Haydn, Franz Joseph

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Haydn, Franz Joseph

(fränts yō`zĕf hī`dən), 1732–1809, Austrian composer, one of the greatest masters of classical music. As a boy he sang in the choir at St. Stephen's, Vienna, where he received his principal musical training. He struggled in poverty for years, earning a meager living as a teacher and accompanist. Eventually, his compositions came to the attention of some of Vienna's music-loving aristocrats, and under their patronage his career progressed rapidly. Most of his prodigious musical output was produced during the 29 years of his service as musical director to the princes Esterházy, beginning in 1761. During the 1780s, when he received commissions from London and Paris and honors from all over Europe, he formed a close friendship with Mozart, an association that influenced the music of each. In 1791 and 1794 he made lucrative visits to London, where he held concerts featuring his own music. During this period he wrote the 12 so-called Salomon Symphonies (after the impresario who had arranged his tours), much chamber music, and a large number of songs with English texts. Haydn's works are notable for their originality, liveliness, optimism, and instrumental brilliance. He established the basic forms of symphonic music and string quartet, which were to be a model and inspiration for the works of Mozart, and of Beethoven, who studied under Haydn. Important in the development of the classic sonata form, his string quartets and symphonies expanded the three-movement sonata form of C. P. E. Bach, adding one or two minuets before the last movement. Two great oratorios, The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801), were written in his old age. His works include over 100 symphonies, many known by such names as the Farewell Symphony (1772), the Surprise Symphony (1791), the Military Symphony (1794), and the Clock Symphony (1794); over 80 string quartets; much other chamber music; more than 50 piano sonatas; and numerous operas, masses, and songs.


See biographies by L. Nohl (1902, 7th ed. 1971), R. Hughes (rev. ed. 1978), and K. and I. Geiringer (3d ed. 1982); H. C. R. Landon, The Symphonies of Joseph Haydn (1955) and Haydn: Chronicle and Works (5 vol., 1976–80); C. Rosen, The Classical Style (1971; expanded ed. 1997).

Haydn, Franz Joseph


Probably born Mar. 31 (christened Apr. 1), 1732, in the village of Rohrau, Lower Austria; died May 31, 1809, in Vienna. Austrian composer; a representative of the Viennese classical school. Son of a wheelwright.

From 1740 to 1749, Haydn was a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, where he also learned to play several instruments. For a time he was accompanist to N. Porpora, an Italian composer and voice teacher. Haydn made up for the lack of a methodical musical education by studying the musical compositions of his predecessors and the theoretical works of J. Fux, J. Mattheson, and others. In the 1750’s, Haydn wrote a number of compositions which established his reputation as a composer: the comic opera Der krumme Teufel (performed in 1752 in Vienna and other Austrian cities), divertimenti and serenades, and string quartets for the musical circle of Count Fürnberg. From 1759 to 1761 he was Kapellmeister in the court of Count Morzin, for whose orchestra he composed his first symphonies. From 1761 to 1790 he served the Hungarian princes Esterházy. The whims of his patron often forced Haydn to part with his artistic freedom. Nevertheless, working with the orchestra and choir of which he was the director had a beneficial effect on his development as a composer. Haydn wrote the majority of his symphonies (including the famous “Farewell” Symphony, 1772) and operas for Esterházy’s orchestra and theater. Haydn’s trips to Vienna gave him an opportunity to associate with his most prominent contemporaries, in particular, W. A. Mozart. Haydn’s artistic creativity reached its height during the 1780’s and 1790’s, when the mature quartets (beginning with Opus 33), the six Parisian (1785-86) and 12 London (1791-92, 1794-95) symphonies, the oratorios, masses, and many other works were composed. In 1791-92 and 1794-95, Haydn journeyed to London at the invitation of the violinist J. P. Salomon, organizer of the Concert Series. The visits to England broadened Haydn’s horizons and contributed to the growth of his fame. In 1791 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University.

Together with C. W. Gluck and W. A. Mozart, Haydn consolidated the characteristic qualities of the Viennese classical school: devotion to optimistic ideals, a synthesis of intellectual and emotional elements, and the dialectical correlation of diversity and wholeness, which made possible the flourishing of the cyclical instrumental forms (symphonies, quartets, sonatas). Haydn’s art is profoundly democratic and linked with folk culture. His music is filled with the rhythms and intonations of Austrian, Slavic, and Hungarian folklore, with folk humor, and with inexhaustible vital energy. Symphonies and string quartets occupy the central place in Haydn’s work. If Haydn developed and perfected the work of his predecessors in the area of the symphony, he was a trailblazer in the field of the quartet. The mature works of Haydn are distinguished by a combination of simplicity and richness, naïve directness of feeling and sober logic of thought, boundless zest for life and wise philosophical contemplation. The philosophical moods of some of Haydn’s compositions anticipate the work of Beethoven, whom Haydn also foreshadows in the purposeful use of thematic development. A special place in Haydn’s legacy belongs to his oratorios—The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801)—in which the composer developed the lyrical-epic tradition of G. F. Handel’s oratorios. Haydn’s oratorios are marked by a rich lifelike character and the colorful expression of natural phenomena, both of which were new to that genre; they show Haydn to be a masterful colorist.

Haydn composed 24 operas, chiefly in the style of the Italian opera buffa and opera seria; three oratorios; 14 masses and other sacred works; 104 symphonies; overtures; marches; dances; divertimenti for orchestra and various instruments; concerti for clavier and other instruments; 83 string quartets; 41 piano trios; 21 string trios; 126 trios for baryton, viola, and cello and other ensembles; 52 clavier sonatas; assorted clavier pieces; songs; canons; and vocal arrangements of Scottish, Irish, and Welsh songs with piano accompaniment (or violin or cello if desired).


Gesammelte Briefe und Aufzeichnungen. Edited by D. Bartha. Kassel, 1965.


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