31st March (Franz) Joseph Haydn is born in Rohrau on the Leitha (Lower Austria); Today there is a museum there which commemorates both Joseph Haydn and his brother, Michael.
Choirboy (Sangerknabe) in the choir school of St. Stephen’s in Vienna; Haydn receives a musical education, as well as lessons in other subjects. As a choirboy, he takes part in performances of church music at St. Stephen’s, at other churches in Vienna and at the Viennese court.
Largely self taught and working as a freelance artist in Vienna, Haydn composes ecclesiastical and operatic music, string trios, sonatas, dances, organ concertos, divertimenti for various arrangements and his first string quartet. In the early 1750s he lives as a tenant in a garret in Vienna’s 1st District.
The Italian composer Nicola Antonio Porpora resides in Vienna. Haydn later describes him as his only teacher.
Haydn is musical director in the service of Count Ferdinand Maximilian Franz Morzin. He lives from time to time at the Count’s summer residence, the Palace of Lucavec near Pilsen. It is here that Haydn’s First Symphony is written, as well as other compositions.
1760 26th November
Haydn marries Maria Anna Aloisia Appolonia Keller, the daughter of a Viennese wig maker, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The marriage remains childless.
1761 1st May
Haydn enters the service of Prince Esterhazy in Vienna, at first as deputy conductor of his orchestra. Haydn principally in Eisenstadt.
Death of Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy, Haydn’s employer.
Prince Nicholas Esterhazy 1, Paul Anton’s brother, becomes Haydn’s new employer. Haydn succeeds in making the Prince’s orchestra into one of the best in Europe at the time. For this he composes overtures, symphonies, concerts, suites, minuets, serenades and operas.
Death of Head Conductor of the orchestra, Gregor Joseph Werner. Haydn succeeds him as Head Conductor. The Prince moves into the newly-built Esterhazy Palace (Esterhaza) at the south-eastern end of Lake Neusiedl and this now becomes the most important location for Haydn’s work.
Haydn buys a house in Eisenstadt and seldom visits Vienna.
The opera house in Esterhazy Palace is opened with the premiere of Haydn’s opera Lo specziale
Maria Theresia visits Esterhazy Palace.
1775 2nd and 4th April
Haydn conducts the premiere of ll ritorno di Tobia in Vienna.
Haydn sells his house in Eisenstadt.
1785 15th January and 12th February
Haydn visits Mozart at his Viennese apartment. Mozart’s string quartets dedicated to Haydn are played. Haydn and Mozart were friends, even if they did not meet each other very often.
1790 28th September
Death of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy 1.
Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy II succeeds Nicholas 1. He dissolves the orchestra. Haydn immediately moves to Vienna (1790), although he remains the Prince’s conductor.
Haydn’s first trip to England. He composes his first six London symphonies. Performances of his works in London, organised by Salomon.
1791 8th July
Haydn is awarded an honorary doctorate of music by Oxford University.
1793 14th August
Haydn acquires a house in a suburb of Vienna.
Haydn’s second trip to England, together with his copyist and valet Johann Elssler. Six further London symphonies are composed, as well as works for piano and several other pieces. Haydn makes numerous concert appearances and is feted by London society.
Prince Nicholas Esterhazy II succeeds Paul Anton II. Haydn is commissioned to compose a mass for the nameday of the Prince’s wife Hermenegild each year. This results in the last six great masses, written between 1796 and 1802.
1796 26th December
Haydn’s Paukenmesse (‘Kettledrum Mass’), conducted by the composer himself, is performed for the first time at the Church of the Piarists in Vienna.
Haydn works on his oratorio Die Schöpfung (The Creation).
1797 12th February
Haydn’s anthem Gott erhalte is sung for the first time at the Vienna’s Burgtheater.
Haydn moves into his newly-extended house in Vienna.
1798 29th-30th April
Premiere of the Creation at Schwarzenberg Palace (now demolished).
1799 19th March
First public performance of the Creation in the Burgtheater.
1800 20th March
Haydn’s wife Maria Anna dies in Baden near Vienna.
1801 24th April
Premiere of Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) at Schwarzenberg Palace.
Haydn, presented with many awards in the last years of his life, receives the great gold Salvator Medal from the City of Vienna. Haydn composes the String Quartet op. 103 (only two movements), which is regarded as his last composition.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel succeeds Haydn as Prince Esterhazy’s concert master.
1808 27th March
Haydn makes his last appearance in public on the occasion of a performance of The Creation in the main hall of Vienna University.
1809 7th February
Haydn signs his last will and testament.
1809 31st May
Haydn, age 77, dies of exhaustion at his house in Vienna (Haydngasse 19 in Vienna’s 6th District) in the presence of his servants.
If you are new to Haydn’s music here some of his ‘best bits’!
1. Trumpet Concerto, 1st Movement
The performer above, Alison Balsom, discusses the trumpet concerto – ‘the treasure of the trumpet repertoire’ – in the documentary In Search Of Haydn (2012)
2. String Quartet Op. 76 No. 3, the ‘Emperor’, 2nd movement
3. Nelson Mass, Kyrie
4. Piano Sonata in C No. 50, the ‘English’
5. Symphony No. 31, the ‘Hornsignal’
6. The Creation: chorus ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’
7. Symphony No. 104 in D, the ‘London’
Articles & Broadcasts
Denis McCaldin’s blog for BBC Radio 3 in the bicentennial year of Haydn’s death, 2009
Stephen Moss for the Guardian Jan 2009 – ‘The great Haydn road trip‘
BBC Proms archive of Haydn programming
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Gerard McBurney investigate Haydn’s visits to London, with Nicholas McGegan on the podium and Larry Yando in the title role.
The BBC Documentary ‘Genius and Genesis’ (2011) on the development of the Symphony, presented by Simon Russell Beale
A 1985 documentary presented by Alan Bennett on Haydn at Esterhazy
Naxos blog podcast on the Masses (October 2009)
BBC Radio 3 Building a Library (Dec 2012), Haydn’s The Creation