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‘He alone has the secret of making me smile and touching me at the bottom of my soul.’ That is one opinion of Joseph Haydn. It was written not by some obscure 19th century German professor but by another musical genius: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. ‘There is no one who can do it all,’ he continued, ‘to joke and terrify, to evoke laughter and profound sentiment – and all equally well: except Joseph Haydn.’

And listening to this selection from some of the best, most notable works that Haydn composed, it’s easy to agree with Mozart. Born in 1732, he was the second of twelve children whose father was a wheelwright and village sexton in Rohrau, Lower Austria. For most of his career, Haydn was lucky enough to find employment with one of the most generous patrons of music in Europe – the Esterházy family at their estate in Eisenstadt. From 1761 till 1802, with only a few years break, he was given a free hand to compose what he liked with the luxury of his own orchestra, and a 400-seat theatre. Here he composed 80 of his 104 symphonies, most of his 83 string quartets and nearly all his operas and keyboard works.

‘Papa Haydn’, as he came to be known affectionately throughout Europe, is described as the ‘Father of the Symphony’, for though he did not invent the form, he developed it to a higher degree and showed the way forward to Mozart and Beethoven, just as he did with his string quartets. The first four items illustrate four of Haydn’s chief characteristics. I’ve begun with the first movement of his popular Trumpet Concerto in E flat (you can hear the finale as well on Track 24) followed by the uplifting chorus from The Creation (1796-98) ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’. Then a tune that can ‘touch the bottom of the soul’ – the slow movement from his String Quartet in C major known as the ‘Emperor’. You’ll recognise it as the tune of the German national anthem. Next, as an example of Haydn’s mischievous it, there’s the famous Andante movement from his Symphony No. 94 known, for obvious reasons, as ‘The Surprise’ Symphony.

Haydn’s works attracted more nicknames than any other composer. In this selection you’ll hear movements from the ‘Drumroll’, ‘Military’, ‘London’, ‘Clock’ and ‘Farewell’ symphonies as well as parts of the ‘Joke, ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Lark’ string quartets. There are movements from his 52 piano sonatas, twelve keyboard concertos, 42 piano trios and the boisterous finale to his Cello Concerto in C. What will impress you more than anything is that it is such happy, positive, life-enhancing music. The last piece of all (Track 26) encapsulates the essence of the man as well as anything: the chorus ‘The breaks that great and glorious day’ from The Seasons. This was one of Haydn’s last works (1799-1801) when his health had started to fail (though you wouldn’t know it!). When he died in 1809, the music at his funeral service was a Requiem by his favourite composer, Mozart.

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