Joseph Haydn was an Austrian composer and one of the most important, prolific and prominent opera composers of the classical period. He is also regarded as the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these musical genres. Joseph worked hard for the development of the piano trio and evaluated a new form of sonata.
Joseph Haydn was born on March 31, 1732 in Rohrau (a village near the border with Hungary), in Austria. Haydn father, Mathias Haydn, was a wheelwright and also worked as "Marktrichter". Joseph Haydn's mother, Maria Koller, had previously served as a cook in the palace of Count Harrach.
Mathias was also an enthusiastic folk musician, who taught himself to play the harp during his journeyman periods. The reminiscences of Haydn's letters showed that in Haydn's childhood his family was extremely musical, and frequently sang together or with their neighbors. That was the way Haydn's parents had noticed very soon that their son was naturally gifted by musical talent.
They also realized that in Rohrau, Haydn would have a single opportunity to obtain any serious musical training. For this reason Haydn's parents accepted a proposal of Johann Matthias Frankh, who was a schoolmaster and choirmaster in Hainburg, saying that Joseph Haydn should be sent to Frankh’s home, in order to get musical training.
Hence, Haydn went off with Frankh to Hainburg, where he lived for six years. Here Haydn spent a very hard life at Frankh’s home. Matthias Frankh frequently kept Haydn hungry and often humiliated him due to a filthy state of his cloth. He did not teach any musical lesson to Haydn, but he became able to play both harpsichord and violin without the supervision of any teacher.
Soon people of Hainburg became familiar with Haydn’s musical talent and started visiting church choir to listen to Haydn sing treble. Later on, Haydn passed the audition of Georg von Reutter, the director of music in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, who came in these provinces in 1740 looking for talented choirboys. With his help Haydn moved to Vienna, where he worked for the next nine years as a chorister.
In Vienna Haydn lived with five other choirboys in Reutter's home. Here Haydn developed his interest in Latin language and many other musical subjects as well as voice, violin, and keyboard. Reutter was a kind-natured man, who helped Haydn in such areas of music as theory and composition by giving him two lessons in his entire time as a chorister.
As St. Stephen's was one of the leading musical centers in Europe, that was the way Haydn got a great knowledge of a professional musician. Haydn was a very motivated musician and strived hard for gaining invitations to perform on stage before aristocratic audiences.
In 1749, Haydn had finally matured physically and was able to sing high choral parts. Soon Haydn started his career as a freelance musician and worked at many different jobs: as a music teacher, as a street serenade singer, and eventually as valet–accompanist for the Italian composer Nicola Porpora, from whom he learned "the true fundamentals of composition". When Haydn was a chorister, he had not received serious training in music theory and composition, which he later perceived as a serious gap.
Soon Haydn composed his first opera, Der krumme Teufel. Haydn got prominent success as a famous composer in 1753. Later on in between 1754 to 1756, he worked freelance for the court in Vienna. Haydn was among those musicians, who were paid as supplementary musicians at balls, for music lessons given to the imperial children during carnival season, and as supplementary singers in the imperial chapel in Lent and Holy Week.
Haydn’s reputation increased more and he was able to obtain aristocratic patronage, so he was summoned by his country estate, Weinzierl, where the composer wrote his first string quartets. Later on he was appointed as a full time employee by Morzin, in 1757. Now, Haydn's job title under Count Morzin was Kapellmeister (meaning: music director).
Soon Haydn led the count's small orchestra and wrote his first symphonies for this ensemble. After getting the position of Kapellmeister, Haydn got married with Maria Anna in 1760. This was Haydn’s love and he had previously been in love with her, but later on this marriage was completely proved as an unhappy, they produced no children and divorced.
Afterwards Count Morzin was forced to dismiss his musical establishment due to some financial crises, but at the same time Haydn was offered a job of Vice Kapellmeister to the Esterhazy family. After the death of old kapellmeister, in 1766, Haydn was promoted to work as a full kapellmeister.
At the age of 30, while working at the Esterházy court, Haydn developed new musical style and produced a flood of successful compositions, due to which he got international popularity.
Gradually, Haydn started writing several important works of this period, such as the Paris symphonies (1785–1786) and The Seven Last Words of Christ (1786), etc.
According to some composers, Haydn was hugely impressed with Mozart's work and praised it unstintingly to others. Mozart was evidently popular for a set of six quartets, which is now called the "Haydn" quartets.
In 1790, after the death of Prince Nikolaus his successor, who was thoroughly unmusical, dismissed the entire musical composers and put Haydn on a pension.
Haydn’s best-known music which he had generated while visiting England includes the Surprise, Military, Drum roll, London symphonies, the Rider quartet, and the "Gypsy Rondo" piano trio. While visiting London, Haydn taught Ludwig van Beethoven. Latter found Haydn unsatisfactory as a teacher and sought help from other talented teachers.
In London, Haydn’s opera, Orfeo ed Euridice, also called as L'Anima del Filosofo, was composed after the contract, but later its performance was blocked by intrigues. Haydn returned to Vienna in 1795, and composed his large works based on religion, chorus and orchestra.
Haydn’s works also include two great oratorios, namely The Creation and The Seasons, and six Masses for the Eszterházy family. Haydn also composed instrumental music including the Fifths, Emperor, and Sunrise quartets.
In 1802, Haydn complained of an illness, which afterwards turned him physically unable to compose. While suffering from physical weakness, Haydn’s flow of fresh musical ideas was waiting to be worked out as compositions. He often found solace and played Gott erhalte to Franz den Kaiser on piano, which he had composed himself as a patriotic gesture in 1797.
During these days Haydn was well cared by his servants, and received great public honor but he could not escape from inevitable death. Haydn died on 31 May in 1809.
Haydn was approximately 77 years at the time of his death. His memorial service was held in the Schottenkirche on June 15, 1809, two weeks later Haydn’s death. He died just after an attack on Vienna by the French army under Napoleon.