The Classical period took place in between 1750 to 1810. This period became a very important epoch for the Western music. This period can be seen as the overlapping and almost combined stages of Baroque and Romantic eras. (Brandenburg)
The Classical period became one of the most notable periods in the history of music chiefly because of the rise of the best known music composers like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig Van Beethoven. In addition, there were also other prominent musical icons that became famous during this period, namely: Johann Ladislaus Dussek, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Muzio Clementi, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Franz Schubert and Franz Joseph Haydn. With the rise of those musicians, the Classical period was also labeled as the period of Viennese Classic since Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn and Schubert all worked in Vienna, Austria. (Brandenburg)
Who is Franz Joseph Haydn?
Franz Joseph Haydn, as mentioned above, one of the most notable musical composers of the Classical period. He was known and considered as the “Father of the Symphony” as well as the “Father of the String Quartet.” (Boynick)
He was a lifetime resident of Austria. He squandered most of his profession as a court musician for a very well-off family on their isolated estate. It seemed like music really ran in their family. His brothers Michael and Johann Evangelist Haydn were also great musicians. The former was highly known composer while the latter was a notable tenor. (Hadden)
Though he was not as famous as Mozart and Beethoven and his music was tagged as old-fashioned, he was still greatly honored during the Classical period up to this contemporary period. His vocation to music specifically in mastering symphony and string quartet was really exceptional such that his works became foundations of some works of other Classical composers like Mozart – the latter whom became his friend. (Zannos)
Biography of Franz Joseph Haydn
He was born on March 31, 1732 in Rohrau Village in Austria (lies near the border of Hungary). His parents were Mathias Hayn and Maria Koller. The former served as a government official that functioned like a village mayor known as Marktrichter. The latter, his mother, was a former cook in the Count Harrach palace, the prime aristocrat of their village. His parents were not really professionals with regards to music. They did not even know how to read music. Nevertheless, his father was a frustrated folk musician who tried to play the harp. His family was said to be extremely musically inclined.
As the young Haydn grew up, his parents noticed how he was so in tuned of music as well as how he was very talented in it. Realizing the fact that their place could not really make their child’s musical dream come true, Haydn’s parents decided to accept the proposal of a relative named Johann Matthias Franck. Franck was the schoolmaster and choirmaster in Hainburg. He offered that the young Haydn be trained by him in his house in Hainburg. With that agreement, Haydn moved in Hainburg with Franck and never had a chance to be with his parents again.
Haydn’s life in Hainburg became difficult for him. He experienced hunger frequently. In addition, he was always mortified by other people due to his way of dressing up himself. Nonetheless, despite those unfortunate situations of his life in Hainburg he finally started his musical training there. And eventually, he became knowledgeable and skillful in playing both the violin and the harpsichord. He was also became a church choir there.
His vocal prowess seemed to impress almost all who heard him. In 1740, a director of music in St, Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna named Georg Von Reutter discovered Haydn. Haydn enabled to pass the audition and later on set off to Vienna, where he performed as a chorale member for nine years. In the latter four years, he happened to have his brother Michael with him in the choir. (Hadden)
However, he still experienced hunger in the company of Reutter. For this reason, Haydn became very eager to perform before the upper-class audiences in which he found the chance of satisfying his hunger by getting through the munchies served exclusively for the performers. On the contrary, Reutter enhanced Haydn’s musical education. Moreover, Haydn got the chance of making himself known to public since St, Stephen was during those times one of the top musical centers in Europe. Later on he became one of the professional musical performers there.
His Great Efforts as a Freelance Musician
In 1749, Haydn had finally reached his maturity in such away that his musical performances were not as good as before. Consequently he was removed from his job. His first days as a jobless person became very hard for him having no place to go and having no financial resource to support his everyday needs. Fortunately, he happened to meet Johann Michael Spangler. The latter offered a shelter for Haydn. Soon they became friends. With such initial blessing, Haydn started to seek for his musical career as a freelance musician.
He first became a music teacher and a street singer. Afterwards, he became a valet and worked for an Italian musical composer named Nicola Porpora. His stay with her became fruitful since he declared that he was able to understand and learned the essentials of composition by working for her. Because he failed to have formal musical lessons when he was performing at St. Stephen’s Cathedral as a chorale member, he recognized that he had lots of things to do in order for him to develop and improve his musical talent. And so he studied text Gradus ad Parnassum, a text on music worked by Johann Joseph Fux. Furthermore, he also studied Carl Philip Emanuel Bach whom became one of his greatest influences in his pursuit of musical excellence. (Boynick)
Finally, Haydn’s musical skills reached their highest peak. He started to become famous and get public reputation. One of his first composed opera which made him famous was The Limping Devil.” It piloted in 1753 and became very successful. Yet, it was soon ordered to be closed by the expurgators. He also became aware of the fact that some of his works which he easily bargained were circulated and purchased in local music stores. (Schneider)
With overwhelming acceptance by the upper class society, Haydn was able to acquire refined support for the aristocrats. During this time he experienced working with Countess Thun who had seen one of his compositions. She called Haydn and hired him as her singing and keyboard mentor. Impressed with his exceptional musical talent, the Countess advised Baron Carl Josef Fürnberg. Haydn made his first string quartets for the Baron. And eventually he was suggested to Count Morzin who became his foremost permanent employer since 1757. (Zannos)
Haydn as a Kapellmeister or Musical Director
He was designated as a Kapellmeister or a musical director. He was a director of the count’s orchestra for which he wrote his first symphonies. A turning point in his life was recoded when he married Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia Keller in 1760. His wife was a sister of a woman named Therese with whom he had been in love before. His marriage life was said to be unhappy. They had no children. And it was said that both of them took their own lovers.
When Count Morzin experienced financial shortage, the Count decided to eliminate his musical orchestra which also a sign for Haydn’s dismissal for his job. Nonetheless, he was not really became a jobless. After few months and in 1761, he was hired as a Vice Kapellmeister to the musical establishment of the Esterházy family. The said family was one of the most well-off and most significant families in the Austria during that time. And when the Chief Kapellmeister named Gregor Werner died in 1766, Haydn succeeded to become the full Kapellmeister.
Being one of the family’s prime officers with regards to the family’s musical establishment, Haydn’s life became very luxurious and had full of prestige. He was able to go to different places by accompanying the family in all its tours. Though he had lots of works to do as Kapellmeister, he did not take those as laborious activities. Instead he saw that as great opportunities to improve and apply his musical talents. And because two of the Esterházy princes named Paul Anton and Nikolaus I were also musically inclined, Haydn’s works and compositions were overwhelmingly appreciated by the two princes.
During his stay with the Esterházy court, he was able to create and publish multiple compositions. Likewise, his style in music was also improved. Moreover, his fame was also started to increase even outside the court. He even became more passionate in making publications rather than works for his employer. In the years 1785 to 1786, he successfully produced two of his most known musical compositions: Paris symphonies and The Seven Last Words of Christ. (Schneider)
Conversely, he started to feel lonelier. This was due to the fact that he was very far way from Vienna wherein most of his friends are in. One of these friends was Maria Anna Von Genzinger. She was the wife of a physician who served for Prince Nikolaus. It was said that the two had more intimate relationship that which was more than friendship. (Boynick) Haydn severely grieved when she died in 1793. Such loneliness and grief were manifested on his musical compositions.
In addition, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of Haydn’s closest friends in Vienna. They met approximately around 1784. The two became very close so close that they were occasionally seen as playing string quartets in concert. The two became so much impressed with each other’s musical works to the point of acknowledging Haydn by naming one of Mozart’s quartets as Haydn quartets.
His Experiences in London
When Prince Nikolaus died in 1790, Haydn’s music career was put in hot water. The successor to the throne, who was described as a not musically inclined person, eliminated the musical establishment of the family which also dismissed Haydn. He was forced to retire. However such happening allowed Haydn to go to England and produced new sets of symphonies with new musical orchestra with the help of a German impresario named Johann Peter Salomon. (Hadden)
The conducted concert was a big success during his visit to England in 1791 up to 1792. There was also a repeat visit in 1794 to 1795 which was also become very successful. Due to these successes, Haydn not only became very musically renowned but also financially well-off. He obtained large profits from his concerts. His visit to England produced Haydn’s most notable works which include Military, Surprise, London symphonies, Drumroll, the Gypsy Rondo and the Rider quartet. (Schneider)
On the other hand, there was this musical performance that Haydn conducted but failed to get the audience appreciation. His opera Orfeo ed Euridice was a big failure chiefly because it was challenged by conspiracies.
There was also a version that Haydn became a teacher to Ludwig Van Beethoven. Nonetheless, the latter perceived Haydn as an unfitting music teacher and eventually he dismissed him. Such created tension between the two most prominent musical composers of the Classical period. (Zannos)
Haydn’s Homecoming: Last Years in Vienna
Haydn went back home in 1795. He resided into a palace-like house in the village of Gumpendorf. He consumed most of his days by working on compositions that were sort of religious themes for chorus and orchestra. The Creation and the Seasons were two of his best-known oratorios. He was also able to produce a musical composition called six masses for the Eszterházy family which during that time was again led by a prince who was interested in music. He also created instrumental music called Trumpet Concerto as well as the last nine parts of his string quartets (including Fifths, Emperor, and Sunrise).
A sign of his full time retirement marked when in 1802 Haydn became ill which made him physically impossible to do his former musical tasks. This period of his life became very tragic for him as well as a big failure since his hunger for doing musical explorations and compositions as well as concertos were never out of his system. But no matter how hard he requested to do his old tasks he was not allowed to do so. As a result, he was often found in wearing unhappy face and gestures.
During his illness, he was visited by many guests. He also received various recognitions due to his outstanding and exceptional contributions in Western music during that time. Yet he was not really made happy by those awards and acknowledgements. In his last days, he was often found sitting at and playing the piano. He often played Gotterhalte Franz den Kaiser which he composed for himself in 1797. The melody of that composition was later become the melody of the national anthems of Austria and Germany. (Boynick)
In May 31, 1809 at the aged of 77, Haydn died during the time when Vienna was being attacked by the French Army with Napoleon as its commanding officer. Elssler, Haydn’s most faithful and trusted servant and friend narrated that Haydn took his last breath and left this world “quietly and peacefully.” (Schneider)
Analysis and Conclusion
Haydn’s life can be perceived as a life that has full of struggles. From his childhood until his dying days, he was struggling for excellence and for his achievement of his dreams and ambitions. He was truly outstanding with regards to his pursuit of excellence in music. He was not constrained by his unfortunate and limited environment. But instead he was more motivated to reach for his goals.
Music is really one of the genuine media for expressing oneself. Haydn used such conception to improve himself as well as share his god-given talents. His unsuccessful marriage life as well as his not so good childhood days did not really hinder him in his ascend to victory.
Truly, Franz Joseph Haydn was an authentic person who could really epitomize the theme of the Classical period. He never allowed himself to be confined with what was traditionally used and known standards. He opened his mind for the entrance of new sets of paradigm that can suffice the lacking character of the previous periods.
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Brandenburg, Sieghard. Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven: Studies in the Music of the Classical Period. Essays in Honour of Alan Tyson . Oxford University Press, 1999.
Hadden, J. Cuthbert. Haydn: His Life and Times . Cosimo, 2005.
Schneider, Elaine. Essortment. 2002. 09 July 2007 <http://wawa.essortment.com/franzjosephhay_rwml.htm>.
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Zannos, Susan. Franz Joseph Haydn (Musicmakers: World’s Greatest Composers) (Masters of Music) . Mitchell Lane Publishers , 2003.