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Franz Joseph Haydn


Franz Joseph Haydn (pronounced Hide In) lived and composed during the Classical Period. He was one of the most famous composers of his time. Haydn created new ways to organize musical compositions and he is known as the "Father of the Symphony."


Haydn was born in a small town in Austria.  His father made wooden carts and wagon wheels. Haydn's father loved music and played the harp for his friends and neighbors. His mother was a cook. When he was 8, Joseph (he didn't go by Franz) went to school in Vienna. The school he went to, The Vienna Boys Choir School, still exists today. Joseph  was always getting into trouble at school because he loved to play jokes on people. In fact, when he was a teenager he got thrown out of school because he cut off another boy's ponytail! 


When Haydn left school he had a hard time earning a living as a composer. He worked for different noblemen (rich people related to the King) for about ten years. Then he got a job with a rich, powerful family named Esterhazy. It was Haydn's job to write music for the Esterhazy princes, and to conduct their orchestra.

Haydn had a lot of responsibilities in the Esterhazy household. He had to compose music for any occasion that the family wanted. He wrote string quartets, symphonies, dance music, church music, operas (the Esterhazys had their own opera house) and much more. Haydn was also responsible for the musicians - almost 70 of them worked full time for the Esterhazy family - and their instruments. Haydn was always kind to the musicians - they even called him Papa Haydn.


Haydn wrote lots of different kinds of music and he became very famous and rich while he was alive. Haydn came up with the idea of the symphony.  A symphony is a long piece of music that has four sections called movements. Haydn wrote more than 100 symphonies! He is often called "the father of the symphony".  Many of Haydn's symphonies have names, for example in the "Surprise" symphony there is a loud noise during a slow soft movement. Haydn said it was meant to wake up the audience in case they had fallen asleep.

Later Life

Haydn worked for the Esterhazy family for most of his life but he was able to do other things too. He met Mozart and he taught Beethoven for a while too.

Haydn was also a good businessman. Music publishing made him and his music famous all over Europe.  Haydn made two very successful trips to England, where audiences at concerts of his music treated him like a superstar. 

Haydn died in 1809.

Video Biographies

Here are some videos about Haydn.

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