Franz Joseph Haydn

Born: March 31, 1732, Rohrao, Austria
Died: May 31, 1809, Vienna

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In his own words....

"My Prince was always satisfied with my works. I not only had the encouragement of constant approval but as conductor of an orchestra I could make experiments, observe what produced an effect and what weakened it, and...improve, alter, make additions, or omissions, and be as bold as I pleased."

Austrian composer. Part of the so-called Viennese School, and important influence on both Mozart and Beethoven.

Our image of the composer as an "artist," concerned with doing only what he or she wants to, is rooted in the nineteenth century. Composers of previous periods did not often have that luxury, but Franz Joseph Haydn did. Most of his creative life was spent in the service of the Esterházy family, writing pieces for their needs and desires. For example, he composed over 125 trios for the barytonæan instrument something like a viola da gamba—simply because it was the instrument that Prince Nikolaus played.

Surprisingly, these seeming restrictions, compounded by his frequent sojourns to the Esterházy summer palace at Esterháza (far removed from the musical center of Vienna) did little to dampen Haydn's creativity. Instead, he stated that this isolation and his ability to work daily with the musicians he was writing for was a perfect situation. Nor did it diminish his fame. By the 1780s, his music had been published all over Europe, and he was well-regarded in the music world. Because of this, he was invited to various cities and commissioned to write musical pieces for premieres in those cities. Most notable are the six symphonies he wrote for the Concerts Spirituels in Paris (Nos. 82-87, called his Paris symphonies) and the twelve he wrote for the concert promoter Johann Peter Salomon in London (Nos. 93-104, called the London symphonies). His final works, mostly sacred music for his patron, culminated in two large oratorios, The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801), the former being one of his most famous works.

Haydn is often referred to as "Papa" Haydn, and there is some justification for this. Although he did not invent either the symphony or the string quartet, he was a central figure in their development. His symphonies (especially the Paris and London sets) show a complete mastery of form and substance, setting the stage for the works of Mozart and Beethoven. Haydn's "paternity" is just as clear in the string quartets. Here Haydn helped transform the genre from little more than a string divertimento (with the emphasis on the top voice) to a type of chamber music in which all parts play an equal role. These ideas directly influenced Mozart, who responded with six quartets dedicated to Haydn (1782-85). Haydn's style is detectable in the early music of Beethoven as well.

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  • Orchestral music, including over 100 symphonies (6 Paris Symphonies, Nos. 82-87, 1785-86; 12 London Symphonies, Nos. 93-104, 1791-95); concertos for violin, cello, harpsichord, and trumpet; divertimentos
  • Chamber music including some 68 string quartets, piano trios, and divertimenti
    Sacred vocal music, including 14 Masses (Mass in Time of War, 1796; Lord Nelson Mass, 1798); oratorios, including The Creation (Die Schöpfung, 1798) and The Seasons (Die Jahreszieten, 1801)
  • Dramatic music, including about 40 sonatas; songs, including folk song arrangements; secular choral music
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Musical Examples

String Quartet, Op. 76, no. 3, 2nd mvmt 07:42
Symphony No. 94, Andante, second mvmt
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The Creation, Part I, no. 12
Listening Guide [pdf file - 378 KB]
The Creation, Part I, no. 13
Listening Guide [pdf file - 378 KB]
The Creation, Part I, no. 14
Listening Guide [pdf file - 378 KB]
String Quartet No. 29 in G major, Op. 33, No. 5 - Vivace assai 06:04
String Quartet No. 29 in G major, Op. 33, No. 5 - Largo e cantabile 04:50
String Quartet No. 29 in G major, Op. 33, No. 5 - Scherzo 03:14
String Quartet No. 29 in G major, Op. 33, No. 5 - Finale 05:11
String Quartet Opus 76, No. 2, IV
Listening Guide [pdf file - 409 KB]
Trumpet Concerto, E-flat, 3rd mvmt
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Military Symphony No. 100, II 01:09
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