Franz Joseph Haydn



Sometimes people say that Haydn invented the musical forms of the symphony and the string quartet. But a better way of understanding it is that he made them shine. Before he came along, people had written quartets and symphonies – many were easy to listen to and not particularly interesting. Haydn transformed them because what he wrote was so good. His works were numerous too – across his long life, he wrote more than a hundred symphonies! People liked Haydn so much that they called him ‘Papa’ Haydn. But nice people can still be quietly revolutionary…

Haydn was born in 1732 into an Austrian family who, though very poor, loved music. When he was six years old, he was sent to a nearby city to take lessons and sing in a boys’ choir. His teachers were also poor, so he had to sing well or he wasn’t fed. When his voice broke, he had to find work teaching music or singing in the streets for money, and he did this while also teaching himself important principles of composition.

In 1766, he got the job of ‘Kapellmeister’ for a rich family called the Esterházys in Hungary. This meant he was in charge of all their music. Although only a servant – as were most musicians at that time – he was loyal and respected. Slowly people right across Europe began to discover his music, and in 1790 he got the chance to travel to London. There his latest symphonies were applauded wildly; Haydn was a star! He even met the King. He rather enjoyed it all. And he began to make good money, too.

Haydn had met Mozart in Vienna a few years earlier, and they became friends. Occasionally they played in quartets together and they praised each other’s music. Haydn briefly taught Beethoven, too, but they didn’t get on quite so well and Beethoven was rather rude to him. Even so, for the Vienna performance of one of Haydn’s last successes – his oratorio, The Creation – Beethoven was in the audience. He was so moved that he rushed over and knelt before the older composer! Haydn is proof that someone born to a very poor family can become a great musician.

Joseph Haydn, courtesy of Benjamin Chai

Play Music!

Play Music!

Hear some Haydn here!

Piano Sonata No. 62 in E flat major, Hob. XVI:52: III. Finale: Presto

This is one of Haydn’s biggest sonatas. It written in 1794 for a professional pianist, Therese Jansen-Bartolozzi, whom he met in London and rather liked. The whole sonata is full of life and energy, very typical of Haydn.

Performers: Jenő Jandó, piano

Taken from Naxos 8.550657

Symphony No. 94 in G major, Hob. I:94, ‘The Surprise’: II. Andante

‘The Surprise’ nickname is because of one loud chord in this slow movement, which you can hear c. 0:28. It’s all so gentle before that moment, and carries on being gentle afterwards. When Haydn wrote this, it was a very surprising thing to do!

Performers: Capella Istropolitana; Barry Wordsworth

Taken from Naxos 8.553222

String Quartet No. 62 in C major, Op. 76 No. 3, Hob. III:77, ‘Emperor’: II. Poco adagio, cantabile

This beautiful slow movement is based on a tune that Haydn had already composed for Emperor Francis II; it later became the German National Anthem. Haydn was really pleased with the tune!

Performers: Kodály Quartet

Taken from Naxos 8.550129

Do You Know?

Do You Know?

See if you can answer the questions below!

 Haydn wrote how many symphonies?

a. More than 100
b. More than 200
c. More than 500

 Haydn for many years served which aristocrat faithfully?

a. Prince Albert
b. Emperor Franz Josef
c. Prince Esterházy

 Haydn had the most amazing success when visiting which European city?

a. Madrid
b. Prague
c. London

 Which of the following was written by Haydn?

a. B minor Mass
b. ‘Coronation’ Mass
c. The Creation

 Haydn was known to his pupils as what?

a. Old Crusty-Pants
b. Papa Haydn
c. Mr Big-Wig

Key Facts…

Key Facts…
  1. Haydn had a great sense of humour, which included a love of practical jokes!
  2. Haydn told Mozart’s father that he believed Mozart to be the greatest composer he knew.
  3. Haydn admired Beethoven but thought him arrogant; he called him ‘The Great Moghul’… behind his back!
  4. Once, Prince Esterházy kept his musicians at his summer palace for too long. So Haydn dropped a big hint that it was time to go home in his new ‘Farewell’ Symphony by having the players drop out one by one towards the end, and walk off!
  5. Haydn composed the tune that became the German National Anthem. He was very proud of it and included it in one his greatest string quartets, his ‘Emperor’ quartet (Op. 76 No. 3).

Play More Music!

Play More Music!

Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!

Orchestral Works

Symphony No. 6 in D major, Hob. I:6, ‘Le Matin’

‘Le Matin’ means ‘The Morning’ – see if you can hear an impression of sunrise when you listen to the slow opening of the first movement. It was Haydn’s first symphony written at the Esterházy Court. An elegant work, it would have needed some good playing from the musicians of the court orchestra.

Performers: Northern Chamber Orchestra; Nicholas Ward

Taken from Naxos 8.550722

Symphony No. 45 in F sharp minor, Hob.I:45, ‘Farewell’

This starts off in a minor key with a lot of energy – dark and determined. But just listen to the sun come out as the theme changes to the major key at 0:23! It’s a thrilling mixture all the way through the first movement. This is the symphony that Haydn ended by having the players snuff out their candles and leave one by one – a quiet plea to Prince Esterházy for all these brilliant musicians to be allowed home to see their families. So rather than a big bombastic ending to the last movement, you can hear how it gently thins to just two violins.

Performers: Capella Istropolitana; Barry Wordsworth

Taken from Naxos 8.553222

Symphony No. 104 in D major, Hob.I:104, ‘London’

Although all his last 12 symphonies are called ‘London’ symphonies, this, the very last he ever wrote, is the ‘London’ Symphony. Compare it with his Symphony No. 7 and see how he has changed: 104 is longer, more complex and more dramatic. There are more instruments: clarinets, trumpets and timpani are all included – so it’s noisier!

Performers: Capella Istropolitana; Barry Wordsworth

Taken from Naxos 8.550287

Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIb:1

Listen to the confident entry of the solo cello at 1:11 in the first movement of this Cello Concerto; it soon becomes lyrical – singing out thrillingly against the orchestra. At 7:16 we get the ‘cadenza’ – the cellist plays by himself in a partly improvised solo section to show off his skills. Can you hear how he sometimes plays two notes at once on his cello? We’re lucky to have this concerto: the music was lost until rediscovered in 1961 – 200 years after Haydn wrote it!

Performers: Ludovít Kanta, cello; Capella Istropolitana; Peter Breiner

Taken from Naxos 8.550059

Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, Hob.VIIe:1

This concerto was written for a brand new instrument invented in Vienna by Anton Weidinger in 1793: a trumpet with keys. The keyed trumpet was replaced by the valve trumpet in 1813 (which is the trumpet we know today), but at the time it was a step forward for the instrument – it could play more notes and sound better. Trumpeters don’t have many concertos; this one is a gem. If you thought the trumpet was just grand and loud, listen to track two here, where the trumpet comes in at 0:35 with the gentle melody.

Performers: Niklas Eklund, trumpet; Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Roy Goodman

Taken from Naxos 8.554806

Choral Creations

Die Schöpfung (The Creation), Hob. XXI:2: Part 1

One of Haydn’s masterpieces and one of the surprisingly few works ever written about the Creation. Haydn was inspired to write it in London after hearing Handel’s oratorios. It moved Beethoven, who had not been kind about Haydn, to kneel down before him in admiration. In this playlist, we begin with the orchestra’s dramatic depiction of chaos – the start of the whole work. Can you hear how spooky and unsettling it is? The next four numbers begin to tell the story. Then we hear the end of Part 1: ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’ – a thrilling and well-loved chorus.

Performers: Sunhae Im, soprano; Jan Kobow, tenor; Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass; Christine Wehler, alto; VokalEnsemble Köln (Chorus Master: Max Ciolek); Capella Augustina; Andreas Spering

Taken from Naxos 8.557380-81

Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), Hob.XXI:3

Haydn wrote The Seasons in 1802, after the success of The Creation. Generally it is lighter in mood than The Creation and it includes some of his loveliest music. He imitates countryside sounds and scenes: dancing peasants, a thunderstorm, a whistling ploughman, the sunrise… The extracts here are taken from each of the four seasons, and highlight music for the chorus in particular.

Performers: Sibylla Rubens, soprano; Andreas Karasiak, tenor; Stephan MacLeod, bass; Gewandhaus Kammerchor; Leipziger Kammerorchester; Morten Schuldt-Jensen

Taken from Naxos 8.557600-01

Piano Works

Fantasia in C major (Capriccio), Hob.XVII:4

Haydn’s Fantasia in C major is based on a folksong with the odd title ‘The Farmer’s Wife has Lost her Cat’! It is playful but also has darker moments. Haydn was particularly pleased with it.

Performers: Jenő Jandó, piano

Taken from Naxos 8.553826

Piano Sonata No. 33 in C minor, Hob.XVI:20

Haydn wrote this sonata in 1771 and it was the first that he actually called ‘sonata’ (his earlier piano sonatas he called ‘partitas’ or ‘divertimentos’). His choice of a new name indicates the work’s importance. It has been called Haydn’s ‘Appassionata’ (after Beethoven’s great and passionate sonata). One of Haydn’s darker sonatas, full of interesting modulations (where the music moves from one key to another), it is quite difficult to play.

Performers: Jenő Jandó, piano

Taken from Naxos 8.553800

Piano Sonata No. 50 in D major, Hob.XVI:37

This sonata is quite popular for pianists to learn – it’s satisfying to play, with a nice mixture of scampering fast notes, strong rhythm, and scrunchy-sounding chords, all without being too difficult! It’s a real contrast from the sparkling first movement to the beautifully deep and thoughtful second. The major key returns for a cheerful final movement.

Performers: Jenő Jandó, piano

Taken from Naxos 8.553128

Piano Sonata No. 60 in C major, Hob.XVI:50

Another work written in London (in 1794), this is one of Haydn’s biggest sonatas. It was written for Therese Jansen-Bartolozzi, a fine pianist. Haydn didn’t play the piano very well, so he might have struggled to play it himself!

Performers: Jenő Jandó, piano

Taken from Naxos 8.550657

Piano Sonata No. 62 in E flat major, Hob. XVI:52

Haydn’s last sonata is also one of his biggest and best. The whole sonata is full of life and energy, very typical of Haydn. Listen to the forthright opening: this is a piece of music that has something to say!

Performers: Jenő Jandó, piano

Taken from Naxos 8.550657

Chamber Music

String Quartet No. 31 in B minor, Op. 33 No. 1, Hob.III:37

Haydn was the first composer of great string quartets – works for two violins, one viola and one cello. This one is taken from a set of six often referred to as the ‘Russian Quartets’ because they were dedicated to a Russian grand duke. It is a fairly early Haydn Quartet and rather dark in mood.

Performers: Kodály Quartet

Taken from Naxos 8.550788

String Quartet No. 63 in B flat major, Op. 76 No. 4, Hob.III:78, ‘Sunrise’

This is one of the last quartets Haydn wrote. It is one of his most ambitious works. It was nicknamed ‘Sunrise’ owing to the rising theme that begins the work. See if you think this evokes the impression of a sunrise.

Performers: Kodály Quartet

Taken from Naxos 8.550315

String Quartet No. 66 in G major, Op. 77 No. 1, Hob.III:81, ‘Lobkowitz’

Another late quartet, this is harmonically rather daring – which means that the notes put together to make chords are sometimes surprising and the way they move is not always predictable or comfortable to listen to. Haydn wrote it for Prince Lobkowitz, for whom Beethoven wrote his first quartets at the same time.

Performers: Goldmund Quartet

Taken from Naxos 8.573701

Keyboard Trio No. 25 in G Major, Hob.XV:25, ‘Gypsy Rondo’

This piano trio (piano, violin and cello) has a famous fast finale, which he based on Hungarian tunes that he heard while staying with his Esterházy patrons. Whereas quartets were written for ‘connoisseurs’ (people who knew a lot!), piano trios were usually written for ‘cultivated amateurs’. But you have to be a pretty good ‘cultivated amateur’ pianist to play this!

Performers: Kungsbacka Piano Trio

Taken from Naxos 8.572040