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The Developing of Keyboard Sonatas Through the Works of Joseph Haydn

Music is an important part of human life. People listen to music for different purposes. Some people find calmness and relax with the music, others are excited with it, some people listen to the music to find the answers to their questions, and the rest just enjoy good melodies and sounds. Moreover, everybody knows the salutary effect which produces music on people.

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It is impossible to imagine the world without music. Music occupies all our senses; it reminds us about the beauty and harmony of this world. People fill the depth of human relationships through the music. Music makes people to think about this world, about the purpose of human being on the earth.

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of music. There are a lot of musicians and composers who made great contributions to the world music history. And we are going to discuss one of them.

Franz Joseph Haydn is an Austrian composer, who was born oh the 31st of March, 1732 and died on the 31st of May, 1809. He did not travel a lot, but two his visits to London made a great impact on his composing.

Joseph Haydn was a great composer of the Classical era. He led an isolated life and did not follow the achievements in music, so his music is original. His manner of composing music is very slow, so there is not much evidence of his early composed masterpieces.

Franz Joseph Haydn created more than 104 symphonies, 14 operas, 68 string quartets, 120 trios, some 40 sonatas. But unfortunately he is not so known and popular among simple people, but of course he is known in the musical circles. He had never been on the top of the composers in classic music, but as was said, his contribution to music history is invaluable.

He created most of his music when he was not so young, “he was nearly sixty when he wrote his first London Symphony and over seventy when the two great oratorios, “The Creation” and “The Seasons” were completed” (Geiringer 1993). He composed his greatest masterpieces in old age even though his talent for composing began to show itself when he was a child.

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Franz Joseph Haydn through his music described or even portrayed his character and mood. He wanted to be useful to people through his music. He aimed to make people happy with the help of his compositions. Once he said that God gave him his talent, not for simple and he managed to do everything, “I know that God has bestowed a talent upon me, and I thank Him for it. I think I have done my duty, and been of use to my generation by my works. Let others do the same” (Hadden 2004-113).

His most important innovation was that he developed countless subtle ways, the most effective structural principle in music history. The historical impact was made by his perfection of the set of expectations known as sonata form.

The first movement—and possibly one or more of the others—was in what is called sonata form. This is essentially a binary form, the first part being an exposition of two (or sometimes three) contrasted themes. The second part consists of a development of these themes and a recapitulation of the beginning exposition. (Encyclopedia article 2007-45095).

The Sonata form is usually used in the symphony, in the concerto, in the string quartet, and the solo sonata. It was Joseph Haydn who created the string quartet (two violins, viola, and cello). The Keyboard Sonata got distribution in the works of many composers and especially was developed and perfected by Franz Joseph Haydn. “The first thing to notice about the quartet is that three of its four movements are in the same key and that key is F minor: only the third movement is in the major” (Parker 2008).

There is one more explanation of what sonata form is:

Sonata form encompasses the large-scale symmetry of thematic statement (exposition) and recurrence (recapitulation), which together framed a development section that variously quoted, altered, and dissected previously heard themes in a context of general unrest (Grave 2006-49).

Joseph Haydn used the word sonata for the first time at the beginning of the 1770s.

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Franz Joseph Haydn made a more important contribution to music than Mozart or Beethoven did, “in the sense that he invented the molds they worked in” (The Evening Standard 2006). We may often hear that the composition is “Haydnish”. It means that his music is “clear, straightforward, fresh and winning, without the slightest trace of affectation or morbidity” (Hadden 2004)

Mozart called Haydn “the father of all us” (The Evening Standard 2006) 104 symphonies, 14 operas, 68 string quartets, 120 trios, some 40 sonatas, and much else – more music, in fact, than any classical giant.

Joseph Haydn was not the direct inventor of musical forms, but he developed and moved them forward, he found principally new approaches to these forms and that was his key part in the becoming of music in Europe.

Haydn is often called “a father of instrumental music” (Hadden 2004-107) and no one critic can doubt it. Haydn’s sonatas are of great historical value as they show the becoming and development, evolution of the composer’s forms, and the power of his thoughts. Haydn’s music and especially sonatas impress us with “order, regularity, fluency, harmony and roundness, splendid development into full and complete growth” (Hadden 2004). His influence is sensed in any department of instrumental form.

Haydn composed a lot, but most of his early compositions did not remain, as they were either burnt or torn up, but there is still one piece of work that came to us. Some scholars date it to 1742. This was his first Mass in F (No. 11). Of course, the work is written in inexperienced hands, but “when Haydn in his old age came upon the long-forgotten score he was so far from being displeased with it that he rearranged the music, inserting additional wind parts” (Hadden 2004-18). One researcher regarded his actions as “a striking testimony to the genius of the lad of eighteen” (Hadden 2004-18).

It was difficult for Haydn to write theory, once he noticed that:

Art is free and must not be fettered by mechanical regulations. The cultivated ear must decide, and I believe myself as capable as anyone of making laws in this respect. Such trifling is absurd; I wish instead that someone would try to compose a new minuet (Hadden 2004-106).

The whole work of Franz Joseph Haydn may be divided into five main periods:

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  1. The Youth period (1750 – 1759).
  2. A Phase of transition (1760 – 1769).
  3. Storm and Stress (1770 – 1779).
  4. Maturity (1780 – 1789).
  5. Consummate Mastery (1790 – 1803). (Geiringer 1993)

The first period of his creation we have already mentioned. People received not many works from their early youth as most of them were damaged. It also remains a fact that Haydn opened his gift in his childhood but he did not use it so wide. It is a fact that he was very slow in his composing and he managed to receive much skills and experience when he was about fifty years old.

During his second period, a phase of transition, Franz Joseph Haydn was not poor anymore thanks to his entering the service of the Esterházy family. He wanted to come out of the shade, to be on the first rows as the composer, he wanted to be different from others. In this period his personality, his character appears to be in his music. He tries to avoid all influences of other composers on his music creations. During this period his music is “charming, ingratiating, engaging, naturally humorous and enticing” (Geiringer 1993).

But the third period, Storm and Stress, of his composing is the opposite. This period of Haydn’s life is often called “a romantic crisis” (Geiringer 1993). The composer was tied to that charm and calmness. He tried to expose his feelings and emotions. He tried to use more emotional and strong music language.

A good characterization of this period gives sonata No. 20 of 1771. In this piece of work, the master uses only piano sonata in C minor, passion, and subjective feeling triumph. “The finale of the C minor sonata is no longer a carefree affair, destined solely to dismiss the listener in a gay mood; it becomes the climax of the whole work and is imbued with dramatic tension”. (Geiringer 1993)

The period of maturity may be characterized as the entrance into the classical era. In this period the composer is balanced. He finds the balance between his soul and mind. He uses both notions to create music. But during this period Haydn does not pay much attention to the keyboard sonatas. One of his sonata No. 49 written in E major, which belongs to 1789 – 1790, was composed for Marianne von Genzinger. It is regarded as probably Haydn’s best keyboard work of this fourth period of Haydn’s life.

The fifth Haydn’s period is characterized as the most experienced and artistic. This period summarizes the composer’s achievements and experience and exposes all this knowledge in music. Only during this period, the composer writes more of his works.

Haydn traveled to London, England during this period and that country impressed him greatly. He saw different people with different cultures and customs, the very city was so big, the language so strange that everything there could not avoid the author’s perception. All those factors impressed him greatly and it reflected on his creation during that period. “The particular qualities of English pianos seem to have lead Haydn to a different manner of composing for the instrument during his time in London” (Jackson 2005). Roland John Jackson wanted to say that the compositions which were created by Haydn in London would be sounded and performed better on English keyboard than they would sound on Viennese one.

So, looking at his life we can conclude that Haydn did not try to compose as more as possible. He tried to create something valuable, what people could remember. He began to work out his style of composing seriously when he was thirty, and he reached the peak of his experience when he was almost fifty. And only here he could enjoy his achievements in instrumental music, his achievements which he developed in the classic era.

During his life, Franz Joseph Haydn composed about 62 Keyboard Sonatas. As his composing made a great influence on others, he, in his turn, was also influenced by Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Clementi, Gluck. His music may be characterized by frequent changes of musical texture, sometimes even sudden, unusual key changes, and melodic contours of some of his compositions are unusual.

He always tried to experiment with forms and ornaments. We may meet a variety of ornaments in only one movement. During his composing he used different ornamentations, for example, mordent, acciaccatura, turn, trill, inverted mordent fermata.

The instruments, as it was said, played an important part in Haydn’s career. He had access to the harpsichord, clavichord, and keyboard. Haydn adored keyboard music. He could not create without the keyboard. It was his inspiration and only playing on the keyboard he could understand the impact of his composition on people. “The keyboard was so much the source of Haydn’s ideas that he experienced composition viscerally as though he were being played himself” (Marshall 2003-270).

One more confirmation of Haydn likes about keyboard displays Caryl Leslie Clark when he writes in his book, “The keyboard was an enduring focus of Haydn’s activity and achievement. Composition began for him with improvisation at the keyboard, and he later likened himself to “a living keyboard” touched be imagination” (2005).

So, to sum it up we want to say that Franz Joseph Haydn was an outstanding figure of his age. His contribution to the world history of music is invaluable. He created and developed many notions in the music of the Classic era. And even in the present time,Classical people listen to him, remember and appreciate his work. It is possible to like or dislike his music, but it is impossible mot to admire it, not to value his achievements.

He was the person of his era, he managed to do so much work during his life, even though he began to create his compositions when he was not already young. During his work, he created a catalog of his works. For a long time, he preferred to compose on the keyboard, and only later when he managed to create a keyboard in his imagination he began to create on paper.

The five periods of Franz Joseph Haydn’s life give people a strict explanation of the periods in music. As it was said, the whole creation period may be divided into parts according to the period of life. These five periods are different and according to the way of life, and according to the style of Haydn’s compositions.

So, Franz Joseph Haydn was a great composer, who rocked the minds and hearts of people throughout the world and made a great contribution to the treasury of world music history.

Works Cited

“A Game of Haydn Seek; Mozart’s Anniversary Has Been a Gift to the Marketing Men. But Can They Really Do the Same with the Quiet Composer Who Invented the String Quartet?” The Evening Standard (London, England), August 30, 2006.

Clark, Caryl Leslie. The Cambridge companion to Haydn. Cambridge University Press, 2005

Geiringer, Karl. Haydn: A Creative Life in Music. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.

Grave, Floyd. Grave, Margaret. The String Quartets of Joseph Haydn. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Hadden, J. Cuthbert. Haydn. Kessinger Publishing, 2004

Jackson, Roland John. Performance practice: a dictionary-guide for musicians. Routledge, 2005

Marshall, Robert Lewis. Eighteenth-century Keyboard Music. Routledge, 2003

Parker, Roger. Haydn – Quartet in F minor, Op 20, No 5. Gresham College. 2008. Web.

“Sonata.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2007.

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StudyCorgi. "The Developing of Keyboard Sonatas Through the Works of Joseph Haydn." November 15, 2021.


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