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Franz Joseph Haydn

"Rags to Riches"

Joseph Haydn's story begins on March 31, 1732, in a poor peasant home in Rohrau. (Rohrau was in what is now called Austria.) Joseph loved to sing and he had a good voice. In those days, being musically talented gave many poor boys a chance at a better life.

When Haydn was six years old, he moved to Hainburg to live with a distant relative, Johann Mathias Franck. Franck was the church schoolmaster and choir director there. Franz Joseph Haydn became a choirboy.

Two years later, he was selected to move to Vienna and sing in Karl Georg Reutters's choir. Joseph Haydn was eight years old. In that choir, Haydn became an expert at singing and sight-reading. He also learned to play instruments like the harpsichord, violin and organ.

Haydn was expelled from school when he was 17. He had cut off another boy's pigtail. That prank looked like it would be the end of his good luck.

Joseph Haydn had no money, no references and no place to live. It was the wintertime and he was out on the streets of Vienna. He had only one worn coat and three ragged shirts to call his own. He couldn't even earn a living singing because his voice was changing. He wasn't really good enough at playing instruments to make any money that way either.

Haydn found a cheap apartment to lease. It had an "old worm-eaten clavichord" in it. Tenants in the building introduced Haydn to people who hired him to teach their children music. He also met an Italian composer, Niccolo Porpora. Haydn talked Porpora into teaching him Italian, singing and composition.

Nine years later, Joseph Haydn was hired as the music director and composer for Count Karl Joseph Franz's private orchestra. Haydn composed his first symphony for that wind-based, 10-15 instrument orchestra. After only one year, Joseph was "down-sized" because the Count had money troubles.

"Papa Haydn"

Haydn became the assistant conductor for the Hungarian Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy. This time was known as Haydn's Sturm und Drang (strong, passionate, expressive) period. During that time, he also wrote compositions for many other members of the European nobility. Haydn was a great composer and a very good leader! He took good care of the needs of the other musicians under him. They loved and respected him in return. He was known by them as "Papa" Haydn.

Haydn's Symphony Names and Their Stories

The orchestra musicians had been away from their families for months. They wanted to go home. The Prince didn't feel like returning. Haydn composed the "Farewell" Symphony as a clever protest to motivate his employer.

In the last movement, "Papa" Haydn had one instrument after another play a solo. The musician would stop playing, snuff out a candle and leave the stage carrying the instrument. At the end of the symphony, only the conductor and two violinists are left. The Prince gave the order to return home the next day.

Haydn also composed:

    Drum Roll
    The Clock
    Military
    The Miracle
    Surprise
    Farewell

Never Too Old To Learn

When Haydn was 58 years old, he decided he had more to learn. He moved to London, England. He wanted to work with London's large, well-trained orchestras. (Remember, Haydn had mainly worked with small orchestras.) In London, Joseph heard Handel's music and was inspired to focus on vocal music as well.

Haydn had great success in England! The British aristocracy overflowed his concert halls. They came to hear the work of the great Austrian composer.

Is There A Language Everyone Understands?

Before going to London, Haydn spent his last day in Vienna with a dear friend, Mozart. As they parted, in tears Mozart said,   "Oh, Papa, you have no education for the wide world,   and you speak so few languages...   I am afraid, Papa, this will be our last farewell!"
Haydn replied,   "But my language is understood all over the world."

    What language was Haydn talking about?
    Do you agree with him?
    Are you learning to speak that language?

Mozart's prediction was correct. It was their last farewell.
Mozart died while Haydn was in England. The loss of his friend and fellow composer caused Haydn great sadness.

Haydn Liked Variety in His Friends

Mozart and Haydn were close friends although they were very different. Mozart died at the age of 36. At 36, Haydn hadn't written any of the compositions he is best known for. Mozart was moody. Haydn was even-tempered. Mozart loved giving solo performances. Haydn much preferred to conduct. Mozart was quite disorganised with everything, including money. He died penniless. Haydn loved order and neatness and managed his income very well.

Beethoven came to Vienna to study music under Haydn. They found they couldn't work together. Haydn thought Beethoven was too stubborn and suspicious of everything. They were opposites politically. Beethoven admired Napoleon and the French Revolution. Haydn supported royalty and opposed Napoleon. Even with their differences, they admired each other's abilities.

Boundless Energy

Haydn released his energy in operas, string quartets, elegant symphonies and church music. He wrote two oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons
When he wrote The Creation it was a deeply moving and spiritual experience for him. It remained his crowning achievement in oratorio.

He composed beautiful music until 1803. Six years later, in 1809, the French Emperor, Napoleon, attacked Austria. Although the outskirts of Vienna was bombarded for 24 hours, Haydn refused to leave his home. Later, Napoleon placed a guard of honour around Haydn's house. The explosions had used up the last of old "Papa's" energy. He died in his sleep. The entire cultured world of Vienna came to Franz Joseph Haydn's funeral to say good-bye.