Haydn: Symphonies and Compositions for String Quartet

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Beethoven: Symphonies & Shift from Classical to Romantic

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 Haydn & His Music
  • 1:20 Haydn's Symphonies
  • 4:17 Haydn's String Quartets
  • 5:58 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emma Riggle

Emma has taught college Music courses and holds a master's degree in Music History and Literature.

Franz Joseph Haydn was one of the preeminent composers of music's Classical period and also one of the best jokesters in the history of music. In this lesson, we'll focus on two music genres in which Haydn stood out: symphony and string quartet.

Haydn & His Music

Are you one of those people who think Classical music is always serious and boring? If so, you probably haven't spent a lot of time with the music of composer Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Haydn was one of the greatest composers in music's Classical period, which lasted from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century. Elegant, accessible, tuneful music was popular during the Classical period, but that doesn't mean Classical composers were stuffy. In fact, Haydn was a cheerful, happy guy, and he loved writing music full of jokes and surprises. You could almost imagine Haydn as the Weird Al Yankovic of the 18th century.

Haydn grew up in a village near Vienna, Austria, and gained his musical education as a cathedral choirboy. He spent most of his adult career working for the Esterházy princes, an aristocratic Hungarian family. Haydn's job was to write and perform music on demand for private entertainment and court functions. This made Haydn something of a walking, talking iTunes Store, but it also gave him a good salary, a high profile, and the opportunity to write tons of music and collaborate with a skilled staff of musicians.

Haydn's Symphonies

A symphony is a work for orchestra in multiple successive movements, or sections. In the Classical period, symphonies were usually divided into four movements, each with its own tempo and mood. The symphony was a new, hip style of musical entertainment in Haydn's time and it was a popular item both in private concerts held by rich aristocrats and in public ticketed concerts marketed to the average middle-class listener.

Haydn was also an expert symphonist, and no wonder, because he wrote about 104 symphonies. During his 30-year career with the Esterházy family, Haydn had to produce new symphonies on a regular basis for court performances. You'd think that all his music would start to sound similar after a while, but Haydn found ingenious ways to keep his works fresh and original. Many of his symphonies have unique nicknames because they include an interesting musical effect or because they paint a musical picture.

For example, take his Symphony no. 45, nicknamed the Farewell Symphony. When Haydn wrote this work, his contract stipulated that he and his orchestra had to spend six months of the year in residence at Esterháza, their employers' summer palace. That might sound like a vacation but unfortunately, the musicians were separated from their wives and families for the entire residency.

When Prince Nikolaus Esterházy decided in the summer of 1772 that he was going to extend the residency by another two months, the musicians went nuts and threatened Haydn with the 18th century version of a labor strike. Haydn solved this dilemma by writing the Farewell Symphony, which has a very unusual ending: one by one, each musician in the orchestra stops playing and walks away, until the symphony closes with only two violinists left on an empty stage. Prince Nikolaus got the point and let all the musicians go home the next day.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account