(Franz) Joseph HAYDN
31 March 1732 - 31 May 1809 (age 77)

Austrian composer. So called "Father of the Symphony" and also "Father of the string quartet". He was an important influence on Mozart, Beethoven and many more.



-A short timeline



Portrait of Haydn


Born: Rohrau, Austria, March 31, 1732 - May 31, 1809
Father: Mathias Haydn, wheelwright
Mother: Maria Koller, cook
Siblings: Michael, composer, Johann Evangelist - tenor
Partners: His first great love, Therese Keller, became a nun. He later married her sister Maria Anna - not a happy marriage.
He had numerous extra marital affairs.
Children: May have had children with his long term mistress singer Luigia Polzelli.
Grave: Bergkirche, Eisenstadt, Burgenland, Austria. see findagrave


A small man with dark, pock marked skin, an ugly big nose, a jutting chin and protruding lower lip. Not a pretty sight - yet he was admired and pursued by women.
He had a great sense of humour and was a cheerful soul with a warm heart. He once wrote of himself "As God has given me a cheerful heart, He will forgive me for serving Him cheerfully."
He was a very hard worker and very methodical. Every day was full with concerts and rehearsals yet he managed to produce a vast volume of compositions.
He put on good clothes before composing because "“I’m going to commune with God and I must be appropriately dressed!”


 - 104 Symphonies
- over 90 String Quartets
- 32 Piano Trios

- 62 Piano Sonatas
- Concertos for Piano, Cello, Trumpet, Harpsichord
- Stabat Mater
- 14 Masses,
- Oratorios: The Creation, The Seasons
- Choral Works
- over 330 songs    

Haydn in Art
A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.

A Timeline

- Age 6: Went to live 8 miles away with a relative Johan Frankh, a schoolmaster and choir master, to train as a musician.

- Age 8: Was spotted by the musical director of  St.Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna and moved there to work as a chorister for 9 years

- Age 17: His voice broke and he was fired for misbehaviour. He then worked as a freelance musician, teacher and street singer.

- Age 20: He was taken on as a valet/accompanist by the Italian composer Nicola porpra from whom he learned the fundamentals of composition.

- Age 21: Developed his composing skills. His first opera "Der krumme Teufel", (The Limping Devil) was a success and his reputation spread through high society eventually winning him aristocratic patronage.

- Age 26: He was appointed Kappellmeister (musical director)  of the orchestra of Count Morzin. He started writing symphonies at this time. 

- Age 28: He married Maria Anna Keller, the sister of his previous girl friend who decided to become a nun. The marriage was an unhappy one. They had no children and both took lovers.

- Age 29: Appointed by Prince Paul Anton to be the Vice-Kappellmeister to the wealth Esterházy family. 

- Age 34: The old Kappellmeister dies and is replaced by Haydn who continues in the post for almost 30 years.

- Age 58: In 1790 the head of family, Prince Nikolaus died and was succeeded by his son Anton who had little interest in music and proceeded to dismiss most of the court musicians. Haydn was retained on a reduced salary but was given more freedom to follow his own interests.

- Age 59-64: Between 1790 and 1795 Haydn made two extended trips to London where he was highly appreciated. The first for 18 months during which he composed much of his best material. He is said to have considered his time in England the happiest days of his life. Between these two trips he invited the young Beethoven to his home in Austria where he was Haydn's pupil. He bought himself a house in the suburbs of Vienna at this tims.

- Age 64: Haydn returned to his house in Vienna. He took a part time post as Kappellmeister to the Esterházy family. He enjoyed great public acclaim and continued producing work for his public.

- Age 72: His health had decline to the point that he was no longer able to compose. He was well cared for and supported by the Esterházy family.

- Age 77: His last days were disturbed by Napoleon's attack on Vienna. He died on 31 May 1809. 


- "Young people can learn from my example that something can come from nothing. What I have become is the result of my hard efforts."

- "I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original."

- "I was never a quick writer, but composed with great care and efforts."

- “If you want to know whether you have written anything worth preserving, sing it to yourself without any accompaniment."

- "Whenever I think of God I can only conceive of Him as a Being infinitely great and infinitely good. This last quality of the divine nature inspires me with such confidence and joy that I could have written even a miserere in tempo allegro."

and a joke.....
Q: Why couldn't Mozart find his piano teacher?

A: He was Haydn!

Symphony No. 94 in G 'Surprise' - Andante
Guess why it was called 'Surprise'!    

Cello Concerto
played by Rostropovich and the Academy of St Martin

Alan Bennett on Joseph Haydn

Trumpet Concerto in Eb, 1st mov.
played by Alison Balsom   

Emperor Quartet, 2 mvt
now better known as the German national anthem   

Symphony No 101 D major 'The Clock'

The curious case of Haydn's Head
Two days after he was buried, phrenologists stole his head! 

Links - and where to go for more information 

Art Alive; An excellent summary of his Life, Times and Music



Project Gutenberg - 'Haydn' by J.Cuthbert Hadden. Read it online or download it.

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