Vienna Celebrates The Life of Joseph Haydn 

Edited by J. Moorhouse

In 2009, the music world around the globe will join Vienna in commemorating Joseph Haydn on the 200th anniversary of his death in 1809.  Haydn started his career as a member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir in Vienna, the city to which he also returned after working for the Princes Esterházy in today’s Burgenland and Hungary. Here in Vienna, he enjoyed his world renown for nineteen years.

Who is Joseph Haydn? His contemporaries would have found that an easy question to answer: At the time he was the greatest, most famous, and pre-eminent composer of his era.  Today, in some circles, he has been overshadowed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to whom he was a fatherly friend, and Ludwig van Beethoven, one of his pupils.

Haydn lived when the Baroque era was nearing its end and a new age was emerging.  Even though he began life in a small Austrian village, he managed to create an illustrious career for himself, which culminated in an Honorary Doctorate at England's Oxford University.

At the time, Europe was in turmoil.  The French were in the middle of a revolution and had beheaded Marie-Antoinette. The English had to look on while their colonies in America revolted and founded the United States. Austria became more modern. Prussia grew.  And Napoleon had aspirations to vanquish all of Europe.

Joseph Haydn was a beloved person.  He was esteemed by his contemporaries as diligent, humorous and affable.   He was looked upon as principled and not affected by his ascent from humble beginnings to the highest social circles. He was such a kind mentor that his artist colleagues at Esterházy Palace called him “Papa Haydn.” He was a devout Catholic and, apart from music, was interested in fishing and hunting.

Haydn’s appeal was not superficial: during a stay in London, women flocked to him despite his pockmarked face – which he found quite surprising. A few portraits  from his time are preserved, but not one looks like another.

Joseph Haydn was born on March 31, 1732, in Rohrau (Lower Austria), the second of twelve children of a coach-builder and a cook. He exhibited a talent for music at a very early age.

At the age of six, he began receiving instruction in singing and instrumental music with a cousin in Hainburg (Lower Austria). One day, the conductor of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral noticed little Joseph and brought the eight-year-old to Vienna as a choir boy. For nine years, he enjoyed a – mainly technical – musical instruction; in addition, he was also much in demand as a solo singer in the mansions of the Viennese aristocracy.

In 1749, when his voice started to break, he was forced to look after himself. He found employment as a valet with the celebrated conductor Nicola Porpora at Michaeler House, which exists to this day, right next to St. Michael’s Church (where he played the organ).  In return, he received musical instructions for five years – he was poor but happy in his room in the attic: "I could work on my worm-eaten piano and did not envy any king for his happiness."

After a short employment at Wieselburg Palace (Lower Austria) and as director of music for Count Morzin in Lukawetz near Pilsen (in today's Czech Republic), in 1760 he married Maria Anna Keller in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. She was the daughter of a wigmaker and was in truth his second choice – he would have preferred her sister. The couple had a childless marriage with little happiness; rumor has it that Haydn had a few relationships “on the side.” In 1761 he made a fortuitous career move: he entered the services of the rich Esterházy family in Eisenstadt, for 29 years. During this time, he visited Vienna often; in 1785 he also met Mozart in his apartment (today Mozart House Vienna) and entered the same Freemason lodge as Mozart (Zur wahren Eintracht – True Harmony).

Move to Vienna and World Renown

From 1790 until his death in 1809 (considering life expectancies at the time, Haydn reached an almost biblical age), Joseph Haydn lived in Vienna. In 1793, he bought the suburban house Obere Windmühle at Kleine Steingasse 73 (today it is a museum, the Haydn House, 6, Haydngasse 6) and started to live in it in 1797.

Here he created his oratories “The Creation” and “The Seasons.” In 1791-92 he undertook the first of his two most successful journeys to England. The high point of this trip came when he received the Honorary Doctorate for Music of the University of Oxford.  (The solemn celebration lasted three days and took place in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.)  He was a celebrated star in Great Britain and was quite at home in the mansions of aristocrats and palaces of royalty.

His second trip to England in 1794-95 was also a temporary sojourn: despite the flattering offer to remain, Haydn decided to return to Vienna. In March 1808, the old master was carried in his chair to his last public appearance at the assembly hall of the Old University (today Academy of Science, 1, Dr.-Ignaz-Seipel-Platz 2), where he attended the performance of his “Creation.” Another of the illustrious guests: Ludwig van Beethoven.

On May 31, 1809, at the age of 77, he died peacefully in the Haydn House, where he was taken care of for many years by a housekeeper and by his secretary Johann Elssler, father of the famous dancer Fanny Elssler. In his old age, it is said, he intoned daily the melody of his Imperial Anthem.

Napoleon, commander of the enemy troops occupying Vienna, showed his admiration for the composer: when Haydn was fading, he posted an honorary guard in front of his house. Haydn’s first grave can be found in Vienna in Hundsturm Cemetery (today’s Haydn Park, 12, Gaudenzdorfer Gürtel) – only a memorial plaque with the – translated – inscription "I will not die completely" can today be found in an area that is not exactly inviting.

Followers of the science of phrenology which was then in fashion (they purport to be able to deduce intellectual abilities from the form of the skull) stole Haydn’s skull. After changing owners several times – a crime case of the first order – the skull reached the Mountain Church in Eisenstadt where the rest of Haydn’s remains rested since 1820.

The Oeuvre of the Master

Joseph Haydn was a prolific composer: he left behind more than 1,000 compositions. A complete listing of the works of Joseph Haydn was put together by the Dutch music scientist Anthony van Hoboken (1887–1983) and is known as the Hoboken Catalogue.

Among the compositions are 108 symphonies (“Farewell,” “The Clock,” “Surprise”), 24 operas (“Acide e Galatea,” “L'infedeltá delusa,” "Orlando Paladino," "Armida,"), 14 masses (“Nelson Mass,” “Theresienmesse,”), oratorios (“The Creation,” “The Seasons”), solo concertos, chamber music pieces, vocal works, and many more.

Haydn is traditionally considered the “Father" of the classical symphony and the string quartet and an innovator in the composition of piano sonatas and piano trios. Probably more than any other composer, he is known for the jokes hidden in his music. The most famous example is the sudden loud accord in his symphony No. 94, “The Surprise.”

His early work is clearly marked by the Baroque, then follows the period of Sturm und Drang – filled with risky accords, sudden transitions, and strange harmonies in minor keys. Starting in 1781-82, a lively exchange of ideas began with W. A. Mozart. Both recognized the other as an equal master, they became friends and learned from each other. In the 1970s, Haydn, inspired by his journeys to England, developed his very own popular style: a way of composing which results in music that is incredibly successful. He used Austrian or Croat folkloristic (or self-invented pseudo-folkloristic) material. This style can be heard in almost all of his later works, for example in the twelve London symphonies. Together with W. A. Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn is considered a master of the Vienna Classic.

Haydn: Creator of the German National Anthem
In one country, a melody by Haydn is on everyone’s lips: The Deutschlandlied, also called the "Song of the Germans" or, more rarely, the "Hoffmann-Haydn Song" was written by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben in August 1841 on the island Heligoland after a melody by Joseph Haydn.

The present German National Anthem consists only of the third verse of the Deutschlandlied. The song was performed publicly for the first time on October 1841 in Hamburg.

Joseph Haydn composed the melody as the Emperor Hymn for Franz II, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, upon a suggestion by Franz Josef Count Saurau, between October 1796 and January 1797 after a text by Leopold Haschka. Haydn was probably inspired by a Croat folk song that he remembered from his childhood or from his work in the fields as a grownup; it was sung in the Croatian regions of the Burgenland with different texts. On February 12, 1797, the anthem was performed on the occasion of the birthday of the emperor in all Viennese theaters, and the emperor himself attended the performance in Vienna’s Burgtheater. The emperor was happy with the composition and gave Haydn a box with his picture.

In 1922, the song became the national anthem of the German Reich. During the Third Reich, the first verse and the National Socialist "Horst Wessel song" were sung together as an anthem. After the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, only the third verse was sung on official occasions. In 1991, after the reunification of the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic, the third verse was declared the official national anthem of Germany in an exchange of letters between Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl (Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit für das deutsche Vaterland – Unity and Right and Freedom for the German Fatherland)

A Star in Great Britain
For 5000 guilders, Haydn agreed to compose 27 pieces for London concert manager Johann Peter Salomon and to have them performed in concerts, conducting them himself. When Mozart expressed reservations that Haydn did not even speak English, he said: “My music is understood in all the world!

Haydn’s arrival in England on January 1, 1791 caused a stir – as much as the fact that Haydn was greeted at a court ball at St. James Palace by the Prince of Wales with a visible bow. Haydn’s concerts were social events of the first order. But the Handel Festival at Westminster Abbey under the patronage of the king also left a lasting impression on the composer himself.

Haydn left the British Isles in June 1792 after two successful concert series. He traveled back to Austria via Bonn, where he met the talented young Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

In January 1794, Haydn traveled to England a second time – he was again a great success. The “Military Symphony,” the most popular of all his symphonies during his lifetime, was performed for the first time. The 250 works that Haydn composed for his two London visits alone could easily stand for the life's work of any composer.

Haydn received the great honor to be included in the programs of the “Ancient Concerts” as the only living composer. He also found official recognition by participating in the concerts of the English king George III (1738-1820) to whom he was introduced by George, Prince of Wales (1762-1830). The English king and his wife Charlotte tried to convince Haydn to stay longer in England and offered him an apartment in Windsor, but even they were not successful …

Haydn House: The Artist’s Domicile and Haydn Museum

Haydn’s domicile in Vienna for 12 years. Haydn bought the ground-level Vienna suburban house in Kleine Steingasse 73 (today Haydngasse 19, very close to the lively shopping mile Mariahilfer Strasse) in 1793 and had it renovated, adding another floor. Here, the bulk of his late work was composed, among them the great oratorios “The Creation” and “The Seasons.”

It is likely that Haydn’s apartment was the upper floor while the ground floor was reserved for his valet and copyist Johann Elssler, father of the celebrated dancer Fanny Elssler.

The exhibition in the Haydn House, redesigned for Haydn Year 2009 and reopened on January 29, 2009.

A celebration which lasts three days will take place around Haydn's 200th anniversary of his death on May 31, 2009. The garden of the Haydn House will be presented in the state of Haydn's lifetime and Haydn's works will be performed in many concerts. 

The composer Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) was a passionate admirer of Haydn who diligently cared for the memory of his great idol – so there is also a Brahms Memorial in the Haydn House. One can see, among other things, Brahms’s clavichord, which supposedly was once owned by Joseph Haydn.

Mozart House Vienna: Visiting Mozart, Meeting Haydn
In the Haydn Year 2009, there will be three special Haydn-exhibitions.  Concerts under the banner  "Mozart, Haydn, and Their Contemporaries – Musical Delicacies and Rarities" promise musical delight.

The Mozart House was the meeting place for the best Viennese artists. The musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart called Haydn his “fatherly friend.” The two composers met on February 2, 1785, here in Domgasse, where Mozart stayed from 1784 to 1787 in an apartment with four rooms, two small rooms, and a kitchen – almost lordly. This is the only one of about a dozen of Mozart’s Viennese apartments that has been preserved until today.

Haydn wrote a letter full of praise for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; in turn, Mozart dedicated six string quartets to Haydn. W. A. Mozart for his part dedicated six string quartets to Haydn. Some of these “Haydn Quartets” were composed here in Domgasse 5 in the years from 1782 to 1785, and three of them were performed for the first time with Haydn playing first violin, Mozart on viola, the composer Baron Dittersdorf on second violin, and the latter’s pupil Johann Baptist Vanhal on cello.

Three special exhibitions will present valuable Haydn autographs:
From January 23 to May 3 Haydn's aria "Chi vive amante...", from March 20 to May 14 the Concert for Violoncello and Orchestra in C-Major, Hob. VII b No. 1 and from October 14 to December 20, "From Choirboy to the First Composer of Viennese Classicism" (already on display at the Wiener Stadt- und Landesmuseum from April 2 to August 28).

St. Michael’s Church: A Master at the Organ …

Here, 17-year-old Joseph Haydn played the organ in 1749. He lived right next to the church in a small attic in the Michaeler House.   By the way, it was in this church that Mozart’s last work, the Requiem, was first performed soon after his death.

The catacombs, in which bodies do not decay due to special climatic conditions, are well worth a visit. Between 1631 and 1784, about 4,000 persons were buried here. Today, one can still see hundreds of caskets, some of them painted with flowers and skulls, and mummified corpses, some in Baroque frock coats and wigs. The most famous dead person in the vault is Pietro Metastasio, a friend of Haydn and the librettist of some Mozart operas.

Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Austrian emperor, is one of the most beautiful baroque palaces in all of Europe. Here too, Haydn left his mark ...

... that is, in 1745, when little Joseph was a member of the cathedral choir of St. Stephen's Cathedral and lived in the former Domkapellmeisterhaus (the house of the Cathedral music director) on Stephansplatz. At that time, the Cathedral Choir performed in the palace. But what stood out about the future composer is his bad manners: he made such a racket climbing on the scaffolding (which was against the rules) that he received a sound thrashing.

The next time that Haydn performed at the palace, the painful memory of that debut had receded quite a bit, was three decades later. And Haydn was no longer a mere choirboy, but rather the music director in the employ of the Esterházy court. In that capacity he played with the prince's orchestra in 1777, on the occasion of a visit from the Prince Elector of Trier before the imperial table.

A magnificent setting for glorious music. Since most of the 1441 rooms of the palace are in the rococo style, the many white surfaces are richly adorned with 14-carat gold leaf, crystal chandeliers spread light, and ceramic stoves warmth.

Today you can use the "Grand Tour with Audio Guide" while you view 45 rooms of the palace – among others, the simple living and work chambers of Emperor Franz Joseph, the resplendent representation rooms, the mirror room, the Great Gallery, in which the Congress of Vienna danced and state receptions are still held today, the Chinese Round Cabinet, where Maria Theresia held secret meetings, or the rosewood-paneled Millions Room with exquisite miniatures from India and Persia. After visiting the palace, be sure to the enchanting Palace Park with the Palm House, the Gloriette, and the Zoo.

Esterházykeller: Haydn Enjoyed His Wine

These venerable vaults date back from 1683, and they inspired wine lover Haydn for many of his works.

In the historic rooms, one finds a unique combination of typical Viennese cuisine, wine, and historic exhibitions (“The Princes Esterházy and Joseph Haydn” and “The Princes Esterházy and the Turkish Wars”). During the summer a romantic outdoor restaurant in the pedestrian zones of the Haarhof also belongs to the Esterházykeller. A piece of Old Vienna ...

Prince Esterházy, who provided soldiers during the Turkish War of 1683 for the defense of the city, provided his men with wine before the battle. Thus fortified, they fought with much courage and in high spirits against the predominant enemy. Since this time there is a tradition to serve princely wines from Esterházy Palace at the Esterházykeller.

The handmade bricks of the original vault from the fifteenth century tell stories of legends, wine happiness and tradition. The Esterházykeller has remained a place for social gatherings, joie de vivre, and communication to the present day.

The heart of the Esterházykeller is the water-cooled bottle bar. The bar itself is already a rarity; one hardly sees another of this size. This is wine culture of the first order. More than ten quality wines are served by the glass, and the bar boasts numerous exquisite bottled wines. Baroque Maria Treu Basilica: Haydn Concerts and Culinary Delights in the Piaristenkeller.

Baroque Maria Treu Basilica: Haydn Concerts and Culinary Delights in the Piaristenkeller

On December 26, 1796, Haydn’s “Missa in tempore belli” (Mass in Times of War) for four soloists, chorus, orchestra, and organ was first performed. This was commissioned by the Order of the Piarists themselves. In the Baroque basilica, Haydn conducted his "Stabat mater" as well.

Haydn chose the Latin name as a reminder that Napoleon, coming from Italy, had been threatening Vienna at the time. The drum rolls in the Agnus Dei sound as if French troops are marching in with their drums – which must have created an eerie feeling among the Viennese attending this Mass.

On the Buckow organ (restored in 1858, Haydn only knew it in its original form) - still in use to this day - Anton Bruckner also passed two organ exams.

In 2009, Haydn's music will resound again in the Baroque basilica: The "Anniversary Concert Series for the Father of the String Quartet" comprises about 25 performances. On the program are Haydn's greatest works as well as his popular "Emperor Quartet," whose second movement was later used for the imperial anthem "Gotterhalte…."

The adjacent K.u.K. "Piaristenkeller" restaurant is part of the Baroque square and the oldest music venue in Austria. It offers culinary excursions into the Baroque milieu of Haydn – a fish recipe using an indigenous freshwater fish called the Waller is planned – and an impressive "Hat and Wine Spectacle." The special "Haydn Evenings 2009" series includes the musical and culinary program as a complete package.

We encourage you to use this link to visit Vienna The City of Music online for additional information . . .

In similar fashion, this link will take you to an extensive body of information on visiting Austria . . .

Ed. Note: We wish to acknowledge Vienna Tourism as the authoritative source for information that was used to develop this article.