Joseph Haydn

Austrian composer (1732–1809)

Franz Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was an Austrian composer. He was one of the most famous composers in the Classical music period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony." He also taught Ludwig van Beethoven and a friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Mozart considered him a mentor).

Joseph Haydn in 1791

Haydn's father made wheels for a living. He had the skills of a blacksmith, stonemason, and carpenter. He used that skill in his spare time to make musical instruments for his family to play. The Haydn family would give informal weekend concerts. One of Joseph's relatives thought that Joseph had a great singing voice and should go with him to a boarding school where he would start studying to become a priest.

Haydn did not like it very much at the boarding school, but his voice developed to a point where he was selected to be a part of the Boy's Choir of the Vienna Cathedral. He stayed there until his voice changed. Haydn made a living teaching lessons and playing in the streets for handouts until he met Nicola Porpora, who hired Haydn as an accompanist and general servant.

Eventually Haydn got a job working for Nicholas Esterhazy. He worked for the Esterhazys for over 30 years. He wrote symphonies, string quartets, operas, piano sonatas, and other pieces.

After he was released from his duties with the Esterhazys, Haydn travelled to London. Even at the age of 60 he was still active and wrote some of his most famous symphonies there. While in London, he heard Handel's Messiah, and was inspired to write two oratorios of his own, The Seasons and The Creation. While working on these oratorios in Vienna, Haydn gave lessons to Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven had first wanted to study with Mozart, but by the time Beethoven was ready to study in Vienna, Mozart had died.

The house in Vienna where Haydn wrote his oratorios has been turned into a museum called 'Haydnhaus'. There visitors can see the piano by Anton Walter that composer was using for writing music. Haydn was so well-respected in Vienna that he was known as "Papa Haydn" and his influence on music was profound and great.