Portrait of Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy (1791) Classical Guide / Classical World
  • Haydn’s musical career began when is was recruited to sing in the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. At eight-years-old, he left his home and parents in Lower Austria and went to the choir school with his brother, Michael.
  • Joseph Haydn had eleven siblings, two of whom also pursued musical careers. His brother, Michael, was a prolific composer. The much younger Johann, known as Hansl, was a rather less talented singer, but he was able to maintain a solid career through the help of his successful brothers.
  • A devoted Catholic, Haydn brought his religious faith to his work. Each new piece was inscribed with the phrase “in the name of the Lord”, and when he completed a score, he expressed his thanks with “praise be to God”, written after the double bar.
  • Although some of his musical jokes are difficult for today’s listener to understand, Haydn brought a lively sense of humor to his compositions. Examples range from the sudden explosively loud chord in his “Surprise” Symphony to an early piano work based on a song about eight butchers castrating a pig (Capriccio in G major).
  • Haydn set out to give the Habsburg Emperor, Francis II a birthday gift of a special kind. With a German text that translates as “God save Franz the Emperor”, he wrote a melody to compete with British King George’s “God save the King”. The song had staying power, and today, with a different text, it is the German national anthem, or Deutschlandlied.
Credits:Portrait of Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy (1791)

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