The Hanover Band/ Roy Goodman (Hyperion UK, 2002 reissue)
    • “Paris Symphonies” Nos. 82-87
    • Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/ Sigiswald Kuijken (2 discs, Virgin Veritas, 2000)
    • Philharmonia Hungarica/ Antal Dorati (2 discs, Decca, 1996)
    • Symphonies Nos. 88-92 (“Oxford”)
    • Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra/ Adam Fischer (2 discs, Nimbus, 1994)
    • Symphonies Nos. 92 “Oxford”, 94 “Surprise”, 96 “Miracle”
    • Cleveland Orchestra/ George Szell (Sony 2003)
    • (Nos. 94, 96) Academy of Ancient Music/ Christopher Hogwood (L’Oiseau-Lyre, 2007)
    • “London Symphonies” (Box set)
    • Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra/ Adam Fischer (Nimbus)
    • New York Philharmonic/ Leonard Bernstein (Sony)
  • Other orchestral
    • Trumpet Concerto
    • Cello Concerto
  • Chamber Music
    • String Quartets: Though Haydn cultivated the string quartet throughout his career, the most intensive development took place in the 1780s and 1790s beginning with Op. 33.
    • Op. 76; Op. 77
    • Piano Trios: Many of Haydn’s piano trios were written for friends and acquaintances in London in the 1790s. These works are among his greatest chamber music.
    • The Last Four Piano Trios: Nos. 27 in C Major, 28 in E Major, 29 in E-Flat Major, 30 in E-flat Major
    • Robert Levin, Vera Beths, Anner Bylsma (Sony, 1993)
    • Four Piano Trios: Nos. 27 in C Major, 19 in G Minor, 25 in G Major, “Gypsy”, 18 in A Major
    • The Gryphon Trio (Analekta, 2007)
    • Piano Trios Nos. 12 in E Minor, No. 27 in C Major, No. 28 in E Major, No. 25 in G Major, “Gypsy”
    • Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (Dorian, 1993)
  • Piano sonatas
    • Nos. 30 in B Minor, 33 in D Major, 24 in A Major, 32 in C-Sharp Minor, 44 in E-Flat Major
    • Leif Ove Andsnes (EMI 1999)
    • No. 59 in E-Flat Major, No. 60 in C Major, No. 61 in D Major, No. 62 in E-Flat Major
    • Jeno Jando (Naxos, 1994)
  • Vocal Music
    • Mass No. 10, “Mass in the Time of War”
    • Mass No. 11, “Nelson” Mass
    • The Creation (oratorio)