Saturday, September 14, 2013

Franz Joseph Haydn: The Forgotten Master

Historical Period: Classical
Nationality: Austrian
Born: March 31, 1732 A.D. in Rohrau, Austria.
Died:  May 31, 1809 A.D. in Vienna, Austria
Contemporaries: Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, George Friedrich Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Specialist Genres: symphony, string quartet, concerto.
Major Works: chamber music and songs, cantatas, violin and keyboard concertos, harpsichord sonatas, 12 masses, oratorio, 15 surviving operas, keyboard sonatas, Stabat Mater, string quartets, and 104 symphonies.

What's the Big Deal with Haydn?

If someone would ask you what you know about Franz Joseph Haydn, what would you tell them? Here are a few things that you could tell them. Franz Joseph Haydn is the forgotten master of classical music. Franz Joseph Haydn taught Ludwig van Beethoven and was close friends with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and pretty much invented the musical form of the concerto, string quartet, sonata and symphony in the Classical period.[1] But not many people know about Haydn’s achievements, that is why he is the forgotten master of classical music.

The Early Years 

In the time of the Enlightenment, America revolted against Great Britain becoming its own country (1776);  Adam Smith had written about his ideas of capitalism; Jean-Jacques Rousseau had written Emile on the innate goodness of man and how people just need a good education; it was not well-received); John Wesley and George Whitefield were preaching to multitudes in America about the need to be born again. This brought the First Great Awakening in America where many people turned to God. It was during this time that Franz Joseph Haydn came on the scene in Europe bringing with him many new musical ideas.

         Franz was one of 12 children in the Haydn family, at age 8 he was recruited to the sing in the choir at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna because of his beautiful singing voice just like Palestrina and Monteverdi.  It was at St. Stephen's that Franz went on to learn to play violin and keyboard. Some scholars think that Haydn even learned the organ during these years, so we can see that Haydn has something in common  with Scarlatti; they both played the harpsichord and organ. After a few years, Haydn’s voice changed (just like any boy), so he could not sing in the choir anymore. He then left the choir and started working as a music teacher and playing violin, while studying counterpoint and harmony in his spare time. This was a difficult time in Haydn's life because he did not make much money, and during this time in history parents did not help out their children very much after they finished school.

Haydn's Boss: The Esterházs

        In 1761 Joseph Haydn was named Kapellmeister, or "court musician," at the palace of the influential Esterházy family after Prince Paul Anton heard one of his symphonies. It was his job to train the choir and orchestra, and take care of the instruments and music at Eisenstadt where the Esterházys lived. Haydn worked for the Esterházy family for 30 years writing symphonies, concertos, string quartets, trios, and even music for the viola d'amore; the instrument that his boss played. After Haydn finished working for the Esterházy family he was able to go throughout Europe to write and perform more music.

[1] Max Wade-Matthews and Wendy Thompson, Joseph Haydn in The Encyclopedia of Music: Instruments of the Orchestra and the Great Composers (New York: Hermes House, 2002), p. 323.

Copyright © 2013 Mircea & Daniyela Ionescu. All rights reserved.

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