September 14, 1737 - August 10, 1806
born in Rohrau, Austria, composed during the Classical period
Michael Haydn's fame is now considerably overshadowed by that of his older brother, Franz Joseph Haydn, but he was a prolific composer who in his day was much admired. Further, the passage of time has allowed an appreciation of his music's impact upon succeeding generations; he influenced both Mozart and Schubert, and he was the teacher of such notable composers as Carl Maria von Weber, Anton Diabelli and Sigismund Neukomm.
Like Franz Joseph, Johann Michael Haydn was born in Rohrau, in Lower Austria. Although the exact date of his birth is unknown, he was baptized on September 14, 1737. He left home around 1745 to attend the choir school at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where he received instruction in general subjects, singing, keyboard and violin. It was at St. Stephen's that Haydn gained a reputation for his unusually clear and beautiful voice, as well as for its extremely large range of three octaves. He was dismissed from St. Stephen's when his voice broke.
In 1757, after a precarious few years (probably in Vienna), Haydn was appointed Kapellmeister to the Bishop of Grosswardein in Hungary, now Oradea, Romania. He served the Bishop until 1763, when he accepted the position of court musician and Konzertmeister to Archbishop Sigismund Schrettenbach in Salzburg, who was renowned as a generous patron of the arts. This appointment put Haydn in a position to have a profound impact on the young Mozart, who spent his formative years in Salzburg. It was also through this appointment that Haydn met the woman who would become his wife, Maria Magdalena Lipp, a singer in the archbishop's court and daughter of the court organist Ignaz Lipp. The two were married in 1768. The couple's only child, Aloysia Josepha, was born in 1770; however, she died within a year.
With the death, in 1777 of Anton Cajetan Adlgasser, the first organist at the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Trinity Church), Haydn was appointed to the post. Concurrently, Mozart became the organist at the cathedral. When Mozart left the employ of the Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo in 1781, Haydn took over at the cathedral as well. During the last years of his life, Haydn was frequently ill. He died in Salzburg on August 10, 1806. He was buried in the cemetery at St. Peter's, where, in 1821, his friends erected a memorial in his honor.
Haydn was an extremely versatile composer who wrote in both the stile antico, represented by the music of Fux, and in more modern styles; his masses followed the tradition of concluding the Gloria and Credo with fugues. Although he wrote a great deal of secular music for use at court (he was one of the first composers to write unaccompanied German part-songs for male chorus), Haydn made his greatest contribution in the area of sacred music. Although his compositions in this genre show the impact of the church reforms of the period, they are representative of a distinct personal voice. Joseph's reforms demanded a reduction in the number of religious services, and a simplification of those that remained. There were also edicts against the use of instrumental music in the church, and against the use of highly florid, soloistic material. Always concerned with liturgical propriety, Haydn's sacred compositions follow the guidelines of the reforms in their reduced instrumental forces, and in their frequent use of the stile antico. ~ Stephen Kingsbury, Rovi