F.J. Haydn was born on this day 287 years ago! He shares his birthday with JS Bach who was born 334 yrs ago.
Background: Haydn was an Austrian composer of the Classical period. 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 as a musician. Haydn never lived with parents after that.
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 to Vienna in 1740. He worked there for next nine years as a chorister until he had matured to the point where he was unable to sing high choral parts, hence managing to get himself caned and expelled by cutting off the pigtail of one of the other choristers! He was lucky enough to be taking 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.
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
- 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?
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