By Zachariah Friesen
1. Franz Joseph Haydn was an Austrian born composer who spent his life as a court musician somewhat secluded from the rest of the musical world, but nonetheless was one of the most celebrated composers of his time and is equally revered today.
2. That other Haydn, Michael Haydn also a prolific composer, was indeed related to Franz Joseph Haydn. They were brothers.
3. Haydn was famous for his pranks. While studying at St. Stephens Cathedral, he cut off the ponytail of a fellow chorus member. He was caned and summarily dismissed with no home to go to. While on the street, Haydn became a “street serenader” and was soon discovered by a successful composer who took him in as a student.
4. Haydn’s favorite of his compositions, Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser (Emporer’s Hymn), has been used throughout history by famous composers Tchaikovsky, Czerny, Rossini, Paganini, Smetana, and many others and is currently used for the German National Anthem.
5. Franz Joseph Haydn was affectionately called “Papa” Haydn by many people and for many reasons. The title originated from his care for his often mischievous orchestra musicians who frequently needed saving from trouble while in the court of Prince Esterhazy. Mozart continued the torch and affectionately referred to him as “Papa” Haydn.
6. Another important layer to the “Papa” Haydn nickname comes from his reputation as the “Father of the Symphony” and the “Father of the String Quartet”. Haydn was not the inventor of the symphony or quartet but rather respected for perfecting them.
7. During an unexpectedly extended stint of summer concerts away from home, Haydn wrote his Farewell Symphony on behalf of his musicians. The final Adagio movement calls for each musician at one point to stop playing, blow out their candle and leave the performance until only 2 players are left playing (Haydn and his Concertmaster in this case). The joke and message was received as the next day Prince Esterhazy decided it was finally time for them all to return home.
8. After serving as Kapellmeister for the Esterhazy family for many years, Haydn left his position and went to London to study music from English composers and experience their larger orchestras. While there he wrote his final 12 symphonies and some of his best-known works.
9. In the late 1700s Beethoven attempted to study with Haydn but Haydn was too pre-occupied with his own works and travelling to give Beethoven his due attention. Upon Haydn’s second trip to London, Beethoven began studying with other teachers and lessons with the “Papa” Haydn never resumed. Beethoven famously recalled, “I learned nothing from Haydn.”
10. Upon Haydn’s tragic death, phrenologists took his head from his grave and brought it back for study. After quite a series of extraordinary events, Haydn’s head made its way safely to the wonderful display in the Esterhazy estate where the rest of his body lay peacefully then and to this day.
Zachariah Friesen is the online merchandiser at Sheet Music Plus. He is also a freelance trombone player and private lessons teacher in the bay area.