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Affectionately nicknamed 'Papa Haydn', the prolific eighteenth-century Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn continues to appeal to today's classical music audiences.
Born near Vienna in 1732, Haydn’s musical talent drew him to that city, the musical center of the classical period (1750-1825). By the 1780s Haydn was one of its superstars.
In 1761 when the aristocracy and nobility still were the major supporters of musical life, Haydn was hired by to oversee the musical affairs of the Esterhazy family. Haydn's position as the Esterhazy Kapellmeister (music director) for over thirty years helped change music forever.
As Kapellmeister Haydn had the opportunity to both compose for and direct the orchestra funded by Count Esterhazy. The Count expected concerts twice a week from 2-4 pm and Haydn was always ready with selections, many of them his own compositions. Most of his 100+ symphonies were composed during these years.
Haydn's titled symphonies include:
No. 85 Queen - supposed to be Marie Antoinette's favorite
No. 92 Oxford - Hayden received a degree from this university
No. 94 Surprise - for the loud chord heard in the andante movement
No. 101 Clock - for the tick-tock rhythm in the second movement
Thanks to his abilities and genial character, Haydn was popular with both his employers and members of the orchestra (they were among the first to refer to him as 'Papa Haydn').
Haydn influenced other Viennese superstar composers. Ludwig van Beethoven took composition lessons from Haydn and would dedicate a set of string quartets to Haydn. Haydn worked with and became friends with a young Mozart. Both would refer affectionately to him as 'Papa Haydn'.
Haydn's compositions helped develop the principles of string quartets that remain today. His mastery of the symphonic form (especially in his London and Paris symphonies) laid the foundations for later symphonies by other composers. Because of that, many music lovers consider Haydn the father of modern music and use the nickname 'Papa Haydn' to refer to this masterful composer.
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff