Joseph Haydn


Franz Joseph Haydn

Born: 31 March 1732, Rohrau, Lower Austria
Died: 31 May 1809, Vienna 

With a legacy of over a hundred symphonies, it is difficult to overstate the influence of Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn — known as both the “Father of the Symphony” and the “Father of the String Quartet”— on these genres of classical music. The elder brother of fellow Austrian composer Michael Haydn, both a mentor and companion to Mozart, and a tutor of Beethoven, his musical contributions have influenced generations of musicians.

Haydn was born in 1732 in the small Lower Austrian village of Rohrau, the second son to parents of humble origins. His father worked as a wheelwright; his mother, prior to her marriage, worked as a cook for the lord of the manor. Though of common birth, young Haydn exhibited remarkable musical aptitude. At six years of age, he was taken in by a relative, who was employed as a school principal and choirmaster in the nearby town of Hainburg. His endeavours here equipped him with a foundational knowledge of music, the ability to play several instruments, and a good deal of practice singing in the church choir. This musical training marked the first steps of a remarkable journey that would take Haydn to heights hard to imagine for a boy from a small village. At eight years of age, young Haydn caught the attention of an important visitor to Hainburg — the musical director of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. After a successful audition Haydn was invited to join the choir there and moved to Vienna in 1740. He stayed on for nine years, amassing a depth of practical knowledge through frequent musical performances. When Haydn’s voice changed as he approached adolescence, he was dismissed from both the choir and the school at St. Stephen’s.

Upon leaving St. Stephen’s with little to his name, the seventeen-year old Haydn found himself living in the garret of a fellow musician, “miserably” slogging through a menagerie of small musical jobs. He made ends meet by teaching and performing where he could and cultivating aristocratic contacts, all the while devoting any excess of time to ambitious self-instruction in musical theory. The key to success for any composer in the mid-18th century was aristocratic patronage. With the increase in his reputation, Haydn eventually obtained the position of music director (Kapellmeister) for Count Karl Morzin in 1757, which ended a period of struggle and economic insecurity for him.  When the Count went bankrupt in 1760 he had to let Haydn go, but he did recommend him to his much wealthier colleague, Prince Paul Anton Esterházy, who engaged Haydn as Vice-Kapellmeister in 1761.

Prince Paul was succeeded by his brother Prince Nikolaus, an ardent music lover, who greatly enhanced his personal musical establishment, including building his own opera house. Haydn was promoted to full Kapellmeister in 1766. Much of Haydn's activity at the time followed the musical taste of his patron, whom he was obliged to follow as he moved among his various palaces – generally in Vienna during the winter and on his more remote country estate during the summers. It was a position that would support Haydn financially for nearly three decades, but would also isolate him from other composers and contemporary musical trends. Here he was, as he put it, "forced to become original” in his compositions.

1779 was a watershed year for Haydn, as his contract was renegotiated: whereas previously all his compositions were the property of the Esterházy family, he now was permitted to write for others and sell his work to publishers. Haydn soon shifted his emphasis in composition to reflect this (fewer operas, and more quartets and symphonies) and he negotiated with multiple publishers, both Austrian and foreign.  By 1790 he was widely considered the leading composer in Europe, so that when Prince Nicholas died that year and his son and successor, Prince Anton, dismissed his father’s musical establishment (though keeping Haydn on a nominal salary), Haydn was free to accept invitations elsewhere. At the invitation of the London impresario, Johan Peter Salomon, he made two lengthy trips to England (1791-1792 and 1794-1795) where he composed some of his most famous symphonies and was feted as the greatest composer of his time. 

He returned to Vienna in 1795 as a financially secure international celebrity. After the sudden death of Prince Anton in 1794 his son, Prince Nikolaus II partially revived his grandfather’s musical establishment and persuaded Haydn to return, at least on a part-time basis, to his former position.  Haydn worked on some commissions for the prince, notably a series of six masses for the name day of his wife, but by this time Haydn had become largely independent and lived permanently in a new house he bought for himself in the suburbs of Vienna.  He now wrote works primarily for public performance, including his late string quartets and his two major oratorios.  Above all, he was especially proud of a composition that was inspired by his experience in England, where the singing of the anthem, “God Save the King,” inspired great patriotic enthusiasm there.  Haydn resolved to write a similar anthem for his own country, “God save Emperor Francis,” which became the imperial anthem of the Austrian Empire until its demise in 1918.  The tune was incorporated into Haydn’s own string quartet, Op. 76, No. 3, and was used by a number of subsequent Central European composers from Beethoven, to Czerny, Smetana and Wieniawski. It was also widely used in Christian hymns and school hymns.  When, after 1803 Haydn was plagued by infirmity and could no longer compose, this was the tune he would repeatedly play for himself as a consolation, including on the day he collapsed and subsequently died at the age of seventy-seven in 1809. In 1922 the tune was appropriated by the Weimar Republic of Germany to a German nationalist text and has served as the national anthem of Germany since then.

Online Performances

Musical selections curated by our founding director, Professor Franz Szabo.

Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIb. 1
Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, cello
Nederlands Radio Kamer Filharmonie
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor
Live from the Grote Zaal Concertgebouw Amsterdam, 18 September 2011

Piano Concerto Nr.11 in D major, Hob. XVIII/11
Mikhail Pletnev, piano
Verbier Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor.
Live from the Verbier Festival 2014

Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major, Hob. VIIe/1
Gábor Tarkövi, trumpet
Marc Minkowski, conductor
Karajan-Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker
Live from the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie, 9 March 2018

Sinfonia concertante for violin, cello, oboe, bassoon, and orchestra, Hob. I/105
Rainer Küchl, violin; Franz Bartolomey, cello;
Walter Lehmayer, oboe; Michael Werba, bassoon
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein, conductor
Live from the Musikverein, Vienna, 1984

Piano Trio No. 32 in A-Major, Hob. XV/18
Annette von Hehn, violin; Stefan Heinemeyer, cello; Thomas Hoppe, piano
Live from the Konzerthaus Berlin, 8 January 2018

Piano Trio No. 39 in G major Hob. XV/25 ("Gypsy")
Haydn Chamber Ensemble
Luca Monti, piano; Cornelia Löscher, violin; Hannes Gradwohl, cello
Live from the Gustav Mahler Saal, Toblach, South Tyrol, 25 July 2017
Gustav Mahler Musikwochen

Piano Sonata No. 59 in E flat, Hob. XVI/49
Alfred Bredel, piano
Filmed in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk, UK, July 2000

Piano Sonata No. 62 in E flat, Hob. XVI/52
Andras Schiff, piano
Live from Esterhazy Palace, Eisenstadt, Burgenland, Austria, 2005

String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33 No. 2, "Joke"
Ariel Quartet
Gershon Gerchikov and Alexandra Kazovsky, violins;
Jan Grüning, viola; Amit Even-Tov, cello
Live from the Vermont Summer Music Festival, July 2012

String Quartet in D, Op. 64, No. 5, “The Lark”
The Jerusalem String Quartet
Alexander Pavlovsky and Sergei Bresler, violins;
Ori Kam, viola; Kyril Zlotnikov, cello
Parlance Chamber Concerts
Live from the West Side Presbyterian Church, Ridgewood, NJ, March 26, 2017

String Quartet in D-minor, op. 76, no. 2 "Quinten"
Amernet String Quartet
Misha Vitenson and Tomas Cotik, violins;
Michael Klotz, viola; Jason Calloway, cello
Live -- FIU Wertheim Performing Arts Center, October 6, 2015

String Quartet in C minor, Op. 76, No. 3 "Emperor"
Calidore String Quartet
Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violins;
Jeremy Berry, viola; Estelle Choi, cello
Live from the Eric Harvie Theatre at Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
11th Banff International String Quartet Competition, 2013

String Quartet in B flat Major, Op. 76, No. 4 "Sunrise"
Dover Quartet
Joel Link and Bryan Lee, violins;
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; Camden Shaw, cello
Live from the Eric Harvie Theatre at Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
11th Banff International String Quartet Competition, 2013

String Quartet in G Major, Op. 77, No. 1
The Schumann Quartett
Erik Schumann and Ken Schumann, violins;
Liisa Randalu, viola; Mark Schumann, cello
Live from the Eric Harvie Theatre at Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta
11th Banff International String Quartet Competition, 2013

Symphony No. 26 in D Minor, Hob. I/26 ("La Lamentatione")
Kammerorchester Basel
Giovanni Antonini, Conductor
Live from Basel, Switzerland, 2018

Symphony No 31 D Major, Hob. I/31 (“Hornsignal”)
Bamberger Symphoniker
Yoichiro Omaki, conductor
Live from the Joseph-Keilberth-Saal der Konzerthalle Bamberg
Bamberg, Germany

Symphony No. 49 in F minor, Hob. I/49 ("La Passione")
Il Giardino Armonico
Giovanni Antonini, conductor
From the Esterházy Palace, Eisenstadt, Burgenland, 2014

Symphony No 52 in C minor, Hob. I/52
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
Live from the Herkulessaal, Munich, 24 May 2019

Symphony No. 82 in C major, Hob. I/82 (“the Bear”)
Frankfurt Radio Symphony
Andrés Orozco-Estrada, conductor
Live from the Alte Oper Frankfurt, 17. Januar 2020

Symphony No. 94 in G major, Hob. I/94  (“Surprise”)
Gödöllő Shymphony Orcestra
Ertüngealp Alpaslan, conductor
Live from the Művészetek Háza, Gödöllő, 2018.

Symphony no. 100 in G major, Hob. I/100 (“Military”)
Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Konrad Junghänel,conductor
Live from the Schwetzinger SWR Festspiele, May 2007

Symphony No.103 in E-fat major, Hob. I/103  ("Drum Roll")
La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kuijken, conductor
Live from the Festivalhal Bijloke-abdij Gent, 22 September 1994
Gent Fstival van Vlaanderen, 1994

Symphony No. 104 in D major, Hob. I/ 104 (“London”)
Savaria Symphony Orchestra
Gergely Madaras, conductor
Live from Bartók Hall, Szombathely, Hungary, 2018

Missa in tempore belli in C major, Hob XXII/9
(“Mass in Time of War” / “Paukenmesse”)
Yeree Suh, soprano; Ulrike Mayer, alto;
Uwe Gottswinter, tenor; Christof Hartkopf, bass
Regensburger Domspatzen
L'Orfeo Barockorchester
Roland Büchner, condctor
Live from the Dreieinigkeitskirche, Regensburg, 13 May 2016

Missa in Angustiis in D minor, Hob. XXII/11 (“Nelson Mass”)
Berit Norbakken Solset, soprano; Halvor F. Melien, baritone
Additional soloists: Ingeborg Dalheim, soprano; Amanda Flodin and Astrid Sandvand Dahlen, altos; Mathias Gillebo and Kristian Krokslett, tenors; Olle Holmgren, bass
Det Norske Solistkor Choir
Oslo Camerata / Det Norske Blåsseensemble
Grete Pedersen, conductor
Live from Oslo Cathedral, 25 March 2011

The Creation, Oratorio, Hob. XXI/2
Annette Dasch - soprano Christoph Strehl - tenor Thomas Quasthoff - bass-baritone
Wiener Kammerchor Michael Grohotolsky - chorus master
Austro-Hungarian Haydn Philharmonic Orchestra
Adam Fischer, conductor
From the Haydn Hall at Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt, Austria
On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the death of Joseph Haydn in 2009

The Seasons, Oratorio, Hob. XXI/3
Dorothea Röschmann, soprano
Michael Schade, tenor
Florian Boesch, baritone
Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
Live from the Großes Festspielhaus, Salzburg
Salzburg Festival 2013

Watch the full collection of performances on our YouTube channel!