"I was forced to be original"
-Haydn on his life away from Vienna
Joseph Haydn, being the oldest of the three composers that
defined classical music in the late-18th century, was considered
the "Father" of Viennese classicism. His works, along with
Mozart's and Beethoven's, formed the basis from which other
compositions of this style developed. In particular, Joseph Haydn
was known as the "Father" of the modern symphony with four
movements, including a 'minuet' and a slow movement. He also
redefined or "invented" the string quartet, although a
earlier composer, by the name of Georg Mathias Monn, published six
string quartets. Haydn, however, revolutionized this art with an
unbelievable 83 string quartets, in addition to numerous string and
piano trios. His opera's, chamber music, and symphonies, attest a
playful and creative imagination able to blend stagnant folkloric
music as well as mysterious color within the classical style.
Franz Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau, lower Austria, on March 31st, 1732. He was the second of twelve children. He was talented with music as a toddler, and soon began to so sing and play the violin and piano. As soon as he was old enough he began to sing in the local church choir and soon was studying under the teacher J. M. Franck. This choir-master, recognizing the boy's talent, chose him to sing in the city's famous St. Stephen's Cathedral.
When his voice began to crack as he entered the teenage years, he was forced to leave the choir and fend for himself at the age of sixteen. He however remained in Vienna for the next eight years, earning money as a teacher, composer and musician. He soon attracted many students and was doing well enough to rent an attic and begin a formal musical program. During these dreadful years, he composed string quartets and various divertimenti, as was in style at the time.
But finally on May 1st, 1761, Haydn broke free of his years of poverty. Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy asked Haydn to be the Vice-Kappellmeister (conductor) of his elite private musical institution. This was Haydn's chance to experiment any combination of instruments and vocal ensembles with as much freedom as he chose. However the Prince deemed an oppressive list of regulations which stated that Haydn may not be "overbearing towards his musicians" Nevertheless, Haydn was overjoyed to be able to test his musical genius with a talented group of musicians, regardless of having to wear the "white stockings, white linen, and either a powdered queue a tie-wig" of a high-class servant.
However, Prince Paul died soon after Haydn's arrival, and was succeeded by Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy. He too had a passion for music and Haydn's job was secure for the next 30 years in which he composed numerous sonatas, quartets, symphonies and other musical arrangements under Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy.
But soon after Prince Nicolaus' death, the musical passion of this family began to die away and Haydn realized it was time to move on. Luckily, Johann Peter Saloman, a violinist in London, offered Haydn a job almost immediately and offered to commission several symphonies and other compositions. Haydn was soon the largest success London gad ever seen. Nevertheless in his later years, Haydn longed to return to his home in Vienna, and did so.
During the last years, he conceded to writing string quartets,
masses, and his ever-famous oratorios. Later he also composed the
Austrian National Anthem, which is still a popular yet
controversial string quartet. On December 26th, 1803, he conducted
his last concert and formally began his retirement. In 1805, we was
proclaimed dead by a London newspaper, but later he gently pointed
but that he was still in fact alive. Four years later on May 31st,
1809, those newspapers were true. He died a rich and famous man
across Europe. His hundreds of compositions gave root to the
never-dying tree of classical music. And his quartets and other
chamber pieces started a new art that still lives on today.
Joseph Haydn composed more than hundred symphonies, which became well-known all over Europe already during his lifetime and served as model for many other compositions of that genre. Today they are the archetype of the ideal symphony and their originality and four movement style still are wondered at today.
However, there is nothing in music finer than Haydn's numerous and beautiful string quartets. Though, Mozart had a magical perfection, Beethoven more depth, Haydn was extraordinary at everything. Although he was the workhorse of the three, his music reached levels at times that are unparalleled. He had more originality than Mozart, and as proficient a melody as Beethoven.
Many of Haydn's quartets are considered the finest pieces
created in the past 300 years. Their expressiveness and passion
come through to the listener clearly and melodically. Near the
beginning of his quartet compositions, he treated the first violin
as a soloist with the other three instruments accompanying. But
later, beginning the set of Sun Quartets (op. 20) he began
to treat all of the instruments as equals and this is where his
music truly becomes very enjoyable. The peak of his quartet output
is most likely the set of six called Erdody (op. 76). The Third in C Major of these
pieces is among the greatest quartets ever written and is a part of
The Fifteen Greatest
His Famous Compositions
His notable symphonies include Farewell (no. 45), Surprise (no.
94), Hen (no. 83) and his final four; Military, Clock, Drum Roll,
and London (no. 100-103). His famous chamber pieces include
Lark (op. 64, no. 5),
Quinten (op. 76, no.
2), and Sunrise (op.
76, no. 4) as well as the aforementioned pieces.
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