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Austrian Composer Joseph Haydn Died in 1809

Often referred to as the "Father" of the symphony and the string quartet, Haydn is remembered as one of the most prolific, influential, and prominent composers of all time


Classical Austrian composer Joseph Haydn died on this day in 1809.

Born in Rohrau, Austria in 1732, Franz Joseph Haydn was the composer of 104 symphonies, 50 concertos, 84 string quartets, 24 stage works, and 12 Masses, among many other works. 

Haydn grew up in a music-loving family — his father was a harpist as well as a wagon builder and repairer, while his two brothers also became musicians. Sent as a young boy to live with his uncle, who was a schoolmaster in Hainburg, Haydn studied singing, harpsichord, organ, violin, trumpet, and drums.

From the age of eight, he spent nine years as a chorister at Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral. After an incident where he cut off the pigtails of the choirboy in front of him, Haydn was cast from the group and left homeless but survived through busking and teaching. 

In 1753, he met Italian opera composer Nicola Porpora, who taught him opera composition and introduced him to noble patrons and famous musicians. From around 1759 to 1760, Haydn became the musical director for Count von Morzinrsquos court musicians, for whom he wrote his earliest symphonies.

For almost 30 years between 1761 and 1790, he served with the greatest success as an employee and musical director for the Esterházy family — a noble Hungarian household. These years saw him produce the most works.

Though Haydn was not the first symphonist, he was a pioneer in the genre — helping form its now characteristic structure of four movements. His influence was equally important on the concerto, the piano sonata, and the piano trio. 

Also known as the “Father of the String Quartet,” his chamber works served as models for his student Beethoven, and W.A. Mozart, whose close friendship influenced both of their works. 

By the 1780s, Haydn had gained recognition across Europe and was receiving commissions from London and Paris. In the 1790s, his large-scale works were also breaking tradition by incorporating solo features to the wind and brass sections and adopting slow introductions to his first movements.

During two visits to England in the early 1790s, he also had the opportunity to conduct new symphonies in subscription concerts formed by entrepreneur Johann Peter Salomon. Inspired by the music of Handel, Haydn’s famed oratorios, The Creation and The Seasons were both written later in his life. 

He was so renowned and respected that Napoleon, upon hearing of the composer’s imminent death, placed an armed guard around Haydn’s house when his forces were attacking the Austrian capital. Haydn died in Vienna in 1809.



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