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Joseph Haydn

Joseph HaydnAKA Franz Joseph Haydn

Born: 31-Mar-1732
Birthplace: Rohrau, Austria
Died: 31-May-1809
Location of death: Vienna, Austria
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Bergkirche, Eisenstadt, Austria

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Composer

Nationality: Austria
Executive summary: Symphony No. 102 in B-flat Major

Austrian composer, born on the 31st of March 1732 at Rohrau (Trstnik), a village on the borders of Lower Austria and Hungary. There is sufficient evidence that his family was of Croatian stock: a fact which throws light upon the distinctively Slavonic character of much of his music. He received the first rudiments of education from his father, a wheelwright with twelve children, and at an early age evinced a decided musical talent. This attracted the attention of a distant relative named Johann Mathias Frankh, who was schoolmaster in the neighboring town of Hamburg, and who, in 1738, took the child and for the next two years trained him as a chorister. In 1740, on the recommendation of the Dean of Hamburg, Haydn obtained a place in the cathedral choir of St. Stephens, Vienna, where he took the solo-part in the services and received, at the choir school, some further instruction on the violin and the harpsichord. In 1749 his voice broke, and the director, Georg von Reutter, took the occasion of a boyish escapade to turn him into the streets. A few friends lent him money and found him pupils, and in this way he was enabled to enter upon a rigorous course of study (he is said to have worked for sixteen hours a day), partly devoted to Johann Joseph Fux's treatise on counterpoint, partly to the "Friedrich" and "Württemberg" sonatas of C. P. E. Bach, from which he gained his earliest acquaintance with the principles of musical structure. The first fruits of his work were a comic opera, Der neue krumme Teufel, and a Mass in F major (both written in 1751), the former of which was produced with success. About the same time he made the acquaintance of Metastasio, who was lodging in the same house, and who introduced him to one or two patrons; among others Señor Martinez, to whose daughter he gave lessons, and Porpora, who, in 1753, took him for the summer to Männersdorf, and there gave him instruction in singing and in the Italian language.

The turning point of his career came in 1755, when he accepted an invitation to the country-house of Freiherr von Fürnberg, an accomplished amateur who was in the habit of collecting parties of musicians for the performance of chamber-works. Here Haydn wrote, in rapid succession, eighteen divertimenti which include his first symphony and his first quartet; the two earliest examples of the forms with which his name is most closely associated. From that point his prospects improved. On his return to Vienna in 1756 he became famous as teacher and composer, in 1759 he was appointed conductor to the private band of Count Morzin, for whom he wrote several orchestral works (including a symphony in D major erroneously called his first), and in 1760 he was promoted to the sub-directorship of Prince Paul Esterhazy's Kapelle, at that time the best in Austria. During the tenure of his appointment with Count Morzin he married the daughter of a Viennese hairdresser named Keller, who had befriended him in his days of poverty, but the marriage turned out ill and he was shortly afterwards separated from his wife, though he continued to support her until her death in 1800. From 1760 to 1790 he remained with the Esterhazys, principally at their country-seats of Esterhàz and Eisenstadt, with occasional visits to Vienna in the winter. In 1762 Prince Paul Esterhazy died and was succeeded by his brother Nicholas, surnamed the Magnificent, who increased Haydn's salary, showed him every mark of favor, and, on the death of Werner in 1766, appointed him Oberkapellmeister. With the encouragement of a discriminating patron, a small but excellent orchestra and a free hand, Haydn made the most of his opportunity and produced a continuous stream of compositions in every known musical form. To this period belong five Masses, a dozen operas, over thirty clavier-sonatas, over forty quartets, over a hundred orchestral symphonies and overtures, a Stabat Mater, a set of interludes for the service of the Seven Words, an Oratorio Tobias written for the Tonkünstler-Societät of Vienna, and a vast number of concertos, divertimenti and smaller pieces, among which were no less than 175 for Prince Nicholas' favorite instrument, the baryton.

Meanwhile his reputation was spreading throughout Europe. A Viennese notice of his appointment as Oberkapellmeister spoke of him as "the darling of our nation", his works were reprinted or performed in every capital from Madrid to St. Petersburg. He received commissions from the cathedral of Cadiz, from the grand duke Paul, from the King of Prussia, from the directors of the Concert Spirituel at Paris; beside his transactions with Breitkopf and Härtel, and with La Chevardière, he sold to one English firm the copyright of no less than 129 compositions. But the most important fact of biography during these thirty years was his friendship with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose acquaintance he made at Vienna in the winter of 1781-82. There can have been little personal intercourse between them, for Haydn was rarely in the capital, and Mozart seems never to have visited Eisenstadt; but the cordiality of their relations and the mutual influence which they exercised upon one another are of the highest moment in the history of 18th-century music. "It was from Haydn that I first learned to write a quartet", said Mozart; it was from Mozart that Haydn learned the richer style and the fuller mastery of orchestral effect by which his later symphonies are distinguished.

In 1790 Prince Nicholas Esterhazy died and the Kapelle was disbanded. Haydn, thus released from his official duties, forthwith accepted a commission from Salomon, the London concert director, to write and conduct six symphonies for the concerts in the Hanover Square Rooms. He arrived in England at the beginning of 1791 and was welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm, receiving among other honors the degree of D Mus. from the University of Oxford. In June 1792 he returned home, and, breaking his journey at Bonn, was presented with a Cantata by Ludwig van Beethoven, then aged two-and-twenty, whom he invited to come to Vienna as his pupil. The lessons, which were not very successful, lasted for about a year, and were then interrupted by Haydn's second visit to England (January 1794 to July 1795), where he produced the last six of his "Salomon" symphonies. From 1795 onward he resided in the Mariahilf suburb of Vienna, and there wrote his last eight Masses, the last and finest of his chamber works, the Austrian national anthem (1797), the Creation (1799) and the Seasons (1801). His last choral composition which can be dated with any certainty was the Mass in C minor, written in 1802 for the name-day of Princess Esterhazy. Thenceforward his health declined, and his closing years, surrounded by the love of friends and the esteem of all musicians, were spent almost wholly in retirement. On the 27th of March 1808 he was able to attend a performance of the Creation, given in his honor, but it was his last effort, and on the 31st of May 1809 he died, aged seventy-seven. Among the mourners who followed him to the grave were many French officers from Napoleon's army, which was then occupying Vienna.

Haydn's place in musical history is best determined by his instrumental compositions. His operas, for all their daintiness and melody, no longer hold the stage; the Masses in which he "praised God with a cheerful heart" have been condemned by the severer decorum of our own day; of his oratorios the Creation alone survives. In all these his work belongs mainly to the style and idiom of a bygone generation: they are monuments, not landmarks, and their beauty and invention seem rather to close an epoch than to inaugurate its successor. Even the naive pictorial suggestion, of which free use is made in the Creation and in the Seasons, is closer to the manner of George Frideric Handel than to that of the 19th century: it is less the precursor of romance than the descendant of an earlier realism. But as the first great master of the quartet and the symphony his claim is incontestable. He began, half-consciously, by applying through the fuller medium the lessons of design which he had learned from C. P. E. Bach's sonatas; then the medium itself began to suggest wider horizons and new possibilities of treatment; his position at Eisenstadt enabled him to experiment without reserve; his genius, essentially symphonic in character, found its true outlet in the opportunities of pure musical structure. The quartets in particular exhibit a wider range and variety of structural invention than those of any other composer except Beethoven. Again it is here that we can most readily trace the important changes which he wrought in melodic idiom. Before his time instrumental music was chiefly written for the Paradiesensaal, and its melody often sacrificed vitality of idea to a ceremonial courtliness of phrase. Haydn broke through this convention by frankly introducing his native folk-music, and by writing many of his own tunes in the same direct, vigorous and simple style. The innovation was at first received with some disfavor; critics accustomed to polite formalism censured it as extravagant and undignified; but the freshness and beauty of its melody soon silenced all opposition, and did more than anything else throughout the 18th century to establish the principle of nationalism in musical art. The actual employment of Croatian folk-tunes may be illustrated from the string quartets Op. 17, No. 1; Op. 33. No. 3; Op. 50, No. 1; Op. 77, No. 1, and the Salomon Symphonies in D and E Flat, while there is hardly an instrumental composition of Haydn's in which his own melodies do not show some traces of the same influence. His natural idiom in short was that of a heightened and ennobled folk-song, and one of the most remarkable evidences of his genius was the power with which he adapted all his perfection and symmetry of style to the requirements of popular speech. His music is in this way singularly expressive; its humor and pathos are not only absolutely sincere, but so outspoken that we cannot fail to catch their significance.

In the development of instrumental polyphony Haydn's work was almost as important as that of Mozart. Having at his disposal a band of picked virtuosi he could produce effects as different from the tentative experiments of C. P. E. Bach as these were from the orchestral platitudes of Reutter or Hasse, His symphony Le Midi (written in 1761) already shows a remarkable freedom and independence in the handling of orchestral forces, and further stages of advance were reached in the oratorio of Tobias, in the Paris and Salomon symphonies, and above all in the Creation, which turns to good account some of the debt which he owed to his younger contemporary. The importance of this lies not only in a greater richness of musical color, but in the effect which it produced on the actual substance and texture of composition. The polyphony of Beethoven was unquestionably influenced by it and, even in his latest sonatas and quartets, may be regarded as its logical outcome. The compositions of Haydn include 104 symphonies, 16 overtures 76 quartets, 68 trios, 54 sonatas, 31 concertos and a large number of divertimentos, cassations and other instrumental pieces; 24 operas and dramatic pieces, 16 Masses, a Stabat Mater, interludes for the "Seven Words", 3 oratorios, 2 Te Deums and many smaller pieces for the church, over 40 songs, over 50 canons and arrangements of Scottish and Welsh national melodies.

Father: Matthias Haydn (wheelwright)
Mother: Maria Koller (cook)
Brother: Michael Haydn (composer)
Brother: Johann Evangelist Haydn (tenor)
Wife: Maria Anna Keller (m. 26-Nov-1760, d. 1800)
Mistress: Luigia Polzelli (singer)
Son: Alois Anton Nikolaus Polzelli (b. 22-Apr-1783)

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