Joseph Haydn

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Joseph Haydn

(Franz) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was an Austrian composer of the classical era, and along with W.A. Mozart, and Beethoven, one of the “big three” of that era. He was teacher and mentor to Beethoven, was greatly admired by Mozart, and affectionately known as “Papa.”

Having been born in Rohrau, Lower Austria, Haydn found his first musical education singing in the boy's choir in Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral, but was forced to find other work after his voice broke. He eventually took a post as Cappellmeister to the Esterházy family in the distant town of Eisenstadt, where he labored in isolation for most of his long life. Being away from the musical epicenter at Vienna would have been difficult for many with Haydn's musical gifts, but the composer once remarked that this isolation "forced [him] to become original." Late in his life, he made two journeys to London to promote his music, and was greeted with wild success.

He was adept at all genres from song, opera and large sacred works, to all forms of chamber music and orchestral pieces. It is largely due to Haydn that the symphony found its classical form that has largely continued to the present day. He wrote 104 of them. He is also known as the father of the string quartet (two violins, viola, and ’cello), of which he wrote 68.

He also wrote over a dozen masses, 6 oratorios, 16 operas, 62 piano sonatas, more than a dozen piano concertos, and many works for small chamber ensembles. His ‘cello concertos are still concert favorites, as is his trumpet concerto.

His younger brother, Michael, was also a composer whose music is frequently performed today. The popular hymn "O Worship the King" is set to music by Michael Haydn.

See also