Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn

Haydn was born on March 31 1732 to Mathias Haydn and Anna Maria Koller, and had three other siblings. His father was a master wheelwright who loved music. He played the harp, while Haydn’s mother sang the melodies. Anna Maria was a cook for Count Karl Anton Harrach before she married Mathias. Haydn’s brother, Michael, also composed music and became relatively famous. His youngest brother, Johann Evangelist, sang tenor in the church choir of the Esterhazy Court.

Haydn had a spectacular voice and his musicality was precise. Johann Franc, impressed by Haydn’s voice, insisted that Haydn’s parents allow Haydn to live with him to study music. Franc was a school principal and the choir director of a church in Hainburg. Haydn’s parents allowed him to go in hopes that he would amount to something very special. Haydn studied mostly music, but also Latin, writing, arithmetic, and religion. Haydn spent most of his childhood singing in church choirs.

Haydn trained his younger brother Michael when he joined the choir school three years later; it was customary for the older choirboys to instruct the younger ones. Although great Haydn’s voice was, he lost it when he went through puberty. Michael, who also had a beautiful voice, received the attention Haydn was used to getting. Haydn was dismissed from the school when he was 18.

Haydn earned a living by becoming a freelance musician, teaching music, and composing. His first steady job came in 1757, when he was hired as music director for Count Morzin. His name and compositions steadily became recognizable. During his time with Count Morzin, Haydn wrote 15 symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas, and possibly string quartets op.2, nos. 1-2. He married Maria Anna Keller on November 26, 1760.

In 1761, Haydn began his lifelong relationship with the wealthiest family among Hungarian nobility, the Esterhazy family. Haydn spent nearly 30 years of his life here. He was hired as vice-Kapellmeister earning 400 gulden a year, and as time went on, his salary increased as well as his ranking within the court. His music became widely popular.

From 1791, Haydn spent four years in London composing music and experiencing life outside the royal court. His time in London was the high point of his career. He earned nearly 24,000 gulden in a single year (the sum of his combined salary of nearly 20 years as Kapellmeister). Haydn spent the last years of his life in Vienna composing only vocal pieces such as masses and oratorios. Haydn passed away in the middle of the night on May 31 1809 from old age. Mozart’s Requiem was performed at his funeral.

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