Joseph HaydnJoseph Haydn was without a doubt one of the greatest composers of his day. He was
loved very much as both a man and a musician, and unlike many other composers when he died
in 1809, he was one of the most celebrated composers in the world.
Haydn once said, “Young people can see from my example that something can still come
from nothing, but what I am is the result of dire necessity.” And it was very true. The story of
Haydn was a classic story of “rags to riches.” His father, Mathias Haydn (1699-1763), was a
wheelwright who after traveling through Germany settled in Rohrau, a village in Austria near the
border of Hungary. A year later, Mathias married Anna Maria Koller (1707-1754), and on April
1, 1732, Franz Joseph Haydn was born. He was the eldest of twelve children, six of whom never
lived past infancy. They lived in a quiet, modest home, which was always kept neat and tidy.
Music played a big role in the Haydn home. Mathias, through years of travel, learned how to play
the harp and would come home after work and practice. He and his wife would sing Austrian
folk songs along to the music, and the children quickly caught on. This was a nightly ritual and
one night a distant cousin named Johann Mathias Franck visited the Haydn family in Rohrau.
Franck was the school rector from Haimburg and was responsible for the music there. When he
saw the family singing after dinner, he took particular notice to the young Joseph Haydn who
was strumming his arm with a stick, pretending he was playing the violin. It was clear that
Joseph had a natural talent for music, since he kept time and pitch perfectly without ever having
any musical training. …
…old age. The conclusion of the Will stated, “I commend my soul to my all-
merciful Creator.” As you can see, Haydn was a very religious man.
From 1809 to 1820, Haydn’s body was buried at the Hundsthurmer Cemetary in Vienna.
Some time after the burial, a student at the University of Vienna got permission to study Haydn’s
skull. It was removed and the body was then moved to Eisenstadt at the request of Prince
Esterhazy. Today, Haydn’s body, including the skull, is in a mausoleum built by Dr. Paul
Esterhazy in 1954.
Haydn was a kindhearted, good-natured man who was respected by all. His contribution to
the history of music is practically endless – from symphonies and quartets, to paving the way for
the future composers, like Mozart and Beethoven. He had a style all his own, and for that he will
always be remembered.