Sunday, October 1st, 2023

Composers – Franz Joseph Haydn


Composers – Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Franz Joseph Haydn - MainNationality – Austrian

Born – March 31, 1732

Died – May 31, 1809

Major Works

15 Operas, 104 Symphonies, 83 String Quartets, nearly 50 Piano Sonatas, 12 Masses, Chamber Music and Oratorios.

When studying Music History and the world renown Composers, it is vitally important to carefully review and to understand the significance of Franz Joseph Haydn, a prolific composer of instrumental music.

Franz Joseph Haydn was one of twelve children born to a wheelright in Rohrau, in lower Austria, on March 31st 1732. As a young child Haydn had a wonderful voice setting the stage for his participation in the St. Stephen’s Choir at the age of eight years old. His family was fond of the “Folk Music” of his day and this influence can be observed in his music. These concepts were the start of his lifelong adventure with music.

His passion for music remained strong throughout his life. He was primarily an instrumental music composer however, his early childhood, as stated above, provided a foundation for his contributions to the Oratorio as well. The “Folk Music’ influenced his melody writing and it is somewhat simplistic as compared to other composers living at that time. Other enviable influences for Haydn were Bach and Handel who were at the height of their careers as Haydn’s life unfolded. He was also a friend of Mozart who he outlived for some eighteen years. Beethoven was a one time student of his as well. To be surrounded with such incredible musical talent helped to make Haydn the composer he is known to have become, a prolific and highly valued contributor to the field of study we call music. The strength of his commitment to music is reflected by an episode near his death where, just five days before he passed away in 1809, Haydn performed the Austrian National Anthem even though he was both mentally and physically in decline.

Some claim that Haydn was the creator of several song forms; the symphony, string quartets, sonatas and the concerto. The fact of the matter is that these forms were “in development” prior to his involvement with them. What is of most significance of Haydn’s contribution to music at large is that he alone, perfected these forms and demonstrated their musical potentialities to the world. His contributions to musical forms have since shown their staying power and historical significance to music, including, his ideas for which instruments are used to make up a full Orchestra. He had thought out the instruments and their use so well as to define and to standardize the instrumentation of the orchestra, which is still in use today. Aside from his music, I think these ideas remain, in my opinion, his greatest contributions.

Two examples demonstrate the value of his development of song forms are clearly seen in both the Sonata form, more specifically, the Allegro Sonata Form, and the four movements that make up a Symphony; a short, slow introduction, a slow movement in three parts, a minuet and a fast movement, usually a sonata or a rondo form to conclude the basic structure’s description.

In my opinion, I think “The Surpise” or Symphony 94 in G Major is Haydn’s best Symphonies and it clearly demonstrates the form in all of its glory. The series of four movements of a symphony can easily be heard in this work as it includes an Adagio / Vivace assai in the first movement, an Andante in movement two which also includes an unexpected loud chord that was one of the reasons for the symphonies title. Movement two also has a child-like melody making this an enjoyable movement as well. Movement number three is the Minuet – Allegro molto. It is a three part form, ABA. The lively minuet is frequently found throughout his symphonic work. Movement number four is the Finale – Allegro di molto. It is written in the Sonata form, fast and lively. It should be noted that it wasn’t until Beethoven developed the use of a symphony where the four parts became treated as a whole, rather than seen in this work and others by Haydn, each movement is not necessarily in any relationship to another other than by the key the work was written in.

I would be remiss in my intent to provide a brief overview about Haydn if I did not include at least one of his amazing string quartets. His String Quartet, Opus 33, No.3 in C Major was written and dedicated to the Archduke Paul of Russia. Opus 33, No.3 contains several passages where the sounds of birds are suggested and hence the other name for this String Quartet is “Bird Quartet“. Note: It is not likely that Haydn had the intent of naming this work as such, when composing it.

A beautiful performance of this work can be seen in this video series St. Andrew’s on the Terrace Concert 27th May 2009 NZSM staff, students and guests present Haydn’s String Quartet in C major. Op.33, No 3 “The Bird”. Part one of the video series includes the Allegro moderato and Scherzo.

Video number two includes the Adagio and Finale.

The later string quartets by Haydn feature a slow movement in three parts. In his String Quartet in G minor, Opus 74, No. 3 this is evident and I recommend for you to review this quartet too.

Additionally, you may wish to further study his music. I would encourage a review of ; The Creation and The Seasons (oratorios); Quartet in C Major, Opus 76, No.3.; Das Deutchland uber alles the German National Anthem and Sonata in C and Sonata in Ed, both are piano sonatas.

I hope this introduction to Franz Joseph Haydn has sparked your interest in his work. He is without a doubt a significant figure in musical history. Hopefully through this review you can see why Haydn was included in our Composers – An Overview in Music History article.

Franz Joseph Haydn

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