(Franz) Joseph Haydn

(Franz) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

By John Carl Rossler in Vienna, the portrait dates from 1799

A leading composer of the classical period, Joseph Haydn received much of his musical training as a boy chorister at St Stephen's cathedral in Vienna, until he left aged seventeen to pursue a career as a freelance musician. In 1766 he became Kapellmeister to the wealthy Esterházy family in Austria, where he was to remain for almost thirty years. He became a prolific composer in many musical genres sacred and secular, instrumental and vocal and is justifiably known as 'Father of the Symphony' with over one hundred such works to his name.

When Prince Antál dismantled the Esterházy musical establishment in 1790, Haydn was finally free to travel abroad. His London concerts attracted large audiences, and in 1791 he visited Oxford to receive an honorary doctorate and conduct three concerts in the Sheldonian Theatre, although noting 'I had to pay 1 and 1/2 guineas for having the bells rung at Oxforth (sic) in connection with my doctor's degree, and 1/2 a guinea for the robe.'

Famed throughout Europe as an innovative and witty
composer, the final years of 'Papa Haydn' were spent in Vienna, where he died a wealthy man.