Joseph Haydn


Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is considered one of the most important founders of the Classical style. In the middle of the 18th century, he pioneered classical genres such as the sonata, the symphony and the string quartet. Haydn was born to a wheelwright's family in the Austrian village of Rohrau. Having noticed that their son was musically gifted, his parents sent him to Vienna in 1740, where young Joseph worked as a chorister at St Stephen's Cathedral for the next nine years. Making a name for himself amongst the nobility, Haydn was appointed 'Kapellmeister' at the court of the Esterházy family. Under the auspices of the music-loving Prince Nikolaus I, Haydn assumed responsibility of the court orchestra and started to compose a huge amount of music,. He experimented with various genres, ranging from chamber music to vocal works, opera and religious music. He also made revolutionary strides in writing string quartets and symphonies. From 1779 Haydn, now a free-lance composer, started targeting the fast growing music publishing market. His string quartets Opus 33, Opus 50 and Opus 64, as well as the Paris Symphonies brought him international fame. In the 1790's he built on his reputation with two hugely successful concert tours to London. After having returned to Vienna for good, Haydn led a successful life as a public figure and independent composer. He wrote his last series of string quartets and large-scale masses such as his Nelsonmesse (Nelson Mass) and the Paukenmesse (Kettledrum Mass), as well as his famous oratorios, including Die Schöpfung (The Creation) and Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons). From 1803, his health prevented him from composing. Haydn died on 31 May 1809, aged 77.