Haydn was an Austrian composer of the Classical period. Bizarrely his parents were not musical and given Haydn’s potential musical gift they accepted an offer from a relative; Johann Matthias Frankh, a schoolmaster and choirmaster for Haydn to become his home trained apprentice. Haydn never lived with parents after that (maybe they preferred it that way?).
Life with Frankh wasn’t pleasant for Haydn, shortages of food and good clothing were common. He soon learnt to play the harpsichord and violin but it was his voice that he became recognised for and he later passed his audition with the director of music in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and moved there in 1740. He worked at the Cathedral for the next nine years as a chorister until he had matured to the point where he was unable to sing high choral parts.
He managed to get himself caned and expelled by cutting off the pigtail of one of the other choristers! He was lucky enough to be taken in by a friend enabling him to pursue his career as a freelance musician.
He struggled as a freelance musician but studied hard and his skills soon became recognised and his career slowly took off. He eventually obtained aristocratic patronage, crucial for the career of a composer in his day and progressed, eventually working for Prince Nikolaus. Haydn travelled to London on the death of Prince Nikolaus death due to the lack of musical interest from his predecessor Prince Anton. Musically, Haydn’s visits to England generated some of his best-known symphonies, including the Surprise, Military, Drumroll and London. He returned to Vienna after Prince Anton’s death and worked part-time writing public performances for Prince Nikolaus II often appearing in public.
The Surprise Symphony:
In 1803 due to ill health Haydn had to stop composing and he died in 1809.
- Haydn was a bit of a practical joker (as mentioned when he cut off the pigtail of a chorister) and one of his all time musical jokes was the surprise note in his Surprise Symphony (around 42 seconds into the video)..
- He taught Beethoven for a while
- Joseph Haydn was born on 31 March and shares his birthday with JS Bach
- He became very rich for composing music unlike other composers such as Mozart
- He was quite ugly and could never quite understand why pretty women liked him… maybe it was because of the point above?