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Franz Joseph Haydn

[hId' n] developer of the symphony

Franz Joseph Haydn

Frank Joseph Haydn was born at Rohrau, Austria, on April 1, 1732. He became a choirboy at the emperor's court in Vienna in 1740, where he remained until his voice changed in 1749.

Haydn spent the next ten years living hand-to-mouth before finally getting work at the court of Prince Esterhazy in eastern Austria, in 1761. He was soon put in charge of all music at the court and remained there for about 30 years. The prince was quite fond of music, and Haydn was kept busy composing works for him.

During his 30 years in Esterhazy's court Haydn became famous all over Europe for his music. Often called the "father of the symphony," Haydn did not actually write the first symphonies. He did, however, develop the symphony from a short, simple form of musical composition to a long form for large orchestra. The combination of instruments that he used in his symphonies became the basis of today's symphony orchestra. In his career Haydn wrote more than 100 symphonies. He wrote his last 12 symphonies while visiting England between 1791 and 1794, including the famous Surprise Symphony (number 94).

Haydn wrote more than 80 string quartets, including The Bird (1781), Sunrise (1799?), and Emperor (1799?). He also wrote operas and other works for voices, including more than 50 sonatas and 3 oratorios. Two of his oratorios -- The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801) -- are ranked among his greatest works.

Haydn met fellow Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1781, and the two remained friends until Mozart's death in 1791. Haydn openly acknowledged Mozart's superiority as a writer of operas, and Mozart admitted he learned much from Haydn about composing instrumental music.

Frank Joseph Haydn died at Gumpendorf, Vienna, on May 31, 1809.

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This page was last updated on 04/18/2017.