Franz Joseph Haydn – The Life and Legacy of a Musical Legend

Franz Joseph Haydn is one of the most prominent composers of the Classical era, renowned for his contribution to numerous genres of music. Born in Rohrau, Austria, on March 31, 1732, Haydn began his musical career as a chorister in Vienna. He later became the music director of the Esterhazy family, a position he held for nearly 30 years.

This blog post will take a closer look at the life and legacy of Franz Joseph Haydn, exploring his training and exposure to music, his notable accomplishments, and his relationships with other famous musicians of the era.

Training and Exposure to Music

Despite showing an interest in music from a young age, Haydn’s early life was filled with challenges. He was one of 12 children born to Mathias Haydn, a wheelwright in Rohrau. At the age of six, he was sent to live with a relative in Hainburg, where he began to receive formal music training.

Haydn was introduced to Gregorian chant while serving as a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. After being dismissed from the choir, he worked as a freelance musician and eventually caught the attention of composer Christoph Willibald Gluck.

In 1761, Haydn became the music director for the Esterhazy family, a position that provided him with financial stability and artistic freedom. Haydn spent a significant portion of his life at the Esterhazy palace in Eisenstadt, where he had access to impressive music facilities and was able to experiment with various musical forms and genres.

Notable Accomplishments

Haydn is credited with establishing the symphony as a genre of music. He composed over 100 symphonies during his lifetime, many of which are still performed and studied today. His Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 are some of the most famous symphonies of all time.

Aside from symphonies, Haydn also composed over 60 string quartets, piano sonatas, operas, and church music. He is regarded as one of the key figures in the development of the string quartet and was the primary composer of this genre during the Classical era.

Furthermore, Haydn’s innovative spirit led him to compose numerous overtures and incidental music for stage productions. He also collaborated with other composers to create operatic works, including his partnership with Lorenzo Da Ponte, who would later work with Mozart.

Relationships with Other Famous Musicians

Haydn’s relationship with Ludwig van Beethoven is an intriguing aspect of his legacy. Beethoven was a student of Haydn’s during his earliest years in Vienna. However, there is evidence to suggest that their relationship was fraught with tension and disagreements.

On the other hand, Haydn’s relationship with Mozart was more harmonious. The two composers had a mutual respect for each other, and Mozart even dedicated six string quartets to Haydn. Despite being somewhat of a musical mentor to Mozart, it is believed that Haydn may have felt overshadowed by the young prodigy’s talent.

Famous Works of Franz Joseph Haydn

One of the most famous works of Franz Joseph Haydn is his oratorio, The Creation. Composed between 1796 and 1798, this work tells the story of the biblical creation narrative. It remains one of the most popular oratorios in the repertoire and showcases Haydn’s mastery of choral and orchestral composition.

Another famous work is his Symphony No. 94 in G Major, also known as the Surprise Symphony. This symphony is famous for its unexpected loud chord in the second movement, designed to jolt the audience out of its comfortable listening.


Franz Joseph Haydn lived an extraordinary life, perhaps best summed up by his own quote: I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original. His innovative spirit and prolific output have had a lasting impact on the history of music, and his legacy continues to inspire musicians and music lovers around the world.

To answer some of the most common questions about Haydn, he died on May 31, 1809, at the age of 77. He played several instruments, including the piano and violin, but his primary instrument was the harpsichord. He is famous for his contribution to numerous genres of music, including symphonies, string quartets, operas, and church music. Finally, The Creation and the Surprise Symphony are two of his most famous works.