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Music / Joseph Haydn

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"There was no one near to confuse me, so I was forced to become original."
—The man himself.

Franz Joseph Haydn (31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was an Austrian composer and a pioneering figure in Classical Music. Haydn's parents noticed his talent at a young age, and sent him to live with a relative in Hainburg, where he could receive a good musical education. He was picked to be a boy soprano in Vienna's Cathedral of St. Steven. He worked there for a few years, and was promptly fired when his voice broke. Haydn freelanced for the next few years, getting attention in local orchestras. He finally earned a long term position at the court of Prince Paul Esterházy (and later for his brother and successor Nikolaus). Prince Esterházy's court spent half of every year in the countryside, which isolated Haydn from the musical mainstream for thirty years. This forced him to be very creative. He essentially invented the symphony and the string quartet. Even Mozart noted Haydn as a profound influence on his work.

He also composed "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser", a patriotic song about the then-Emperor of Austria Francis II Habsburg. Its melody was later used for the "Deutschlandlied", the present anthem of Germany.

His life and works provide examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Although he had been a working musician since childhood, he had almost no formal training in composition or music theory, and his long periods of working at Prince Esterházy's estate meant he had little time or opportunity to study the work of other composers or be influenced by them. As a result, he had to wing it, compositionally speaking—and the result was some of the most original music yet written. Haydn's music basically codified the classical style that would be used by Mozart and which Beethoven would build upon.
  • Awful Wedded Life: By all accounts, Haydn and his wife Maria Anna were completely incompatible, but divorce was not an option by the laws of the time (Habsburg Austria being a bastion of Catholicism and all). He said he "liked" her at first (though he liked her sister much more), but there was little affection and she had no appreciation for his musical talents (reportedly even using his scores for hair-curling paper), and the marriage was childless, with both of them taking lovers. Eventually, they separated, but Haydn continued to support her financially until she died.
  • Benevolent Boss: He gained the nickname "Papa Haydn" among the musicians he conducted for his easy-going manner and his efforts to provide good working conditions. See also the story behind his "Farewell" Symphony.
  • Call-Back: The oratorio The Seasons has a moment where a ploughman whistles while he works, and the tune he whistles is the melody from one of Haydn's own earlier hits, Symphony No. 94 in G major.
    • The Creation Mass got its name from the bass solo Qui tollis peccata mundi, which used a tune from Adam and Eve's duet in his oratorio The Creation. Empress Maria Theresa thought this so scandalous she ordered Haydn to rewrite it for her copy of the Mass.
  • Ending Fatigue: Invoked in the String Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 33, No. 2 aka "The Joke", which sounds like a normal rondo until the end of the piece, when there's a grand pause. Then he starts the piece over, with one to three measures of silence between each phrase. This goes on for a while, and he finally ends it in the middle of a phrase. Audiences had no idea when to applaud, as the piece just kept going.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: At the premiere of Symphony No. 96note  in London, the audience crowded to the front of the theatre to applaud the composer. Just at that moment, a chandelier fell from the ceiling and crashed right where they had been sitting. There were no injuries, earning the piece the nickname Miracle.
  • Grave Robbing: An unfortunate Real Life example. Shortly after his death, Haydn's head was stolen for phrenological study. When his former patron found out, he demanded that the head be returned to its body. He had the thieves' houses searched, but they managed to hide it in a mattress. To complete the illusion, one of the thieves' wives lay on top of the skull and claimed menstruation, so the squicked out searchers left rather than search the wife's room. Eventually, the thieves gave the Prince a skull. It was not Haydn's skull. A few generations and a string of inheritors later, Haydn's skull and body were reunited. In 1954.note 
  • He Also Did: A tune from one of his string quartets is used for the German national anthem. Not bad for an Austrian who spent most of his life working for Hungarians. Notably, it was used for the Austrian anthem as well and is originally believed to be a Croat folk song. He wrote it after being inspired by British patriotism and the way they flocked around "God Save the King".
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: The above-mentioned Haydn melody adopted as the German national anthem has become a bit tainted in the ears of many who have heard "Deutschland Über Alles" sung by Those Wacky Nazis in every World War II film. Of course, that's hardly Haydn's fault, and the song was used in Germany long before and after the Third Reich was in power.note 
  • Insult Backfire: One commonly told anecdote about Haydn was when Mozart was attending the premiere of one of Haydn's works: Mozart was standing next to a Caustic Critic who was commenting on everything he found "wrong" with the piece. When the critic eventually mused "I would not have done that," Mozart replied, "Neither would I, but do you know why? Because neither of us could have thought of anything so appropriate."
  • Last Note Hilarity:
    • Symphony No. 45, better known as the Farewell symphony. The last movement ends with the musicians, one or a few at a time, quietly leaving the stage, with the final part played by just two violins. This was Haydn's hint to his patrons, the Esterhazy family, that his orchestra's stay at their summer palace had gone on for too long and that they would really like to get back to their families. Happily, they understood the message and let the musicians return home the following day after the performance.
    • Near the end of the second movement of his Symphony No. 93 in D major there is a part where the music gradually becomes slower and softer - and is then suddenly interrupted by a loud "fart" from the bassoons.
    • The second movement of Symphony No. 94, AKA the Surprise Symphony, has a nice peaceful melody but is then rudely interrupted by an extremely loud G major chord. Haydn was known as a prankster, and this is one of the many jokes in his pieces (although he denied that he was trying to wake up the audience with the "surprise"; he just wanted to give them something they hadn't heard before).
  • No-Respect Guy: Haydn wasn't exactly this for most of his life; he was treated well by his employers, his musicians liked him and he had the warm admiration of his younger contemporary, Mozart, but whenever one of the nobles who employed him died and he got taken up by a new one, he found that he usually had to earn their respect all over again because they thought that he was just a competent employee. Then he went to London in the 1790s and was hailed as a genius. When he went back to Vienna, he found that in his absence he'd acquired a 100% Heroism Rating.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • Quiet, nature-loving family man Haydn and brash, urban socialite Mozart.
    • And later, the elder, genial Haydn and the young, tempestuous Beethoven.
  • The Prankster: He was a lover of practical jokes and incorporated a number into his compositions.
  • Progressive Instrumentation: Inverted for comic effect in the Farewell Symphony, where the musicians drop out one at a time until at the end there are just two violins playing.
  • Quality over Quantity: Inverted with his symphonies. He wrote 106 of them, they're all worth hearing, and a lot of them are masterpieces. One reason for this is that he was the Trope Codifier for the classical symphony; in writing so many of them, he discovered what could be done with them.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Haydn was a devout Catholic. He prayed the rosary when he had trouble composing, a practice he often found effective. On most of his compositions, he wrote In Nomine Domini (In the Name of the Lord) on the first page and added Laus Deo (Praise God) after his signature at the end.
  • Self-Plagiarism: Haydn once composed a Mass called the Schöpfungsmesse or Creation Mass. It got its name because he recycled music from one of his oratorios, also called The Creation (he took some music from Adam and Eve's final duet), for the "qui tollis peccata mundi" passage of the Gloria movement. One of his patrons, Empress Maria Theresa, did not like this and had Haydn recompose that particular passage for her own copy of the work.
  • Settle for Sibling: Haydn was in love with Therese Keller, but she decided to enter a convent. So he married her younger sister Maria Anna instead. Unfortunately, the marriage turned out unhappy for both of them.
  • Scare Chord: Symphony No. 94, the Surprise, features an unexpected fortissimo chord about 30 seconds into the otherwise quiet second movement.
  • Starving Artist: Haydn was this for much of his youth, working as a choirboy. He strove to be the best singer he could so that he would be invited to aristocratic parties where the musicians were offered refreshments.
  • Tick Tock Tune: Symphony No. 101, the Clock; specifically, the second movement.
  • That's All, Folks!: Symphony No. 45, known as the Farewell Symphony - he and his musicians were kept at Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's summer palace much longer than expected, so at the end of the last movement, each musician stopped playing and left the stage, snuffing out their candle, until there were two violinists left. The prince got the hint and let them go the next day.
  • Trope Codifier: He was this for two of the most influential forms in classical music, the string quartet, and the symphony. Basically, before Haydn, there weren't any string quartets or symphonies worth mentioning. Haydn codified them; he composed so many illustrious examples of both that, for the next couple of centuries at least, composers who wanted to get taken seriously had to demonstrate that they could write string quartets and/or symphonies.note  Only in the mid-20th century did the quartet and the symphony cease to be forms which composers were automatically expected to write. It could be argued that in classical music, at any rate, Haydn codified Trope Codifying.
  • Trademark Favorite Drink: Tokay. He loved Tokay. Like, really loved Tokay—in his day, most of the Austrian aristocracy and anyone who associated with them liked the wine, but Haydn was particularly obsessed.
  • You Are Number 6: Haydn was an impressively prolific composer, writing 106 symphonies, 83 string quartets, 136 trios, and more—most of which are titled simply by the order they were composed in. Unsurprisingly, symphonies that acquired nicknames (such as the "Surprise Symphony" or the "London symphonies") tend to get programmed a lot more frequently.