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Franz Joseph Haydn, (born March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria—died May 31, 1809, Vienna), Austrian composer who was one of the most important figures in the development of the Classical style in music during the 18th century. He helped establish the forms and styles for the string quartet and the symphony.
His father Mathias Haydn was a master wheelwright who loved music and often played the harp while his wife sang melodies. Haydn's mother Anna Maria Koller had been a cook for Count Karl Anton Harrach before she married Mathias. Haydn’s brother Michael also composed music and eventually became relatively famous.
After leaving school, Haydn earned a living as a freelance musician, music teacher, and composer. In 1761, Haydn began his lifelong relationship with the wealthiest family among the Hungarian nobility, the Esterhazy family. Haydn spent nearly 30 years of his life in the family's employment.
Beginning in 1791, Haydn spent four years in London composing music and experiencing life outside the royal court. His time in London was the high point of his career. He earned nearly 24,000 gulden in a single year (the sum of his combined salary of nearly 20 years as Kapellmeister for the Esterhazy family). In London, Haydn wrote some of his most famous works, including the "Military," "Drumroll," "London," and "Miracle" symphonies.
After returning to Vienna, Haydn spent some time tutoring a young Ludwig van Beethoven (who he had originally met on his trip to London). Haydn then returned to London for a second trip and debuted several new symphonies, which were warmly received by English audiences.
In 1795, Haydn returned to Vienna and resumed his work for the Esterhazy family, now under the patronage of Nicolaus II. During this time he wrote a number of masses, along with the epic oratorios "The Creation" (based on the Book of Genesis) and "The Seasons."
Along with Mozart and Beethoven, Haydn is one of the most famous composers of the Classical period. He was wildly prolific, producing more than 100 symphonies, more than 60 string quartets, more than a dozen operas, and countless other works for chamber groups and symphonies alike.