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Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
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"A genius of this kind never before existed and probably never will be surpassed. He is... the father of us all." - George Thomson
"He alone has the secret of making me smile, and touching me to the bottom of my soul." - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Johann Michael Haydn   Franz Joseph Haydn, father of the symphony and inventor of the string quartet, was born in Rohrau, Austria on April 1, 1732, to Maria Koller and Mathias Haydn. Some sources incorrectly state that his birthday was March 31st, but that is a fallacy instigated by his well-meaning brother Michael, who wanted no one to accuse Haydn of being an April Fool. Josef (the name he went by) was one of six surviving children of the twelve born to his parents. The surviving siblings were : Anna Maria Franziska (1730-1781), Anna Maria (1739-1802), Anna Katherina (1741-?), Johann Evangelist (1743-1805), and Johann Michael (1737-1806). Haydn's father worked as a wheelwright, but he was also a talented harpist who would sing Austrian folksongs to his family. Josef loved his father's music and turned out to be a good singer. Josef was sent to stay with his father's cousin Johann Mathais Franck, who was a schoolmaster in Hainburg and precentor at his local church. This gave the young Haydn his first opportunity to study music and he learned to play violin, clavier, and drums and studied voice further. It was clear from the start that Josef was destined to become a career musician.

Young Haydn   From 1740-49, Haydn sang in the St. Stephen Cathedral Choir in Vienna and studied religion, Latin, math, writing, violin, clavier, and voice. The school only lacked in teaching theory and composition, so he began to educate himself. His younger brothers Michael and Johann Evangelist later joined the choir and Josef instructed them in the musical arts that he had only recently learned himself. As Josef matured, the choirmaster, Karl Georg Reutter, became concerned that Josef would lose his beautiful voice and convinced him to undergo castration. Only two hours before the scheduled procedure, Josef's father stopped by for a surprise visit. After Josef enthusiastically told his father about the planned castration, Mathais became very angry and immediately went to chastise Reutter. Reutter, fearing a scandal, cancelled the procedure and apologized profusely. Josef's voice changed when he turned fifteen. He remained in the choir for another two years until he was caned and dismissed for cutting off another singer's pigtail.

  When Josef was unable to find work, a friend of Haydn's father named Anton Buchholz lent him money without interest to rent an attic in the Michaelerhaus next to St. Michael's Church in Vienna. This allowed young Haydn to continue studying music while having neighbors like poet/librettist Metastasio, the family of the ten-year-old singer, and later composer Marianne Martinez and Italian musician/composer Nicolas Porpora. Porpora allowed Haydn to accompany him on harpsichord during his lessons, introduced him to composer Willibald Ritter von Gluck, and taught him Italian and guided him in his early compositions. Haydn was a popular teacher among the aristocracy, but still barely made ends meet. After meeting Karl Joseph von Furnberg, Haydn was hired to play violin at the Furnberg country home near Vienna. This job probably inspired Haydn's first string quartets and gave him higher exposure to the patrons of high society. In 1758, Furnberg recommended Haydn for the post of Count Ferdinand Maximillian von Morzin's orchestra conductor in Lukavec (now Czechoslovakia). While serving in this position, Haydn wrote his first orchestral pieces and, more importantly, his first symphony. Haydn worked in the Morzin orchestra until it was disbanded due to lack of funds in 1761.

Maria Anna Keller   While in this position, Haydn married Maria Anna Keller (1729-1800) in St. Stephen's Cathedral. Haydn had actually been in love with Maria's older sister Therese, but she did not return his affections and eventually entered a convent. The Organ Concerto in C Major No.8 and probably the Salve Regina in E Major were written in honor of Therese's entrance into the convent. There are many theories as to why Haydn married Maria, but, in any case, it was far from a pleasant marriage. Maria was barren, had no appreciation for her husband's talent, and was said to have a foul temperament. She neglected the housekeeping and tried to irritate her husband whenever she could. Stories tell of Maria using Haydn's compositions to line cake tins, as tablemats, and, when torn into strips, to curl her hair. Haydn remained unhappily married to her until her death in 1800, but was known to have several mistresses over the years and possibly an illegitimate child.

  Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy of Austria hired Haydn as assistant Kappelmeister of the prince's orchestra in 1761. The current Kappelmeister, Gregor Werner (1695-1766) resented the respect and higher salary that Haydn received from the Prince and viewed him as competition (even though Werner had his position for life). Haydn held Werner in high regard, even when Werner balked at Haydn's ideas. Haydn's first pieces written for Prince Paul were symphonies No.6 Le Matin, No.7 Le Midi, and No.8 Le Soir – all named by the Prince himself. After Prince Paul's death, his brother Nicholas became prince and continued the Esterhazy orchestra, even participating by playing the baryton (or viola di bordone). Several of Haydn's pieces from this time included special baryton parts for the Prince to play including over 100 trios with viola and bass. Four short operas were written for Prince Nicholas' coronation – La Marchesa di Nespola, La Vedova, Il Dottore, and Il Scanarello – and Haydn's first full-length opera, Acide, was then written for the occasion of Nicholas' son Anton's marriage.

  In 1763, shortly after his father died, Haydn made a catalogue of all of his compositions from the previous 15 years. The Entwurfkatalog holds 30 symphonies, 18 string quartets, 18 string trios, and several divertimenti, cassations, and occasion-related music written for the Esterhazy family. Perhaps with his father's death, he felt that he needed to be sure that his work would survive after his own death. When Gregor Werner died in 1766, Haydn took over as Kappelmeister of the Esterhazy orchestra. In 1768, Prince Nicholas had the grand Esterhaza Palace finished and the musicians of the Esterhazy orchestra were told to move in. Even though the music house was large, only Haydn and only three other members were allowed to have their wives join them there. It wasn't until 1772, after an emotional performance of his 45th symphony that the situation changed. The Farewell Symphony (Abschiedssinfonie) was written in the unusual key of F minor and after each musician finished his part, he blew out his candle and quietly left. The performance made its point and the next day the Prince gave the lonely musicians leave to visit their wives and families. Under Haydn, the Esterhaza became famous for its orchestra and he was so loved by his musicians that they began to affectionately call him "Papa." Around this time he wrote two new operas, La Cantarina and Lo Speziale, and was able to write more church music since previously it was Gregor Werner's job. Haydn's first religious piece written for the Esterhaza was the Saint Cecelia Mass (Missa Cellensis in honorem Beatissimae Virginis Mariae).

  A literary movement rose in the late 1760s called Sturm und Drang ("Storm and Stress," named from the 1776 play by a German named von Klinger), in which emotion was the essential feature. Haydn's work was greatly affected by this movement since he already felt that the effect of music on an audience was infinitely more important that technical issues. The influence is not seen in his operas of the time, since they were commissioned by the aristocracy, who disliked Sturm and Drang. However, it is evident in Symphony No.26 in D Minor Lamentations, which refers to a section based on a Gregorian chant. Other works influenced by Sturm and Drang include the aforementioned Farewell Symphony, as well as Symphony No.39, No.44 Trauer (Mourning), and No.49 La Passione.

Haydn Portrait by Guttenbrunn   In 1773, the Empress Maria Theresa visited Esterhaza and, in her honor, Haydn's orchestra performed a puppet show, an opera, and his Symphony No.48 in C Major (written in 1769) which was known thereafter as the Maria Theresia. Even though Haydn was not officially permitted to write for anyone outside the Esterhaza, he did compose the oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia (1774-5) for an outside patron. His disobedience was probably overlooked because the proceeds from this job went to poor musicians and their families. For the Esterhaza during this time, Haydn composed the Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo in B flat (aka Kleine Orgelmesse or The Little Organ Mass) for the hospital church in Eisenstadt. When Duke Ferdinand and his wife visited in 1775, Haydn wrote a comic opera called L'incontro improvviso (The Unexpected Meeting). This piece is based on a Turkish theme. Although Austria and Hungary had been at odds with Turkey for many years, Austrian and Hungarian patrons were very fond of the Turkish musical and cultural style. The next year, a fire broke out in Eisenstadt for the second time (a fire had also occurred in 1768), destroying an unknown number of compositions by Josef Haydn. His bad luck with fire may have inspired his opera Die Feuerbrunst (The Conflagration or The Burned House) as well as the Symphony No.59 or Fire Symphony. In the next few years two more operas debuted: Il mondo della Luna (The Land of the Moon), written for a royal wedding, and La vera costanza (True Constancy). In 1778 came the first of many rumors that the perfectly healthy 46-year-old Haydn had died. The rumor reached as far as England where his supposed demise was published in Dr. Charles Burney's History of Music.

  Fire again destroyed some of Haydn's work when it struck the large Esterhaza theater in 1779, but the rest of the palace was saved by a fortunate rainstorm. The rebuilt theater was even grander than the previous one, requiring more operas from Haydn. The opera L'isola disabitata (1779) had some special sections written for a talented 19-year-old mezzo-soprano named Luigia Polzelli. Luigia had just joined the Esterhazy's chorus with her husband Antonio, who played violin. The Polizelli marriage was quickly failing and Haydn felt for her, being in a similar marital situation himself. Love letters between Luigia and Josef have been found and they might have had an actual affair. It was rumored that Luigia's youngest son, Antonio, was fathered by Haydn.

  Haydn's popularity reached across Europe and he was commissioned by several foreign patrons. In 1785, Haydn wrote instrumental music for The Seven Last Words of Our Savior from the Cross for the priest of the Spanish cathedral in Cadiz. The priest was so pleased that he creatively paid Haydn with a chocolate cake filled with gold coins. It was such a successful piece that after only six years from its 1787 premiere it was already being performed in America. String quartet (1787), choral (1790), and oratorio versions (1795) followed the success of this work. Also, a Stabat Mater was written for a Parisian named Le Gros, and then the musical society Les Concertes de la Loge Olympique ordered six symphonies now known as the Paris Symphonies (written from 1785-6): No.82 The Bear, No.83 The Hen, No.84 In Nomine Domini, No.85 La Reine de France, No.86, and No.87. They were so well received that Haydn was commissioned for three more – No.90, No.91, and No.92 The Oxford Symphony. The String Quartet No.2 Opus 55 (Rasiermesser or The Razor) was supposedly named after he exchanged permission to publish some of his works for a decent razor. Haydn's most popular opera during his lifetime was Orlando Paladino (1782). Within two years it was performed 30 times in Germany and 33 times in Austria. In 1782, Haydn also wrote his last two theatre works under his Esterhazy employment – a puppet show called L'assedio di Gibilterra (The Siege of Gibraltar) and Armida, which Haydn considered his best opera.

  In the 1780s, Haydn developed a close friendship with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. They had known each other probably since 1781 at a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach and found in each other equal talent and deep friendship. Mozart was said to have regarded Haydn more of a father than his biological one. The two composers loved to bounce ideas off one another and in turn inspire each other's work. Haydn's Opus 20 string quartets from 1772 seem to have been the basis for Mozart's quartets written from 1772-4. Haydn's unique quartets in Opus 33 (1781) were likely the inspiration for Mozart's own six piece set of quartets, completed in 1785.

  In 1790, Nicholas Esterhazy and his wife died and his son Anton became Prince. Anton was not interested in music and disbanded the orchestra and choir, freeing Haydn from his obligations to the family. Haydn must have been glad for his freedom as he turned down a good job as court composer for the King of Naples and instead returned to live in Vienna. Violinist Johann Peter Salomon, hearing of Haydn's availability, invited him to participate in a series of concerts in London. Haydn accepted despite his inability to speak fluent English. During his travels, Haydn met a young Ludwig von Beethoven (whom he invited to Vienna for lessons), fellow composers Muzio Clementi and Jan Ladislav Dussek, and the Prince of Wales (the future King George IV). In March of 1791, Haydn presented his first large work for the English – Symphony No.96 in D, The Miracle. Coincidentally, a miracle occurred after the premiere of the piece. As the audience moved forward to praise the composer onstage, a large chandelier crashed down in the now empty seats, not injuring a soul. Next, Haydn wrote the opera L'anima del filosofo, or Orfeo et Euridice, about the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. However, due to political conflicts within the local opera society, its performance was cancelled.

1791 Portrait of Haydn   In May 1791, after attending a festival of Georg Friedrich Handel's work, Haydn was first inspired to write his own oratorios. Before he began to work on them, he composed Symphony No.92 in G (the Oxford Symphony) for the occasion of his being made Doctor Honoris Causa in the art of music at Oxford University. Also for the event, he wrote a three-voice canon titled Thy Voice, O Harmony, is Divine. In the summer of 1791, Haydn stayed in the English countryside a few miles from London where he wrote Symphonies No.93 in D Major and No.94 in G Major, aka The Surprise or Paukensymphonie. The piece's nickname is from the surprise fortissimo harmony in the second movement. In November of that year, the Prince of Wales ordered a portrait to be painted of Haydn. The artist, seeing that Haydn was looking a little stiff, had a German maid come in to chat with him, which relaxed him enough for the sitting. Both the Prince and Haydn were very happy with the result and the painting was hung in Buckingham Palace. It was soon after that news of Mozart's death first reached London. Haydn refused to believe the news. After all, his own death had been rumored several times. About a month later, Haydn learned that the news was true and the loss of his friend who was like a son affected him deeply.

  The amiable Haydn made many friends in London, including a musician's widow named Rebecca Schroter. Haydn once told a friend that if he had only been unmarried, he would surely have taken Rebecca as his wife. Even so, Rebecca and Haydn wrote to each other faithfully and he copied many of her love letters into his diary. Haydn also kept several notebooks about his stay in London. Because Haydn was so fond of writing about the events in his life, we are able to know a great deal about his life in fine detail. Haydn left England at the request of Prince Anton of Austria in 1792 to get his affairs in order. Vienna was not as entertaining as London in Haydn's eyes, and disappointingly, his return home was scarcely noticed. In August of 1793, Haydn bought a house in Vienna, now known as Haydngasse 19. Around this time, the 22-year-old Beethoven traveled to Vienna to accept Haydn's offer of lessons. Beethoven and Haydn had a somewhat bumpy relationship due to differing interests within musical theory. Beethoven wanted to learn about the technical aspects of music and Haydn was more interested in the emotional impact music had on the audience. Beethoven ended up taking lessons on the side from Johan Schenk. Even so, Haydn respected Beethoven's talent and tried to help him stay in Vienna as long as possible.

  In 1795, Haydn returned to work for the Esterhazy family, now headed by Anton's son, Prince Nicholas. Haydn's first commission for the new Prince was six masses in honor of his wife, Princess Maria Hermenegild of Liechtenstein, and her name day. While Napoleon invaded Italy on the way to Austria in 1796, Haydn wrote the Missa in Tempore Belli (Mass in Time of War), in which he used trumpets and percussion to represent the sounds of war. The Missa Sancti Bernadi von Offida, written in honor of a canonization, is also known as the Heiligmasse because of Haydn's use of an old hymn called Heilig. The next mass was the Missa in Angustiis (Mass in Frightened Times), also known as the Nelsonmesse for the use of trumpets in the Benedictus that represent Admiral Horatio Nelson's winning the second battle of Abukir in 1801. The last three masses for the commission were the Maria Therese Mass or Theresien-Messe (1799), the Schopfungmesse (1801), and the Harmoniemesse (1802), which is known for its use of many wind instruments.

1799 Bust of Haydn   While Haydn was in London, his friend Salomon gave him a libretto that later became The Creation. The text was originally intended for Handel, but remained unused. Haydn had the text translated into German, began composing for it in 1796, and finished it in 1798, making it his first sacred work with German text. The piece was a huge success and was played all over Europe almost as soon as it was premiered. While composing The Creation, Haydn also completed his Concerto for Trumpet in E flat (a very influential trumpet piece), his last theatre work (the score for The Patriot King by English writer Alexander Bicknell), a recitative, an aria, and a chorus. Haydn also used text written by Leopold Haschka to compose an official national anthem for Austria. His inspiration was England's anthem, God Save the King, which he heard during his stay in London. The song, Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, or the Kaiserlied, remained the Austrian national anthem until 1918.

  In 1800, Haydn's wife died and he spent that summer working on his second oratorio, The Seasons or Die Jahreszeiten. The libretto for The Seasons was translated from a poem written by a Scotsman named James Thomson. It illustrated the changing of the seasons through natural experiences, and in the composition you can hear where Haydn wove in natural sounds like bird songs and frogs to enhance the aural experience. This secular oratorio was very well received at its 1801 premiere where Empress Marie Therese sang the soprano solo, but its creation wore out the aging Haydn. He often said that writing The Seasons was the end of him. Even so, he tried to compose another oratorio based on the Last Judgment, but it was cancelled when his libretto translator passed away. In the fall of 1800, Haydn had the opportunity to meet Admiral Nelson, whom he had honored in the Missa in Angustiis. When Nelson asked the composer for a gift, Haydn gave him his pen. Nelson was touched by this personal gift and gave Haydn the gold watch that he had with him during the battle of Abukir. Haydn was able to complete his last major compositions by 1803: String Quartet in D minor, Opus 103 and the previously mentioned Harmoniemesse. He was also pleased to be able to finish an edition of Scottish folksongs that was printed in Edinburgh by publisher William Whyte.

  Haydn's final years were hard for him since he had never been ill in his life and could not get accustomed to his declining strength. He resigned from the Esterhazys in 1804 and was too weak to attend the gala held for his 73rd birthday in March of 1805, which prompted yet another rumor of his death. Haydn joked that he wished he could attend the memorial performance that had been planned so he could conduct it himself. In 1805 and 1806, Haydn lost his both of his beloved brothers, Michael and Johann Evangelist, and then began to suffer severe headaches. He was still composing in his mind, but was torturously unable to put the music to paper. To celebrate his 76th birthday, a performance of The Seasons was held at Vienna University. Despite his poor health, Haydn managed to attend with his doctor in a carriage sent by Prince Nicholas himself. When Haydn arrived, a crowd of students greeted him, cheering "Long live Haydn!" and a fanfare of trumpets and percussion welcomed him into the concert hall. Unfortunately, Haydn had to leave partway through the performance as he was weakened by all of the excitement. In May of 1809, the nearly incapacitated Haydn was disturbed by the sounds of Napoleon's army entering Vienna. However, in respect for the ailing composer, Napoleon ordered a constant guard to stand outside Haydn's home to protect him from any further bother. Haydn is rumored to have played the Austrian national anthem every day in protest even as the enemy guard stood outside. On May 31, 1809, Haydn fell into a coma and died, but the news of his death was delayed because of Napoleon's occupation of the city. During the funeral, Michael Haydn's Requiem was played and at a memorial service on June 15, 1809, they played the Requiem written by Haydn's dear friend Mozart.

Haydn biography Copyright 1998 CD UNIVERSE Posted with permission.