A Brief Introduction to “Papa” Haydn
Joseph Haydn is one of the most beloved composers of all time, and his music has had a lasting impact on the world. He was born in Austria in 1732 and grew up in a family of musicians and singers. He studied music as a young child at his uncle’s school. At the age of eight, Haydn was “discovered” by the Music Director of the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna and went on to sing in the choir there.
Haydn’s works span a wide range of genres and styles, and he composed over one hundred symphonies, operas, string quartets, and masses. He was known for his inventive and adventurous compositions, often blending elements of classical music with folk and popular music. His most popular works include the “Surprise” Symphony, which features a surprise dynamic change from loud to soft, and the “Clock” Symphony, which features several musical clocks as a tongue-in-cheek joke.
In addition to his compositions, Haydn was also an innovator in the field of music pedagogy. He was one of the first composers to write out all of the details of a composition, including the dynamics, articulation, ornamentation, and tempo.
Perhaps Haydn’s most beloved composition is his “Creation” oratorio, which he composed in 1798. The work is a reflection of Haydn’s deep faith, and it is an ode to the creation of the world as described in the Bible. It is a powerful and stirring work, and remains a favorite of many classical music lovers today (more on “The Creation” below).
Joseph Haydn passed away in 1809 at the age of 77. His legacy lives on to this day, with his music still being performed and appreciated all over the world. Haydn was the quintessential classical composer, and his music has had a great influence on the works of many of the great composers that followed him; in fact, over 200 years after his death, he is still acknowledged as the father of the string quartet and the symphony. Even aside from that, his well-documented caring nature and lasting influence rightfully earned him the nickname “Papa” Haydn during his lifetime; a name he’s still known by today.
Haydn was known for his humor; works such as the “Surprise” symphony and the “Farewell” symphony are among the greatest examples of integrating humor into classical composition
The latter composition was composed to send a message to Haydn’s benefactors that it was time to return home after a particularly long concert season. In the last movement of “Farewell…”, the musicians begin leaving the stage one by one during the performance. History says that the message was received and the musicians were allowed to go home shortly after its performance.
Upon hearing Handel’s monumental Messiah and Israel in Egypt, Haydn was inspired to write a similar work of his own, and he certainly delivered. The Creation is widely considered to be Handel’s crowning achievement. Listen for yourself here.
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