Great Masters: Haydn-His Life and Music

Course No. 751
Professor Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
Share This Course
4.8 out of 5
59 Reviews
74% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 751
Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

The music of Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) is so technically superb, so widely imitated, and so rich in quality and quantity that almost since the moment of its creation it has exemplified the Classical style. More than any other single composer, it was Haydn who created the Classical-era symphony. And his 68 string quartets? They are the standard by which all other Classical string quartets were and are judged. No less an expert than Mozart wrote that it was from Haydn that he had learned how to write quartets.

And yet this gentle, creative dynamo, who penned more than 1,000 works over a 50-year career and remained musically vital well past middle age, is all too often thought of as an aged figure surpassed and overshadowed by Mozart and Beethoven.

A Father, Not a Fossil

Not so, as Professor Robert Greenberg shows. The musicians who worked for Haydn called him "Papa" not because he was a fossil, but because of his unfailing kindness to them in an age when professional musicians were often treated poorly.

In truth, Haydn is one of the most original and influential composers of all time. He was the only musical contemporary whom Mozart admired. You learn from Professor Greenberg about the artistically fruitful friendship that grew between Mozart and Haydn.

He taught Beethoven. You can learn about the more troubled dealings Haydn had with Beethoven—whose Ninth Symphony, nonetheless, would be unimaginable without the influence of Haydn's Creation, the towering 1798 oratorio in praise of God's generosity, that crowned Haydn's career.

The Beauty of The Creation

In the culminating lectures of the series, you'll learn how The Creation perfectly expresses Haydn's rich inner world and personality: His childlike wonder, purehearted sensual joy, and genial humor mix seamlessly with profound faith, great nobility of expression, and genuine religious devotion.

In Haydn's works, the demands of popular entertainment and lofty aesthetic theory blend smoothly. Each piece strikes a new and finely judged balance between limpid accessibility and the integrity of compositional craft.

To know the man behind such works is to see Haydn's extraordinary achievement not merely as a technical feat or a display of pure talent—though surely these are involved—but as the work of a whole person, a triumph of generosity and the human spirit.

Haydn: A Brief Biography

Haydn was born on March 31, 1732, in an ethnically diverse part of Austria, near the Hungarian border. His music expressed this ethnically diverse environment.

When he was almost six years old, Haydn's soprano voice attracted his first music teacher, Johann Franck, a school principal and choir director in the town of Hainburg.

Young Haydn was sent off to Franck's school at that tender age. He was subjected to a rigorous and harsh life (thrashings were common), but he was also exposed to an extraordinary amount of music. He was taught the rudiments of music theory, singing, and keyboard and string playing, for which he remained grateful to Franck for the rest of his life.

At age eight, Haydn's musical ability attracted the attention of Georg Reutter, choir master at the Cathedral of St. Stephen's in Vienna, the most important church in the most important city in German-speaking Europe. For the next nine years, as a choirboy at the cathedral, he was exposed to the best music in Europe at that time. He learned to compose slowly and painstakingly through practical experience and hard work.

After his voice broke, Haydn was turned out of St. Stephen's to fend for himself in the great city of Vienna. He eked out a living by teaching, accompanying, singing, playing the organ and violin, and composing dance music.

In 1758, Haydn hit professional and financial pay dirt. He was hired by Count Morzin to be court music director and composer. With an orchestra at his disposal, it was for Count Morzin that Haydn wrote his first symphonies, among many other works.

Unqualified Musical Success

Haydn's musical development was an unqualified success, but his marriage to Maria Anna Keller was not. Maria Anna was, we are told, an ugly, quarrelsome, bitter woman who could not have children. Haydn would regret his marriage for the rest of his life, and his ultimate estrangement from his wife led to discreet affairs with women.

Haydn worked hard for the Esterházy family, and the opportunities his position gave him were enormous. At the magnificent palace of Esterháza in the Hungarian countryside, Haydn had the time he needed to develop his craft. The court orchestra played virtually everything he wrote, and his employer, Prince Nicholas Esterházy ("the Magnificent"), who had succeeded his brother Paul Anton, encouraged Haydn to experiment in every genre.

Some critics disliked the mixture of the serious and the comic in Haydn's music. But as time went on, Haydn acquired an international celebrity that far outweighed any criticism. Among his admirers was the much younger Mozart, for whom Haydn had a mutual regard. The two became great friends. Haydn's six String Quartets, op. 33, inspired Mozart to write six quartets of his own, and he dedicated them to Haydn.

In 1790, Haydn's employer Prince Nicholas died, and Haydn found himself free to leave Esterháza. The impresario Johann Peter Salomon took him to London, where Haydn immediately became the toast of the town. For this visit and his subsequent visit in 1794, he wrote his greatest symphonies, the London symphonies.

When he returned to Vienna in 1795, it was a far more "Haydn-friendly" place. A new Esterházy prince, Nicholas II, came into Haydn's life, and he liked old-style church music. Haydn's great masterworks of these years are the oratorios The Creation and The Seasons.

After completing The Seasons in April 1801, Haydn's health began to fail. With characteristic generosity he wrote a will that included everybody from his closest relatives to a shoemaker.

The last great moment of Haydn's public life occurred on March 27, 1808, when The Creation was performed at the university in Vienna in honor of his 76th birthday. The illustrious audience included the composers Beethoven, Salieri, and Hummel, as well as the highest aristocracy.

Haydn's audience knew he was approaching his death, and the performance became an almost mystical event. In one touching moment, Princess Esterházy saw Haydn shiver and covered his shoulders with her shawl. Soon other ladies followed suit until he was completely covered.

Haydn never appeared in public again. He died "blissfully and gently" on May 31, 1809.

Works you'll hear in the lectures are excerpted from:

Symphony no. 45 in F-sharp Minor (Farewell) (1772)
String Quartet in C Major, op. 33, no. 3 (The Bird) (1781)
String Quartet in E-flat Major, op. 33, no. 2 (The Joke) (1781)
Symphony no. 92 in G Major (1789)
Symphony no. 94 in G Major (Surprise) (1792)
Symphony no. 102 in B-flat Major (London) (1794)
Symphony no. 104 in D Major (final London symphony) (1795)
Piano Trio in F-sharp Minor (1794)
Trumpet Concerto (1796)
String Quartet, op. 76, no. 3 in C Major (The Emperor) (1797)

Hide Full Description
8 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction and Early Life
    Haydn's name is synonymous with the Classical style. No other single composer did as much to create and standardize the Classical symphony and quartet. This lecture describes his early years at school and as a choirboy at St. Stephen's Cathedral school in Vienna. In 1749, when his voice broke, he was expelled from St. Stephen's to begin a new life in Vienna at the age of 17. x
  • 2
    The Lean Years and the Pre-Classical Style
    Haydn eked out a living for years before his compositional career took off. He absorbed the musical traditions of his day: the high Baroque, and the new rococo music of the Enlightenment. This lecture discusses influences on Haydn: the Mannheim orchestra, Italian composer Sammartini as well as Viennese composers Reutter, Monn, and Wagenseil. In 1761, he got the opportunity of his life when he was hired by Prince Paul Anton Esterházy. x
  • 3
    Haydn’s Marriage and Esterháza
    Musically, Haydn's development was an unqualified success but marriage to Maria Anna Keller was not. Prince Paul Anton and his successor, Prince Nicholas Esterházy, were genuine music lovers. Haydn became the court music director with his own orchestra to conduct and write music for. Haydn was "forced to become original." x
  • 4
    Esterháza Continued
    Life at Prince Nicholas's court at Esterháza was exactly what Haydn wanted: predictable and calm. Ideas of the new Sturm und Drang cultural movement imbued his music with a greater emotional range. Haydn became famous and wealthy, and he developed a close friendship with Mozart. His music became the template by which we measure the Classical style, perfectly balancing head and heart, intellect and emotion. x
  • 5
    The Classical String Quartet and the Classical Symphony
    Haydn's string quartets and symphonies are models of the Classical style. He forged the notion of the string quartet as four individuals who collaborate to create a whole that is greater than its parts. As the years passed at Esterháza, Haydn's fame grew throughout Europe and England. When Prince Nicholas Esterházy died in 1790, he accepted the invitation of an English impresario to go to England, where his music was already worshiped. x
  • 6
    Haydn went to London at the invitation of Johann Peter Salomon, a violinist and impresario. The symphonies Haydn wrote for his London audiences are among his finest. He returned to Vienna in 1792, but his reception there was mild. Moreover, he had lost his great friend Mozart and was soon to lose his old friend Marianne von Genzinger. It could not have been a worse time when the young Ludwig van Beethoven arrived to begin his lessons with Haydn. x
  • 7
    Beethoven, London Again, and Breakthrough
    Beethoven's composition lessons with Haydn were disastrous. Beethoven was discourteous and even duplicitous toward Haydn, although he would later forgive the young and rebellious Beethoven. At his second visit to London in 1794, he was as enthusiastically received as the first time. His 12 London Symphonies, written during both visits, are the crowning achievements of his symphonic output. After his return to Austria, he wrote a series of masses for his new employer, Prince Nicholas II. His oratorio, The Creation is the capstone of his career. x
  • 8
    The Creation, The Seasons, and the End
    As he grew old, Haydn's health began to fail, but he still kept a strict daily routine. He lived in the Viennese suburbs, continuing to receive a steady stream of medals, awards, and honors. He wrote The Seasons, his last major work, which was another extraordinary success. In March 1808, a performance of The Creation was given to a distinguished audience in honor of Haydn's 76th birthday; he died a little over a year later. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 8 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 8 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 8 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Vocal texts
  • Timeline
  • Glossary

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Robert Greenberg

About Your Professor

Robert Greenberg, Ph.D.
San Francisco Performances
Dr. Robert Greenberg is Music Historian-in-Residence with San Francisco Performances. A graduate of Princeton University, Professor Greenberg holds a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley. He has seen his compositions—which include more than 45 works for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles—performed all over the world, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles,...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Great Masters: Haydn-His Life and Music is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 59.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The accessible genius DVD review. For a long time, Mozart and Beethoven so dominated my classical music listening that Haydn, what little I had heard of him, seemed definitely second class. And since Mozart dedicated a series of string quartets to him, I decided one day to go through the Naxos Haydn Complete String Quartets. What a revelation! I have since added his piano sonatas (John McCabe) and his piano trios (Beaux Arts). This is definitely a composer I want to understand better. Dr Greenberg’s eight-lesson “Great Masters” on Haydn is an excellent introduction to his life. Joseph Haydn’s parents were not musical. Nor did he show obvious genius as a child, but he had the perseverance and luck to end up as a musician and then conductor for the wealthy Esterhazy family. At a time when musicians were little more than servants, his talent was recognized and rewarded as the fame of his many compositions grew. The man was a work horse and by all accounts a decent, well-loved man by everyone who worked with him. Greenberg, as usual, is very entertaining in his presentation. Another reason to pay attention to this course is that Haydn is an excellent introduction to the musical forms he pioneered: the symphony, string quartet and piano trios. Given my limited background in music theory, I can’t say anything clever about the nature of Haydn’s originality. All I can say is that I found his chamber music very accessible and moving. I hope to learn more. Greenberg is a good start.
Date published: 2011-04-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not enough music Prof Greenberg does an excellent job with the lectures. Better than his Mozart lectures, although still a bit too "humorous" at times for my taste. He does an excellent job of explaining what you're hearing, also better than his Mozart lectures. My only complaint about this course is that there are too few segments, only 10 or so across the 8 lectures. More music, fewer words, please, maestro.
Date published: 2010-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greenberg finds his groove! I confess that I have not liked everything by Prof. Greenberg. Sometimes his theatrical style distracts me. But he really finds his groove with the "Great Masters of Classical Music" series!! This series is short, witty, and wonderfully cheap if obtained at sale prices! I came to this course with virtual ignorance of Haydn and his place in the classical pantheon. I came away with a true love and appreciation of Haydn and his music, and moreover, a better picture of the milieu out of which so many unparalleled composers have come to us(Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, etc.). The prof. expertly weaves musical information with biographical and historical detail to create a gripping musical drama, if you will. The course is studded with representative musical samples which illuminate the development of Haydn's style and consequently, the development of classical music itself! The prof is always engaging and radiates a love of his subject matter. Particularly interesting is the manner in which the Baroque style evolved through Recoco, only to be ultimately crystalized into the classical style by Haydn himself. I think this is important to understanding the development of music and art in general. I would recommend all the other courses in this series as well.
Date published: 2010-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Series and Course I purchased the entire "Great Masters" series, have listened to half of them, and every one has been a wonderful treat. "Haydn" was the first I listened to, and it certainly opened me up to the composer and led me to buy recordings of a dozen of his works. His life may not be the stuff of movies (although it was more interesting than I expected) but his development as a composer is fascinating, and Greenberg's discussions of his various works is enthusiastic and insightul. I highly recommend this course and the the entire series to anyone who loves classical music and/or wants to know more about it.
Date published: 2009-10-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Keen Insight on the Father of the Classical Style Great Masters: Hayden - His Life and Music Taught by Robert Greenberg 8 lectures, 45 minutes/lecture Dr. Greenberg is one of the most prolific and popular speakers in the Teaching Company Collection. He is both a renowned scholar of music history and a composer in his own right, having had his own music recorded and performed worldwide. His many music courses with TTC include "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music", "The Symphony", "The Concerto" among many many others. This course titled "Hayden—His Life and Music" is one of ten courses highlighting the life and music of major classical composers from Hayden to Shostakovich. The courses in this series are interesting in that they emphasize the importance of the composers lives and the historical context in which the music was created. In this lecture series on Hayden, the listener will come to appreciate the composer's importance as the originator of many of the classical forms such as the piano sonata, the symphony and the string quartet. Hayden's works are the standard from which subsequent classical and more modern composition is derived even today. Hayden was a gentle and kind man beloved called 'Papa" by Mozart. He recieved great recognition during his lifetime, being sponsored by the Esterházy family, he was free to develop and experiments as he wished in his compositions. Dr. Greenberg has selected excellent examples of the music of Hayden. Drawing mainly from the symphonies and string quartets, the listener can see the development of style and the influence of the composer's life through time. Many of Hayden's compositions demonstrate his sense of humor in a style quite unique. Dr.Greenberg has done a great job presenting the life and work of one of the most productive, influencial and beloved musical composers of the classical era. Dr. Greenberg is at his best when he provides musical examples with his keen analysis and insight.
Date published: 2009-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The real "Papa" Haydn You don't have to be a s***-nosed child prodigy to become a great composer, Prof. Greenberg reminds us in his typical style. He skilfully narrates Haydn's life - from youthful poverty, through the long years spent in a "Hungarian swamp" as court composer to the Esterhazy family, to his triumphant visits to London as aninternational celebrity. Along the way we meet Mozart (whom Haydn adored), Beethoven (whom Haydn briefly and unsucessfully taught, and who treated him shabbily), various members of the Austro-Hungarian nobility, Haydn's ghastly wife and some of his mistresses. The musical examples - alas all to brief - are excellent, especially the extracts from Haydn's late masterpiece "The Creation".
Date published: 2009-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the whole set = a wondrous classics foundation With respect to the merit of the series as a whole: BUY IT. BUY IT NOW, and set some hours aside to listen. If you like music, buy the series - and it will enrich your appreciation. If you don't like 18th/19th century music, buy this series, force yourself to sit through a few hours, and you'll at least have a glimpse of what you're missing out on. With respect to the Haydn course in particular - it is first-rate and informative, and Greenberg (as always) offers infectious enthusiasm for his subject matter. Perhaps nobody will ever make "Haydn: the Movie" - but Haydn offers delights poorly suited to Hollywood drama. With respect to the course content - alas, if only (1) the DVDs came with a downloadable course outline, the same way audio downloads do, and (2) some way existed for me to put the DVDs on an MP3 player so I could listen to them as I walked. I find that I need a more active engagement with content to actually learn anything than merely sitting back and watching television. (Note: my wife was "bored" by the series, and finds the History Channel or alternatives more captivating; I find it intriguing that she would compare this set of lectures + graphics with those sorts of big-budget documentaries).
Date published: 2009-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course, Great Music As always, Greenberg gives both an excellent biography and appreciation of the subject's music. An excellent biography with wonderful music samples.
Date published: 2009-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Get the Whole Set Prof. Greenberg is the premier lecturer at The Teaching Company and this set of 10 biographical/musical lectures clearly shows why. Every lecture gives us a surprising view into the life of that composer. Also, for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the technical music aspects of his other lectures, these are more biographical with less of a technical focus. I had no idea that Haydn had such a tough time in his youth, and yet still proved to be a good and gracious man. Prof. Greenberg always finds that unique point of view to help bring the composer to life.
Date published: 2009-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Teaching Company and in particular Professor Robert greenberg, has added another dimension to my life! Thanks.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Greenberg is simply outstanding his passion for music is infectious and his knowledge & understanding of it is truely remarkable.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Greenberg is simply an outstanding presenter. He could make watching paint dry interesting.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must for retired folks! Nursing homes, lirbary schools all should have these courses!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I wish I had had Professors like Dr. Greenberg when I was an undergraduate. I had a few but college would have been a lot more interesting if there had been more.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As always Dr. Greenberg is beyond comparison! course material superb! Delivery, expertise, thoroughness, even his diction and grammer are outstanding.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Among your outstanding professors, Robert Greenberg stands out. The breadth of his understanding is astounding. As a lecturer he's great, corny quips and all. All the courses are stimulating, but some resonate long after the listening.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Now getting the education I didn't get at Harvard.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A+++ Professor Greenberg! Your courses are both educational and amusing!
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I've just recd. my most recent orde of Prof. Greenberg's tapes & I continue to revel in all I'm learning! However, for the first time, I've found he interjects expletives such as "damn" and "hell". i know his vocabulary is VAST. & he doesn't need those
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Greenberg is brilliant, stimulating, exuberant and whitty.
Date published: 2008-10-17
  • y_2020, m_7, d_6, h_15
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.10
  • cp_3, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_1, tr_58
  • loc_en_US, sid_751, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 72.22ms

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought