Haydn Essay, Research Paper
Joseph Haydn was without a doubt one of the greatest composers of his day. He was
loved very much as both a man and a musician, and unlike many other composers when he died
in 1809. he was one of the most celebrated composers in the world.
Haydn once said, “Young people can see from my example that something can still come
from nothing, but what I am is the result of dire necessity.” And it was very true. The story of
Haydn was a classic story of “rags to riches.” His father, Mathias Haydn (1699-1763), was a
wheelwright who after traveling through Germany settled in Rohrau, a village in Austria near the
border of Hungary. A year later, Mathias married Anna Maria Koller (1707-1754), and on April
1, 1732, Franz Joseph Haydn was born. He was the eldest of twelve children, six of whom never
lived past infancy. They lived in a quiet, modest home, which was always kept neat and tidy.
Music played a big role in the Haydn home. Mathias, through years of travel, learned how to play
the harp and would come home after work and practice. He and his wife would sing Austrian
folk songs along to the music, and the children quickly caught on. This was a nightly ritual and
one night a distant cousin named Johann Mathias Franck visited the Haydn family in Rohrau.
Franck was the school rector from Haimburg and was responsible for the music there. When he
saw the family singing after dinner, he took particular notice to the young Joseph Haydn who
was strumming his arm with a stick, pretending he was playing the violin. It was clear that
Joseph had a natural talent for music, since he kept time and pitch perfectly without ever having
any musical training. As a result, Franck offered to take Joseph back to Haimburg with him and
give him an education in music, which would most definitely lead him to becoming a clergyman.
Because his parents had a great deal of respect for the clergy, they jumped at the opportunity,
and when he was only six years old he left for Haimburg. There he was under a very strict
schedule which included lessons in reading, writing, and catechism, followed by Mass in the
church, and of course instruction in singing and playing almost all wind and string instruments.
Joseph also learned to play the timpani, and did so in a Holy Week procession. He had a deep
love for music and was very grateful for his stay at Haimburg. He once said, “I shall owe it to
that man [Franck] even in my grave that he taught me so many things, though in the process I
have received more thrashings than food.”
In 1740, Karl Georg Reutter, the music director of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna
came to Hainburg in search of new, young boys to replace the older ones whose voices broke.
Haydn was immediately recommended, and after singing a few pieces for Reutter, the badly
nourished boy was taken in as a new student to the Choir School at St. Stephen’s Cathedral,
where he would remain for the next nine years.
Haydn loved Vienna and was impressed greatly by all the fine music surrounding the city.
his life in the Cathedral was hard, however, and the schedule once again was rigorous. There
were lessons in Latin, math, and all the academic studies, as well as classes in singing, violin,
and percussion. However, there was no teaching of composition or theory, and Haydn often
claimed that he never had a proper teacher. As a matter of fact, it was often the older boys
teaching the younger boys. This meant Joseph was often the teacher of his younger brother,
Michael, who joined the choir a few years later. His other brother, Johann Evangelist, also joined
the choir and together the boys had a great time. There were many concerts outside the cathedral,
which were looked forward to with great excitement. This was because the amount of food at the
Cathedral was very limited and during concerts the boys were often treated to fine meals.
All of the fun soon ended when Haydn’s voice broke and he was expelled from the school.
He was left virtually alone in Vienna with no money and no place to go. He began composing
and arranging music as well as giving lessons in music. This earned him enough money to pay
rent for a small apartment and afford all the living expenses.
It was at this point in his life that he began studying the first six sonatas of Carl Philipp
Emanuel Bach, which fascinated him. Haydn once said, “I did not leave the clavier until I had
played them through…I owe a great deal to Emanuel Bach, that I understood him and have
studied him with diligence. Emanuel Bach once paid me a compliment on [the sonatas] himself.”
It was from this time in his life that Haydn wrote his earliest composition, a Missa Brevis in
F. After that came the first string quartets and for the first time in Haydn’s life he was being
recognized for his work, as well as living and eating well.
Haydn’s first orchestral compositions came out in 1758 when he became the conductor of
the Morzin Orchestra in Lukavec, which is present day Czechoslovakia. The Morzin Orchestra
played an amazing performance of Haydn’s first symphony, while Haydn conducted it from the
harpsichord. The audience was in awe of the performance, and among them sat Prince Paul
Anton Esterhazy, who later played a very important role in the still young Haydn’s life.
It was at this time, however, that Haydn married his first wife, Maria Anna Keller. He was
actually in love with her sister, Therese, however she did not love him in return and instead
joined a convent to get away from him. As a result, Haydn married Maria Anna, perhaps because
he felt an obligation to the family. The wedding was on November 26, 1760, however it was an
ill-fated marriage. Maria Anna had little tolerance for music, did not like a clean house, children,
and most of all Haydn. Once again, home life for Haydn was hard, but in order to get away from
it all he simply buried himself in his music, as he always did, composing many more great
In 1761, due to financial troubles, Count Morzin had to disband the orchestra that Haydn
was in charge of and once again Haydn was left unemployed. Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy
caught wind of this news and offered Haydn the job of Assistant Kapellmeister of his orchestra
Haydn was doing very well at Eisenstadt. He was earning more that enough money for
healthy living and his compositions were becoming more and more well known. Haydn was
pleased, and the Prince was pleased. Kapellmeister Werner, however, was very jealous of Haydn
and there was great tension between him and the assistant.
In March 1766, when Kapellmeister Werner died, Haydn became the new musical leader of
the Esterhazy Orchestra.
As leader, Haydn was free to experiment with the orchestra and be as bold and creative as he
wished. He once said, “[At Esterhazy] I was cut off from the world, there was no one to confuse
or torment me and I was forced to become original.”
In 1762 Paul Anton died and was succeeded by his brother Nicholas. Haydn wrote many
works in honor of Nicholas’s inauguration. However, it was at the Prince’s eldest son’s wedding
that Haydn conducted his first full-length opera, Acide, that he wrote specially for the occasion.
In 1764 Prince Nicholas wanted to build a new palace, with extravagant gardens
much like those of the Palace of Versailles. The construction immediately went underway and in
1768 after completion of “the Music House,” Haydn and the musicians moved in.
Once everything was settled, Haydn became very busy. He composed theater works for
puppet plays, the operas “La Cantarina” and “Lo Speziale,” as well as five or six symphonies a
year. Between 1761 and 1765, Haydn had written over twenty symphonies. By that time, the
orchestra Haydn was in charge of had been expanded to twenty-two players, all of whom had
much consideration and respect for Haydn. Out of this respect came the nickname “Papa,” for
the fatherly care that he gave them.
However, it seemed as though Haydn was forever stricken with bad luck. Nearly every
minute of the day on some days he spent composing music, whether it be for a special visitor or
for a big event. So naturally there were hundreds of works and ideas stored at the palace. In 1776
most of Haydn’s manuscripts were destroyed by a fire, which had happened once before in 1771.
The fire was at the musical theater in Esterhaza, therefore a new and more extravagant theater
was built in it’s place. It was the host of many shows per week and Haydn found himself
conducting operas three to five times per week. This caused him fame to increase greatly, which
was wonderful for him financially. he was getting requests from all over France and England, as
well as in Italy and sometimes Germany. His symphonies were beginning to be published and his
name was know all over Europe.
In 1782 Haydn wrote the opera, “Orlando Paladino,” which was one of the most famous
works during his lifetime. Over a two year span, the opera was performed over thirty times in
Esterhaza and later in Germany and Austria over forty times.
In 1783 Haydn finished the last two pieces he would write for Esterhaza, as well as the
opera which Haydn personally considered his best, “Armida.”
It was also around that time that Haydn and Mozart became closer friends. Haydn and
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart met in 1781 while at a concert of the famed Johann Sebastian Bach.
They instantly liked each other, despite the fact that the two men were quite different in
backgrounds and beliefs. Haydn could confide in Mozart, and Mozart in turn could call upon
Haydn for honest opinions and good advice. Both men regarded each other very highly. Haydn
said in a letter to Mozart’s father, “Friends tell me I am brilliant, but he [Mozart] stood far above
me.” When Mozart died on December 5, 1791, Haydn was in London and did not believe the
news. It upset him greatly and years later if Mozart’s name was mentioned, he would still break
down in tears.
Music in London was at it’s best while Haydn was staying there, and the English
loved him. He was always welcomed with ceremonies and always paid well. During his stay
there he was able to do many wonderful things and meet many wonderful people.
However, in the summer of 1792 Haydn felt it was time to return to Austria. On his way
back, he stayed in Bonn, Germany, where he met Ludwig van Beethoven. Haydn was impressed
by Beethoven and offered to give him lessons in composition. The two were very different,
however, and often had trouble getting along. On the professional level, they respected each
other, but a friendship like that of Haydn and Mozart was out of the question.
From this time period, there are two pieces that come to mind when one thinks of Haydn.
The first is “The Creation” and the second is “The Seasons.”
The Creation was inspired by Handel’s “Messiah,” which Haydn had heard while in the
Westminster Abbey in 1791. Composition began in 1796 and was completed in 1798. This
oratorio was Haydn’s first completed sacred work with a German text, and Haydn said it make
him feel closer to God while writing it. On April 19, 1798, in the Schwarzenberg Palace in
Vienna, “The Creation” was performed for the first of many times. The public felt it was Haydn’s
greatest work, and he was paid a great deal of money for the writing and performing of it.
The second major composition was “The Seasons.” While it did not have near the success of
the Creation, it was still quite profitable. Haydn, however, was exhausted and in 1805 he said,
“Die Jahreszeiten did not bring me luck. I should not have composed it. It finished me.” That
was when he decided to make his will.
The last years of his life were just as busy as the rest. Although Haydn was weak and ill, he
still had many important admirers come each day, such as fellow musicians Abbe Vogler, the
Weber family, and Mozart’s widow, Constanze Weber. He was also honored with many medals,
precious gifts, and countless certificates. They all represented the joy and success of his life and
meant a great deal to Haydn.
Physically Haydn was not able to compose anymore, however, songs still ran through his
head, often causing terrible headaches and prolonged spells of dizziness. Haydn said, “The
musical inventions chase and torture me. I cannot escape them, they stand for me like walls. If
an Allegro chases me, my heartbeat becomes very quick, I cannot sleep. If it is an Adagio, my
heartbeat becomes slow. My fantasy plays me like a piano.”
Haydn’s last triumph was the performance of Die Schopfing on March 27, 1808 at the
Vienna University. The performance was held to celebrate Haydn’s seventy-sixth birthday.
Although he was weak, Haydn and his doctor went to the concert together. Crowds had gathered
for him, Price Esterhazy personally escorted him inside, and ever important musician of that
time, such as Beethoven, Hummel, and Salieri, was there. Haydn was ill and left at intermission,
and from that time on he was confined to his home from ill-health and disability. However, his
home was not a peaceful place to rest. In early may, Napoleon’s troops entered Vienna, and as a
result, Haydn suffered from the twenty-four hour a day bombardment. Napoleon was
compassionate and put a guard in from of Haydn’s home, in an attempt stop the dying man from
On May 31, 1809, Haydn went into a coma and died. In his Will, no one was forgotten — old
friends, acquaintances, people who had done him favors in his youth, and those who had been
kind to him in his old age. The conclusion of the Will stated, “I commend my soul to my all-
merciful Creator.” As you can see, Haydn was a very religious man.
From 1809 to 1820, Haydn’s body was buried at the Hundsthurmer Cemetary in Vienna.
Some time after the burial, a student at the University of Vienna got permission to study Haydn’s
skull. It was removed and the body was then moved to Eisenstadt at the request of Prince
Esterhazy. Today, Haydn’s body, including the skull, is in a mausoleum built by Dr. Paul
Esterhazy in 1954.
Haydn was a kindhearted, good-natured man who was respected by all. His contribution to
the history of music is practically endless – from symphonies and quartets, to paving the way for
the future composers, like Mozart and Beethoven. He had a style all his own, and for that he will
always be remembered.