Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)

Franz Joseph Haydn was born before the deaths of Bach and Handel. The Baroque era, generally reflected the manner and tastes of monarchical and aristocratic society.  It was highly embellished, harmonically organized and progressive with its characteristic circle of fifths, stately, formal, harmonically driven and its dynamics were  terraced. In the rococo period, embellishment lost its formality and stateliness and became mere frills. It did, however make a significant contribution at Mannheim. There, rather than dynamics in terraces, the “Mannheim crescendo” was introduced.

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) was born to a wheelwright and his wife in the small Austrian town of Rohrau. His family was financially poor but musically rich in heritage and environment. His parents recognized his musical talents by age 6. Rohrau offered few opportunities to develop that talent, so they made arrangements with a relative, Johann Matthias Frankh, who was a choirmaster in nearby Hainburg, to take Franz Joseph as an apprentice for musical training.  Franz Joseph lived with him and sang in his choir. There, Karl Georg Reutter, a choirmaster in Vienna, discovered him and his extraordinary voice. Reutter took him to Vienna, where Franz Joseph sang in his choir. As Franz Joseph’s voice was about to change, Reutter made plans that he be castrated to preserve his voiceas a castrati. However, his father learned of, and foiled, the plan.

When at age 15 his voice did change, he could no longer sing in the choir.  He then began to compose music. Soon, he became well known as a composer and was employed by the Eszterhazy Palace.  He was one of the last composers to be employed in the patronage system. He wrote an opera, Orlando Palladino, for which he was best known during his lifetime. At Eszterhazy he developed the musical form called the sonata allegro form, in which a theme is stated, followed by a secondary theme, usually contrasting with the primary theme; there is a middle developmental section in which the themes are broken apart into primary pieces, which are repeated and varied; and a final section as a recapitulation. For an excellent graphic representation of the form, see .

The sonata allegro form permitted the development of new extended sections of music, and Haydn used and developed that form to become known as “Papa Haydn,” composer of both the string quartet and the symphony. One of his more popular symphonies is the “Surprise Symphony.”

He married, but, given the instability of his childhood as he was moved from place to place, and not surprisingly with what we now know of bonding and attachment disorders, that marriage failed and they separated. It did not help that he married the sister of the woman that he really loved.

Haydn also wrote sacred music, including oratorio (e.g. The Creation), and the mass (e.g. the Nelson Mass). He was a close friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was 24 years his junior, and who died 19 years before his own death. He made two visits to London in the 1790s which influenced his “London period.”

The Seven Last Words of Christ – in three parts:

The seven last words of Christ – instrumental version

The Creation – part one – part two – part three – part four – part five

Nelson Mass

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