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Haydn : Father of the Symphony and the String Qurtet

Haydn Playing String Quartet

Franz Joseph Haydn ( 31 March 1732 – 31 May 1809) was an Austrian composer.

He came from a very humble background. His father was a wheelwright and his mother was a cook.

At initial phase of his career he joined the choir of Saint Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

He sang in the choir until the age of 16 when his voice broke, making him unfit to sing.

Now left to his own devices he supported himself by doing odd musical jobs till he found his new master, Nicola Porpora, an Italian composer and singing teacher.

Haydn's musical journey reached a new milestone when he was invited to enter the service of Prince Pál Antal Esterházy.

He spent 21 years under Esterházy patronage and these were his most fruitful years. All this time he continued to experiment with style and forms of symphony and quartet music. That's why Haydn is being known as 'the Father of Symphony and Quartet'.

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His pupil Beethoven expanded the horizons of quartet music but it was Haydn who laid the foundation.

Haydn cultivated a friendly relationship with his contemporary Mozart.

Mozart was so much influenced by Haydn's Quartets and Mozart himself composed his own quartets which he sent to Haydn for his opinion about them.

Here is a letter which shows the warm relationship between two friends :

To my dear friend Haydn.

A father who had decided to send out his sons into the great world, thought it his duty to entrust them to the protection and guidance of a man who was very celebrated at the time and who, moreover, happened to be his best friend.

In like manner I send my six sons to you, most celebrated and very dear friend. They are, indeed, the fruit of a long and laborious study; but the hope which many friends have given me that toil will be in some degree rewarded, encourages me and flatters me with the thought that these children may one day prove a source of consolation to me.

During your last stay in this capital you yourself, my very dear friend, expressed to me your approval of these compositions. Your good opinion encourages me to offer them to you and leads me to hope that you will not consider them wholly unworthy of your favor. Please then receive them kindly and be to them a father, guide and friend! From this moment I surrender to you all my rights over them. I entreat you, however, to be indulgent to those faults which may have escaped a father's partial eye, and , in spite of them, to continue your generous friendship towards one who so highly appreciates it. Meanwhile, I remain with all my heart, dearest friend, your most sincere friend.

W.A. Mozart

The humble composer of many a fine composition died at the age of 77. 

Throughout his career he remained very modest and these lines by him reflects his down-to-earth nature :

" I know that God has granted me a gift, and I recognize it thankfully. I also believe I have done my duty, and that I have been useful to the world through my works. May others now do the same ! “

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