The Austrian composer Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau, near Vienna, on March 31, 1732. When eight years old he was accepted into the choir school of Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where he received his only formal education. Dismissed from the choir at the age of 17, he spent the next several years as a struggling freelance musician. He studied on his own the standard textbooks on counterpoint and took occasional lessons from the noted Italian singing master and composer Nicola Porpora. In 1755 Haydn was engaged briefly by Baron Karl Josef von FÃÂ¼rnberg, for whom he apparently composed his first string quartets. A more substantial position followed in 1759, when he was hired as music director by Count Ferdinand Maximilian von Morzin. Haydn's marriage in 1760 to Maria Anna Keller proved to be unhappy as well as childless.
The turning point in Haydn's fortunes came in 1761, when he was appointed assistant music director to Prince PÃÂ¡l Antal EsterhÃÂ¡zy; he became full director, or Kapellmeister, in 1762.
In addition to the symphonies, operas, marionette operettas, masses, chamber pieces, and dance music that Haydn was expected to compose for the prince's entertainment, he was required to rehearse and conduct performances of his own and others' works; coach singers; maintain the instrument collection and music library; perform as organist, violist, and violinist when needed; and settle disputes among the musicians in his charge.
After the death of Prince MiklÃÂ³s in 1790 his son, Prince Antal, greatly reduced the EsterhÃÂ¡zy musical establishment. Although Haydn retained his title of Kapellmeister, he was at last free to travel beyond the environs of Vienna. The enterprising British violinist and impresario Johann Peter Salomon lost no time in engaging the composer for his concert series in London.
In his late years in...