Johann Michaels Haydn’s Biography & Works

Johann Michael HaydnJohann Michael Haydn was born on Sept. 14, 1737 in Rohrau, Lower Austria, five years after his famous brother Joseph, their parents being a wheelwright and a cook. Both brothers received their first musical training at home and in the neighbouring town of Hainburg. Because of his early musical talent Michael Haydn was sent to Vienna in 1745 to join his brother Joseph as a choirboy at St. Stephan’s under the directorship of Georg Reutter Jr. After finishing his studies as a choirboy he is said to have become concert master in 1757 and in March 1760 episcopal music director in Großwardein (Hungary). Eventually he moved to Salzburg in 1763 and became concert master of the orchestra of the prince archbishop. While in this position Michael Haydn composed symphonies, concertos and chamber music for the Salzburg court and operatic works for both stages of the university theatre.

On August 17, 1768 Johann Michael Haydn married Maria Magdalena Lipp, court singer and daughter of the organist of Salzburg Cathedral Franz Ignaz Lipp. Their only child, a daughter called Aloisia, was born in 1770; however, she died a year later. In 1777 Haydn succeeded Anton Cajetan Adlgasser as organist at the Church of the Holy Trinity, and in 1782, he followed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as court and cathedral organist and teacher for piano and composition at the choirboys’school, the Kapellhaus. Due to these positions in Salzburg, church music became the centre of his creativity.Historische Ansicht von St. Peter
When Michael Haydn lost a great deal of his possessions through raids during the Napoleonic Wars, his brother Joseph helped him to receive a commission by Empress Marie Therese to compose a Mass. During the last years of his life Michael Haydn’s was highly renowned and Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy offered him the position of Vize-Kapellmeister with a much higher salary than in Salzburg. Haydn though declined the offer and remained in Salzburg as he neither wanted to leave his students nor his friends. In 1804 he was awarded membership of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. A year before his death he was commissioned by Empress Marie Therese to compose a Requiem (with an additional Libera), which, however, he had to leave unfinished because of his severe illness. The last composition that he completed in December 1805 was a Mass called Missa Sancti Leopoldi. As a result of two serious accidents Johann Michael Haydn died on August 10, 1806. Three days later he was buried in a communal tomb in St. Peter’s cemetery in Salzburg.

Besides W.A. Mozart, Michael Haydn was the leading musician at the court of the Salzburg Prince Archbishops. His works comprise more than 800 compositions in almost all music genres of his times. Of special significance are his early instrumental music and his church music. The style of his later church compositions represents a new orientation resulting in the reformative movements of the 19th century. In regard to secular vocal music, Michael Haydn paved the way for the male voice choir movement with his quartets for male voices.

A Survey of Michael Haydn’s Works:

Operas, lyrical dramas (=singspiels), oratorios, Masses, Requiem, Te Deum, litanies, vespers, graduals, offertories, responsories, Salve Regina, Regina Coeli, motets, rounds, songs and other vocal compositions; sinfonies, concertos, divertimenti, serenades, cassationi, nocturns, marches, orchestra minuets, string quintets, string quartets, duos, piano and organ works.

A Register of Johann Michael Haydn’s Works

Charles H. Sherman und Thomas Donley Thomas, Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806). A Chronical Thematic Catalogue of His Works. Stuyvesant, N.Y. 1993.


Biographische Skizze von Michael Haydn. Von des verklärten Tonkünstlers Freunden entworfen. Salzburg 1808. Faksimile-Ausgabe, Stuttgart 2006. Mit Nachwort und Registern hg. von Armin Kircher.

Hans Jancik, Michael Haydn. Ein vergessener Meister. Zürich-Leipzig-Wien 1952.Croll, Gerhard und Kurt Vössing,  Johann Michael Haydn. Sein Leben - sein Schaffen - seine Zeit. Wien 1987.

Jürg Stenzl, Ernst Hintermaier und Gerhard Walterskirchen, Salzburger Musikgeschichte. Vom Mittelalter bis ins 21. Jahrhundert. Salzburg 2005.