Music Menu
Joseph Haydn

Biography

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. ...

Show more

Show biography

Biography

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)



Tracks (49)

Sort by

Symphony no. 11 in E flat major, Hob.I:11
Symphony No. 102 in B flat: Finale (Presto)
Symphony No. 102 in B flat: Finale (Presto)
Orchestra
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Last played on
Symphony no. 85 in B flat major, 'La reine' Hob.I:85
Symphony no. 85 in B flat major, 'La reine' Hob.I:85
Sonata for Piano in G major (H.16.27) (1774-76)
Sonata for Piano in G major (H.16.27) (1774-76)
Symphony No 49 'La Passione'
Symphony No 49 'La Passione'
Conductor
Sir Roger Norrington
Symphony no. 94 (H.1.94) in G major "Surprise", 2nd movement; Andante
Symphony no. 94 (H.1.94) in G major "Surprise", 2nd movement; Andante
Last played on
String Quartet in C, Op.33 No.3  “The Bird”
String Quartet in C, Op.33 No.3 “The Bird”
Concerto for cello and orchestra no. 2 (H.7b.2) in D major, 3rd mvt; Rondo
Concerto for cello and orchestra no. 2 (H.7b.2) in D major, 3rd mvt; Rondo
Ensemble
Last played on
Piano Sonata No 59 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:49
Piano Sonata No 59 in E flat major, Hob.XVI:49
Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons)H.21/3 -  Winter
Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons)H.21/3 - Winter
Choir
Choir Rodina Rousse
Singer
Julia Milanova
Nikolay Osipov
Pompey Harashtyanou
Conductor
Georgi Dimitrov
Symphony no. 86 (H.1.86) in D major, 4th movement; Finale
Symphony no. 86 (H.1.86) in D major, 4th movement; Finale
Last played on
The Creation [Die Schopfung] (H.21.2), Pt 2, no.18; In holder Anmut stehn [trio]
The Creation [Die Schopfung] (H.21.2), Pt 2, no.18; In holder Anmut stehn [trio]
Performer
Conductor
Last played on
Symphony no.68 in B flat, Hob I:68; 1st mvt, Vivace
Symphony no.68 in B flat, Hob I:68; 1st mvt, Vivace
Last played on
Quartet for strings (Op.20`2) in C major
Quartet for strings (Op.20`2) in C major
Ensemble
Tercea Quartet
Symphony No. 26 ‘Lamentatione’ in D minor (Hob 1:26)
Symphony No. 26 ‘Lamentatione’ in D minor (Hob 1:26)
Conductor
String Quartet in E flat major, Op 76 No 6
String Quartet in E flat major, Op 76 No 6
Ensemble
Heath Quartet
Symphony no. 104 (H.1.104) in D major "London", 4th movement; Finale
Symphony no. 104 (H.1.104) in D major "London", 4th movement; Finale
Orchestra
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra
Last played on
Divertimento for 2 fl and cello "London trio" no.1, 1st mvt; Allegro moderato
Divertimento for 2 fl and cello "London trio" no.1, 1st mvt; Allegro moderato
Performer
Last played on
Quartet for strings no.50 (Op.64 No.3) (Hob.III:67) in B flat major
Quartet for strings no.50 (Op.64 No.3) (Hob.III:67) in B flat major
Ensemble
Talisker Quartet
Symphony no. 26 in D minor H.1.26 (Lamentatione)
Symphony no. 26 in D minor H.1.26 (Lamentatione)
Conductor
Orchestra
Orchestra Libera Classica
Keyboard Sonata No.52 in E Flat Hob XVI/52
Die Schopfung [The Creation] (H.21.2) Part 3 - Nos. 29 & 30
Die Schopfung [The Creation] (H.21.2) Part 3 - Nos. 29 & 30
Singer
Isa Katharina Gericke
Jochen Kupfer
Librettist
Baron von Swieten
Lo Speziale - dramma giocoso in 3 acts (H.28.3), Overture
Lo Speziale - dramma giocoso in 3 acts (H.28.3), Overture
Conductor
Last played on
String Quartet in D major (Op. 64 No.5) 'The Lark'
String Quartet in D major (Op. 64 No.5) 'The Lark'
Ensemble
Yggdrasil String Quartet
Sonata in E-flat major, Hob.XVI:49 - 1. Allegro
Sonata in E-flat major, Hob.XVI:49 - 1. Allegro
Performer
Last played on
Divertimento in E flat major (H.2.21) for 2 horns, 2 violins, viola and bass
Divertimento in E flat major (H.2.21) for 2 horns, 2 violins, viola and bass
Orchestra
St. Christopher Chamber Orchestra (Vilnius)
Piano Trio No 39 in G major, Hob. XV:25 ('Gypsy')
Piano Trio No 39 in G major, Hob. XV:25 ('Gypsy')
Ensemble
Vitruvi Trio
Symphony no. 96 (H.1.96) in D major "Miracle", 3rd movement; Menuetto
Symphony no. 96 (H.1.96) in D major "Miracle", 3rd movement; Menuetto
Orchestra
Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra
Last played on
Divertimento for 2 flutes and cello (H.4.1) in C major "London trio" no.1
Divertimento for 2 flutes and cello (H.4.1) in C major "London trio" no.1
Ensemble
Les Ambassadeurs
Symphony No.47 'Pallindrome'
Symphony No.47 'Pallindrome'
Conductor
Adam Fischer (conductor)
Keyboard Sonata in C sharp minor, Hob.XVI/36
Keyboard Sonata in C sharp minor, Hob.XVI/36
The Seasons [Die Jahreszeiten], Pt.1, no.2; Komm, holder Lenz! [chorus]
The Seasons [Die Jahreszeiten], Pt.1, no.2; Komm, holder Lenz! [chorus]
Choir
RIAS Chamber Chorus
Last played on
Quartet for strings (Op.74`3) in G minor "Rider", 4th movement; Finale
Quartet for strings (Op.74`3) in G minor "Rider", 4th movement; Finale
Last played on
Add music you love and enjoy it

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss