Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn 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.

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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 works. 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 in Eisenstadt.

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 w …


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