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The Oeuvre of the Master

Haydn is considered the “father" of the classical symphony and string quartet, and an innovator in the composition of piano sonatas and trios.

Haydn Quartett in Esterhazy Palace © Österreich Werbung / Horvath
Joseph Haydn was diligent. He left behind more than 1,200 compositions, among them 107 symphonies (“Farewell,” “The Clock,” “Surprise”), 24 operas (“Acide e Galatea,” “L'infedeltá delusa,” "Orlando Paladino," "Armida,"), 14 masses (“Nelson Mass,” “Theresienmesse,”), oratorios (“The Creation,” “The Seasons”), solo concertos, chamber music pieces, vocal works, and many more. A complete listing of the works of Joseph Haydn was put together by the Dutch music scientist Anthony van Hoboken (1887–1983) and is known as the Hoboken Catalogue.

Haydn is traditionally considered the “father" of the classical symphony and string quartet, and an innovator in the composition of piano sonatas and piano trios. Probably more than any other composer, he is known for the jokes hidden in his music. The most famous example is the sudden loud accord in his symphony No. 94, “The Surprise.”

His early work is clearly marked by the Baroque, then follows the period of Sturm und Drang, filled with risky accords, sudden transitions, and strange harmonies in minor keys. Starting in 1781-82, a lively exchange of ideas began with his colleague W. A. Mozart. Both recognized the other as an equal master, they became friends and learned from each other. Later, inspired by his journeys to England, Haydn developed his own popular style, using Austrian or Croat folkloristic (or self-invented pseudo-folkloristic) material. This style can be heard in almost all of his later works, for example in the 12 London symphonies.

Together with W. A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn is considered a Master of the Vienna Classic. His famous "Emperor's Hymn" (“Gott erhalte Franz, den Kaiser...") was composed in 1797 for Franz II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and is the present German National Anthem.