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Biography of Joseph Haydn#

1732 Franz Joseph Haydn was born at Rohrau (Lower Austria) on March 31st, the son of Matthias Haydn, wheelwright and later village judge. His first Christian name was Franz, although Haydn hardly ever used it. He was the second child and the eldest son. Altogether 12 children were born in the family, but half of them died early.

1737 His brother Michael was born at Rohrau, on September 14th.

1738 Haydn is sent to Hainburg, a small town on the Danube, not far from Bratislava, to school rector Johann Matthias Frank, a distant relative, who gives him a good musical education.

1740 - 1749 Haydn becomes a choirboy at St.Stephen’s, Vienna. Here he is given a thorough musical education. During this time he makes his first attempts at composing.

1753 - 1757 Haydn becomes Nicola Porpora’s pupil in Vienna; to him he owes the "true fundaments of composition".

1754 Haydn’s mother dies.

1755 He composes the first string quartets for Count Joseph Fürnberg of Castle Weinzierl near Wieselburg in Lower Austria. The 4 players are: Count Fürnberg, his confessor, his steward and Joseph Haydn.

1759 He becomes music director to Count Charles Morzin in Lukovec, not far from Plzen (Bohemia).

1761 This year meant a decisive change in Haydn’s life as he entered the service of Prince Esterházy in Eisenstadt, Burgenland. Haydn became Vice-Kapellmeister for Prince Paul Anton Esterházy and after his death for Prince Nicolaus Joseph, the Magnificent. Under Haydn’s direction the tiny orchestra develops into a good ensemble. The number of musicians is increased to 25. The Prince himself enjoyed playing the baryton, a string instrument resembling the viola da gamba, for which Haydn composed numerous pieces.

1763 Haydn’s father dies.

1765 Haydn starts a catalogue of his works, the "Draft Catalogue".

1766 Haydn becomes First Kapellmeister to Prince Esterházy. In the following years he composes numerous works like symphonies, operas, masses, string quartets and sonatas.

1776 A Haydn biography is included in the almanach "Scholarly Austria" ("Gelehrtes Österreich").

1779 The opera house at Esterháza burns down. Haydn occasionally complains about the isolated position of Castle Esterháza, which became the Prince’s favourite residence after 1766, situated near the southernmost point of Lake Neusiedl, today a part of Hungary. But he also said about himself: "No one could make me doubt myself or worry me, and so I was compelled to become original." Haydn’s symphonies are first performed in France.

1781 Haydn´s international fame spreads. He establishes contacts with Spain, France and England.

1782 Haydn’s symphonies are performed in America.

1784 Haydn is commissioned by the board of directors for the "Concerts de la Loge Olympique" to compose 6 symphonies, i.e. the Paris symphonies Nos. 82 - 87.

1785 Haydn visits Mozart in Vienna and assures his father: "Before God I tell you as an honest man that your son is the greatest composer whom I know personally and by reputation; he has taste and besides the highest insight into the art of composition."

1790 After the death of Prince Nicolaus Joseph Esterházy the orchestra is dissolved. Haydn goes to Vienna, but remains princely Kapellmeister.

1790 - 1792 First journey to England. Between 1759 and 1789, before his first journey to England, Haydn had written 94 symphonies (among them: the "Farewell" No.45, and the Paris symphonies Nos.82-87.

1791 He is awarded the honorary doctorate of the University of Oxford. He attends Handel’s oratorios. The Surprise Symphony is written.

1792 July: return to Vienna. Haydn had a few outstanding pupils, among them Ludwig van Beethoven, who had moved to Vienna in 1792. But their relationship remained distant.

1793 Haydn buys a house in Gumpendorf, today the 6th district of Vienna. (Also his deathplace).

1794 Second journey to England. From London, where he heard some of Handel’s most famous oratorios, he returned with the plan for his own two oratorios, "The Creation" and "The Seasons".

1795 He returns to Vienna via Hamburg.

1796 He starts composing "The Creation".

1797 The Imperial Anthem is written.

1798 Haydn is appointed member of the Royal Swedish Academy. First performance of "The Creation".

1799 He starts composing "The Seasons".

1800 Haydn’s wife dies.

1801 First performance of the oratorio "The Seasons".

1803 The City of Vienna awards him the "Great Golden Salvator Medal". The last string quartet op.103 remains unfinished.

1804 Haydn is appointed honorary member of the Philharmonic Society of Lubljana. He becomes honorary citizen of Vienna.

1805 He is appointed "member of the Paris Conservatoire".

1808 The Philharmonic Society of St. Peterburg makes him an honorary member. March 27th: Haydn’s last public appearance at a performance of "The Creation", which was also attended by Ludwig van Beethoven.

1809 On May 13th Napoleon’s troops occupy the Imperial City of Vienna. A few days later a French officer sings an aria from "The Creation" to Haydn ("Mit Würd und Hoheit angetan...."). May 31st: Haydn dies. He is buried in the so-called "Hundsturm Cemetery", today the 12th district of Vienna. This place was later named Haydn Park.

1820 Haydn’s body is transferred to the "Hill Church" of Eisenstadt.

1932 Prince Dr.Paul Esterházy had a little mausoleum erected in the left part of the church. But the mausoleum remained empty because Haydn’s skull was still in the possession of the Society of Music Friends. It had been separated from the body after Haydn’s death, because scholars wanted to prove Gall’s theory about intelligence with the help of Haydn’s brain.

1954 Haydn’s skull was taken from Rohrau to the Hill Church of Eisenstadt. Together with Haydn’s other mortal remains it was interred in the mausoleum.