Haydn, Franz Joseph

1732-1809

The Teutons for many years claimed Joseph Haydn as one of their geniuses, but Dr. Kuhac, after much research, wrote, in 1880, a pamphlet proving to the satisfaction of most biographers that Haydn was by birth a Croatian. Trstnk was originally the name of the village where he was born, March 31, 1732. It is situated near the Leitha River, which forms the boundary between lower Austria and Hungary. The name Hajden is of common occurrence throughout Croatia and was undoubtedly the original form of Haydn, which name is known to have passed through several changes in spelling. This confirms the belief that on his father's side he belonged to the Slavonic race. His mother, a native of Rohrau, was the daughter of Koller. Koller was undoubtedly a variant of the Croatian Kolar, meaning wheelwright.

Mathias Haydn was a master wheelwright and the parish sexton of Rohrau. He married Maria Koller, the daughter of a market inspector and cook in the house of Count Harrach. To them were born twelve children, three of whom became musicians; Johann Evangelist, a singer of no great merit; Johann Michael, famous as a composer of churchmusic and as an organist, and Franz Joseph, who was their second child. They were a simple people, hardworking, full of religious faith and piety, which they early instilled in their children. This religious influence followed Haydn all through his life and was a part of his music. Joseph Haydn, or as he was in the Austrian tongue familiarly called Sepperl Haydn, possessed a sweet soprano voice, and when Johann Mathias Frankh, a relative, came to the Haydn home on a visit he at once recognized the boy's talent and offered to take him to Hainburg, where he was a schoolmaster and musician, and to educate the boy. He was but six years old, but already his mother had set her heart upon making of him a priest. His father's and Frankh's persuasions, however, overcame her objections, and the lad left his home for Hainburg. When he was eight years old, Reutter, precentor of St. Stephen's Cathedral Vienna, was in Hainburg searching for boy singers. Frankh induced him to hear Haydn and he was so pleased with the ability that the lad showed, for Haydn had learned all Frankh was capable of teaching him, that he at once offered to take him to Vienna. The school which he entered in Vienna, 1740, was supported by the city, which paid for board, lodging and clothes of the six scholars. The remainder of the household consisted of a cantor, a subcantor, and two ushers. The instruction was, as in Hainburg, in Latin, reading, writing and arithmetic, in addition to music. Haydn studied singing, violin and clavier-playing. Reutter had no intention of helping his pupils to an understanding of the theory of music or of composition; he simply gave them such instruction as was necessary to make their singing in the Cathedral reflect credit upon himself. However, Haydn was determined to learn and he made good use of every book he could find on the theory of music. Music had become his passion, it was his work and his recreation. He even composed a mass while in school, but Reutter laughed at his  work and in no way encouraged him.

In November, 1749, Haydn found himself on the streets, with no home to turn to, no money and only the shabbiest of clothes. Spangler, a tenor of St. Michael's Cathedral choir, found the boy, took him home and shared his attic with him. By playing in the street, and in fact putting his music to use whenever and wherever he could, and by finding a friend who loaned him a small sum of money, he was soon enabled, in 1750, to rent his own attic. His choice  of homes, the old MichaelerHaus in the Kohlmarket, proved a fortunate one, for one lodger in it was Metastasio, the poet, from whom he obtained his first patronage in Vienna, and the lower floor was the town residence of Prince Paul Esterhazy, who twelve years later appointed Haydn to his office at Eisenstadt. There was in the MichaelerHaus a publisher who loaned Haydn music, which he was too poor to buy, compositions of Werner and Bonno and Wagenseil and, above all, the Frederick and Würtemberg volume of C. P. E. Bach. These Haydn read and re-read, copied and analyzed. In 1753, through Metastasio, he was introduced to the famous singingmaster, Porpora, whose constant companion Haydn became. All through Haydn's life his one object was to become a really great musician, and no duty or act which could lead to this result was overlooked. His first mass appeared in 1751; during the same year he wrote instrumental music for a serenade, many graceful minuets for pleasure gardens in Vienna, and his first opera.