Franz Josef Haydn

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    Understanding the Music: Haydn - Symphony No. 103 in E-flat major (“Drumroll”)

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    Understanding the Music: Haydn - Symphony No. 94 in G major, "Surprise"

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    Watch an excerpt of Haydn's Allegro spiritoso from Symphony No. 83 in G Minor


(Franz) Joseph Haydn's talent, coupled with his long life, guarantee him a place in the pantheon of great symphonic composers.

Born in 1732 in Rohrau, Lower Austria, not much is definitively known about Haydn's early life. Apparently, young Joseph demonstrated a precocious musical ability. He was sent to live with his music teacher, then to Vienna as a member of the Stephansdom Cathedral boys' choir, where he remained until his voice broke. Joseph survived the 1750s barely eking out a "wretched existence," though he garnered some early success with the comedy Der krumme Teufel. In 1760, he was united with Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia Keller in a marriage that proved unhappy.

The following year, Haydn was named vice-Kapellmeister to Prince Paul Esterházy. Quickly promoted, he worked for the ruling member of the Esterházy family for almost thirty years. This period, though important to his musical growth, was nonetheless stressful as he was not always on good terms with his patron.

The 1790s were years of great musical and financial achievement. Haydn traveled to London in 1791, where he enjoyed his burgeoning success. Fame followed Joseph back to Vienna, where he took on his former position as Kapellmeister to the Esterházys again, this time on much more agreeable terms. He befriended a young Mozart and taught the young Beethoven for a time. Undoubtedly the biggest triumph during his lifetime was The Creation of the World, first performed for the public in 1799. Now a cultural hero, Haydn's musical output declined after 1800 and he died in 1809.

Remembered as ‘Papa Haydn' for the pious, good-natured character he exhibited in his old age, Joseph Haydn is known as the ‘father of the symphony' and for his skill composing string quartets. He is venerated as the first of the "Viennese Classics."
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