Joseph Haydn, Famous Austrian Composer (1732 - 1809)

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

    The father of the Viennese Classic, Franz Joseph Haydn, was not born in Vienna, but in the village of Rohrau in the eastern part of Lower Austria on 31 March 1732

    It was Haydn’s voice which first took him to Vienna to join the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. When his voice broke, the young Haydn had to leave the choir, and he began to earn a living by giving lessons and playing in various orchestras. At the same time, he studied piano and composition. From 1761 to 1790, he was court conductor to Prince Esterházy, first in Eisenstadt and later in Fertod. Haydn enjoyed tremendous success in London, which he visited twice on concert tours. Nevertheless, he turned down a position offered to him by King George III.

    Joseph Haydn composed over one hundred symphonies, of which the "Drum Roll" is probably the most famous, in addition to seventy string quartets and several operas. The oratorio "The Creation", the libretto which he brought with him from London, is one of the fine examples of his powers of artistic creation. Haydn died on 31 May 1809 in Vienna.

    Follow in Haydn's Footsteps

    Visit these places in Austria to explore Joseph Haydn's life.

    Memorial room of Johannes Brahms / Haydnhaus

    Haydnhaus in Vienna

    In 1793 Haydn bought this former suburb house in Haydngasse 19, near today’s famous Mariahilferstraße, and had it converted and another storey added. This house, which served as his home for 12 years, was where Haydn composed the majority of his late works, among them the grandiose oratorios "The Creation" and "The Four Seasons". The museum inside today's Haydnhaus is a must for all Haydn fans!

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    St. Steven's Cathedral in Vienna's city center

    St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna

    In 1739, the conductor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral visited Hainburg’s parish priest in search of talented choir boys. One of those auditioning was the young Haydn and the conductor immediately recognized his outstanding musical talent and recruited the eight-year old Joseph for the cathedral in Vienna. Haydn also married Maria Anna Keller here in 1760.

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    View of Vienna

    Haydn Memorial on Mariahilfer Straße in Vienna

    This memorial is located on Vienna’s liveliest shopping street at Mariahilfer Straße 55. It was funded from donations collected by Haydn fans. The memorial was unveiled in 1887, long after Haydn’s death in 1809. The marble statue is the work of the South Tirolean sculptor Heinrich Natter. The pedestal was designed by the Viennese architect Otto Hieser.

    Schönbrunn Vienna

    Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna

    The Austrian emperor’s former summer residence is one of Europe’s most beautiful baroque palaces. In 1745, the St. Stephan's Cathedral choir performed here. Choir boy Joseph Haydn began climbing around the scaffolding and promptly got a flogging for this unseemly behavior. Many years later, in 1777, Haydn performed at Schönbrunn Palace once again, this time as conductor under Count Esterházy.

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    Painting: Joseph Haydn portrait

    Haydnhaus in Eisenstadt

    Nowhere can the legacy of Joseph Haydn be felt stronger than at the magnificent Baroque house in Joseph-Haydn-Gasse in Eisenstadt, where the composer lived from 1776 until 1788. Today the house is a museum known as the Haydn-House Eisenstadt which hosts a great exhibition on Haydn's life and works. Rooms and kitchen are equipped in period furniture and the exhibition shows original portraits of the master composer, as well as some special gems such as a pianoforte from 1780 and the Bergkirche organ table from 1797. First editions and early prints of select works ("The Creation") give a good overview of the composer’s musical development.

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    Esterhazy Palace Eisenstadt

    Esterhazy Palace in Eisenstadt

    Esterházy Palace is the landmark of Eisenstadt and the most important cultural monument of Austria's Burgenland province. The palace was made famous by Joseph Haydn who found room for personal development here. The master composer premiered many of his works in the Haydnsaal (Haydn Hall), famous for its outstanding acoustic properties.

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    Joseph Haydn - A Star in the UK

    In 1790, Prince Nikolaus I died. His successor showed no interest in music and disbanded the orchestra and choir and granted Haydn an annual pension, releasing him into the international world of music. Mozart expressed reservations that Haydn didn't even speak English. Haydn's response: “My music is understood in all the world!”

    Joseph Haydn agreed to compose 27 pieces for London concert manager Johann Peter Salomon and to have them performed in concerts, conducting them himself. Haydn’s arrival in England on 1 January 1791 caused a stir - as much as the fact that Haydn was greeted at a court ball at St James Palace by the Prince of Wales with a visible bow. In July 1791, Haydn received an Honorary Doctorate for Music from the University of Oxford. The solemn celebration lasted three days and took place in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.

    Haydn left the British Isles in June 1792 after two successful concert series. He travelled back to Austria via Bonn, where he met the talented young Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). In 1793, he bought the suburban house Obere Windmühle at Kleine Steingasse 73 (today's Haydn Haus museum) and started to live in it in 1797. It was here that he created his oratories “The Creation” and “The Seasons”.

    In January 1794, Haydn traveled to England a second time and was again met with great success. The “Military Symphony”, the most popular of all his symphonies during his lifetime, was performed for the first time. The 250 works that Haydn composed for his two London visits alone could easily stand for the life's work of any composer.

    Haydn received the great honour to be included in the programmes of the “Ancient Concerts” as the only living composer. He also found official recognition by participating in the concerts of King George III (1738-1820) to whom he was introduced by George, Prince of Wales (1762-1830). The English king and his wife Charlotte tried to convince Haydn to stay longer and offered him an apartment in Windsor, but he decided to return to Austria.