Joseph Haydn, the son of a wheelwright from Rohrau in Lower Austria, spent nearly all of his creative life in the service of one noble family, the Esterházys, and yet became the most famous and revered composer of his time.
Holed up either in Eisenstadt or at Eszterháza, the family pile in Hungary, Haydn was ‘forced to become original’ – or so he claimed. His 60-year career, though, reflects the early development of both the symphony and the string quartet, and he was active in all other genres, from sacred music to opera, from piano trios to solo sonatas.
Haydn’s greatest achievements are his 104 numbered symphonies and 68 string quartets. He was pivotal in bringing the symphony out of the salon and into the concert hall; those numbered in the 40s and 50s show him straining at the boundaries of symphonic protocol and those in the 80s, 90s and 100s (especially the sets composed for Paris and London) lead the way to the high- Classical style of Beethoven. Having virtually invented the string quartet, he showed how it could become the perfect forum for musical argument and equality.
A busy composer for the stage throughout the 1760s and 1770s, Haydn abandoned operatic composition after hearing Mozart’s operas of the 1780s. And although he considered the Masses of his younger brother, Michael, to be superior to his own, the series of six late Masses composed for the name-day of Princess Maria Hermenegild Esterházy are among the finest of all church works. These Masses, the last 20 or so symphonies and the two great oratorios from the turn of the 19th century, The Creation and The Seasons, represent the peak of Haydn’s art.
But this is only part of the story. Haydn also excelled in piano sonatas, chamber music and concertos for a variety of instruments; his are the most substantial contributions to the repertoires of such rare instruments as the baryton and the lira organizzata.
In addition, while astonishing audiences on his triumphant visits to London in the 1790s, he made nearly 400 arrangements of English, Scottish and Welsh folk songs.
However, the Europe-wide fame he enjoyed during his lifetime has not endured, and he is still less well-loved by today’s concert-goers (or concert-programmers maybe) than Mozart. Perhaps this is because he did not live fast and die romantically young – so there is no Haydnesque equivalent of Amadeus to plead his case.
What is not in doubt is that his innovations and developments in 18th-century music guarantee ‘Papa’ Haydn a unique place in music history.
Profile by David A. Threasher © BBC
- Clips (20)Latest ClipHaydn: String Quartet in C, Op.20, No.2
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- Haydn: String Quartet in C, Op.20, No.2http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02lbnsf.jpg2015-04-07T12:45:00ZMeta4 perform one of the groundbreaking Op.20 quartets which earned Haydn the title, 'Father of the string quartet'.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p02nmf6qSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 20 mins
Haydn: String Quartet in C, Op.20, No.2
- Haydn: Missa in Angustiis (Nelson Mass)http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mgzjx.jpg2015-03-21T13:54:00ZBuilding a Library surveys recordings of Haydn's Missa in Angustiis (Nelson Mass).http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p02mgzjySelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 50 mins
Haydn: Missa in Angustiis (Nelson Mass)
- Composer of the Week - Haydn's time at the Hungarian palace of Eszterhazahttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02hhkgk.jpg2015-01-23T13:00:00ZDonald Macleod explores Haydn's time at the Hungarian palace of Eszterhazahttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p02hhl1tSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour 10 mins
Composer of the Week - Haydn's time at the Hungarian palace of Eszterhaza
- Joseph Haydnhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p021bmny.jpg2014-06-20T15:58:00ZDonald Macleod investigates Haydn's turbulent personality.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p021bmphSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 47 mins
- Joseph Haydnhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p021bm6t.jpg2014-06-20T15:48:00ZThe works of Joseph Haydn, focusing on his often neglected operas.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p021bm7jSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 38 mins
- Joseph Haydnhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p021bk75.jpg2014-06-20T15:31:00ZDonald Macleod explores the life and music of Joseph Haydn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p021bkbfSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour
- Joseph Haydn - the string quartethttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0215zn3.jpg2014-06-18T11:24:00ZDonald Macleod explores the life and work of Joseph Haydn through a genre of music he virtually invented, the string quartethttp://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0215zpjSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 1 hour
Joseph Haydn - the string quartet
- Haydn: Symphony No. 100 'The Military'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sjf7h.jpg2014-06-02T14:20:00ZCharles Hazlewood explores Haydn's Symphony No. 100 'The Military'.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0206l17Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 34 mins
Haydn: Symphony No. 100 'The Military'
- Haydn: Symphony No. 98 and Piano Variationshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tqmlk.jpg2014-06-02T14:05:00ZStephen Johnson and conductor Nicholas Kraemer explore Haydn's works.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0206k31Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 47 mins
Haydn: Symphony No. 98 and Piano Variations
- Haydn: Symphony No. 60 'Il Distratto'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vl92d.jpg2014-06-02T13:50:00ZCharles Hazlewood explores Haydn's Symphony No.60 in C 'Il Distratto'.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0206j2kSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 33 mins
Haydn: Symphony No. 60 'Il Distratto'
- Haydn: Symphonies No. 22 and No. 92http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sjdk5.jpg2014-06-02T13:35:00ZStephen Johnson unpicks Haydn's Symphonies No. 22 and No. 92.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0206grmSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 46 mins
Haydn: Symphonies No. 22 and No. 92
- Haydn: String Quartets Op. 33 'Russian'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sjcxq.jpg2014-06-02T13:22:00ZStephen Johnson explores Haydn's six string quartets, Op. 33.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0206frxSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 42 mins
Haydn: String Quartets Op. 33 'Russian'
- Trumpet Concertos: Telemann and Haydnhttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01vl417.jpg2014-06-02T13:04:00ZStephen Johnson explores the trumpet concerto, from Telemann to Haydn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p0206f7ySelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 43 mins
Trumpet Concertos: Telemann and Haydn
- Theme and Variationshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01sxtxl.jpg2014-05-27T13:07:00ZCharles Hazlewood examines Theme and Variations in music.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01zvfz4Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 41 mins
Theme and Variations
- Shall We Dance?http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01zv15m.jpg2014-05-27T08:53:00ZCharles Hazlewood reveals how dance music has inspired great works.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01zv16cSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 31 mins
Shall We Dance?
- Brahms: Variations on a theme of Haydn (The St Anthony Choral)http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01yx18q.jpg2014-05-11T06:40:00ZStephen Johnson and the BBC SO look at Brahms's Variations on a theme of Haydn.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01yx1c2Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 40 mins
Brahms: Variations on a theme of Haydn (The St Anthony Choral)
- Haydn: Symphony No. 101http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01y2tmh.jpg2014-04-27T19:31:00ZMisha Donat reviews recordings of Haydn's Symphony No. 101 and makes a recommendation.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01y2tmkSelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 46 mins
Haydn: Symphony No. 101
- Haydn: Symphony No. 99http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w9t64.jpg2014-03-27T12:03:00ZHoward Goodall and Suzy Klein discuss the Finale from Haydn's Symphony No. 99.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01w9t83Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 4 mins
Haydn: Symphony No. 99
- Haydn: Symphony No.100 in G, 'Military'http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w6706.jpg2014-03-25T11:43:00ZRobert Philip compares the available recordings of Haydn's Symphony No.100 in G, the 'Military' and recommends his favourite.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01w670ySelected ClipSelected ClipAudio 38 mins
Haydn: Symphony No.100 in G, 'Military'
- Haydn: Op 33. String Quartetshttp://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01w3t7x.jpg2014-03-23T18:28:00ZRichard Wigmore considers the recordings of Haydn's group of six string quartets, published as his Op.33, and recommends his favourite.http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/artists/c130b0fb-5dce-449d-9f40-1437f889f7fe?clipfocus=p01w3t82Selected ClipSelected ClipAudio 48 mins
Haydn: Op 33. String Quartets
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