Music History: Joseph Haydn



The world of classical music is far-reaching in different masterpieces. Thereupon, the work of Joseph Haydn cannot be underestimated. His The Creation is acknowledged worldwide to be one of the most glorious works in the musical legacy of the mankind. In fact, such idea is supported by the implementation of huge industriousness, perseverance, and originality demonstrated by Haydn in his oratorio.

The picaresque reflection that Haydn implemented in his work is obvious in his prominent incrustation of musical talent. The classical period absorbed in itself the venerable man of glory who made it possible to manifest even more than a man is able to do for music.

Joseph Haydn was inspired by the divine intentions in his mind, soul, and talent. Thus, The Creation is the masterpiece of music that made Haydn one of the most profound Viennese composers during Classical Period.

General implications

Haydn lived and worked in Vienna for the most of his life. Here he got brilliant education and additional inspiration to follow the line of making music original in his implementation. It was a great period of time that Haydn spent to magnify his talent.

On the other hand, it is clear that the main studies that Haydn adored in music were signing, violin, and clavier-playing.1 His passion to create was greatly amplified by the Christian religion and the way Holy Bible describes different scenes in the history of the religion. To say more, Haydn in his mature life was highly motivated to create somewhat similar in colouring and impressions as the Bible depicts.

This idea never left such an outstanding composer as Haydn. Furthermore, later on, Haydn took notice of Milton’s great work Paradise Lost.2 That was a sacral moment for the composer in gathering all his ideas to be further introduced into the masterpiece of his entire life. The Creation highlighted the talent of Haydn so that it became incorporated in the souls of listeners and connoisseurs of music at large.


The reason to compose

Joseph Haydn was always in search of something outstanding in his professional life. He attempted to predict every pattern of human traditions and their feelings at the time by means of music and signing.

In this respect the composer was encouraged to work over The Creation after he delivered the poem from England translated thereafter into German by his friend Baron Von Swieten.3 Since that very time the composer read carefully the poem over and over again. He rallied his thougts on it and tried to designate his own passion for the sacral story of divine creation of the world with those being incorporated in the poem.

Working at that time as a court musician for the Esterhazys, he was constantly mulling over the best passages and inscriptions that the theme of world’s creation could bring in the music.4 Several times Haydn needed additional inspirations to befall and then beget the gist of the creation as such.

He gathered every single illustration in the Bible and then made parallels with how it could be used in music and choir singning. In this respect he agreed to pay special attention to the two main sources in the Biblical scriptures, namely: the Book of Genesis and the Book of Psalms.5

As has been aforementioned, Milton’s Pardise Lost added the last missing chain in the source for overall inspiration for Haydn. Hence, such a tripartite unity of factual material on the depiction of creation stimulated Haydn in terms of sensitivity and symbolic interpretation of main episodes in the future work.

Classical period in music

Classical music is the term that is widely associated with a peculiar sounding and coherence in play of different instruments. It was a period that embraced mainly masters of Viennese school, such as Bach, Werner, and Mozart.

The main peculiarity of the classical period in music is its homophonic kind of sound.6 In this respect Haydn folowed the main features which classical music signified. The most predominant form at that period was sonata with its simpler texture contrasting to the polyphonic music.7

Classical composers needed to encompass the reality of the society at the time by leaning toward “higher” topics of human beings. In other words, the construct of the music was implemented in order the audience of listeners could stick to the point of improvement.

The main parts of sonata which played the major role in classical music were exposition, development, and recapitulation.8 As concerned with Haydn’s masterpiece, the trinity of sonata fitted the idea to incorporate the theme of creation in it. It would complement hereby the role of God, nature, and a man.

Though, the magnificence of classical music is materialized usually in the play of instruments, Haydn prospered by adding choir and soloist singing to his oratorio.9 Thus, the main prospects of classical period and the vision on it by Haydn himself highlighted the start of composing the greatest work of the Joseph Haydn – his own Creation.

The Creation


The Creation is the famous oratorio of Haydn which consists originally of three parts:

  1. The Representation of Chaos;
  2. The creation of living beings and a man;
  3. The Garden of Eden.10

The composer spent much time and efforts to complete this huge piece of his entire professional carrier. Being a deeply religious man, Haydn tried to be quick in doing his work.

He usually repeated praise to God who, as he felt it, accompanied him in working over The Creation. As a Vice-Kapellmeister to Prince Paul Anton Esterhazy since 1761, Haydn should have managed his time in order to complement both his dedication to the workplace and his personal passion to create.11

Hence, the work was started in 1796 in Vienna. It was the beginning of storm that was predicted. That actually accompanied the trends in literature, such as Sturm and Drang movement supported by works of Schiller and Goethe. Classicism was on Haydn’s own.

He felt it in every piece of work he did. “In common with opera, and like most oratorios – though not Messiah – The Creation has named characters and is divided into acts and scenes which consist of sequences of choruses, recitatives, and arias.”12

Part I: The Representation of Chaos

The first part of the oratorio is the representation of chaos (Die Vorstellung des Chaos) which is accompanied by arias of Raphael, Uriel, and Gabriel.13 It begins with choral introduction that is supported by the reasoning of God in the person of three angels.

On the other hand, it is the so-called incorporation of the chaotic events before the fantastic spark of the singing. The above listed three arias are performed by three soloists to highlight the atmosphere of disarray.

The first part of the oratorio consists of thirteen acts which are divided into the soprano of soloists, bass and tenor recitatives, and chorus.14 In this alleged chaos of divine signing the bass recitatives are used to show the voice of God through His messengers: Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor), and Raphael (bass).15

This feature of Haydn’s work is applicable in terms of the attributes of Classical period. Thereupon, loud chords that are essential in the exposition of The Creation are so spontaneous that a listener is unintentionally inclined to break the measure between the art and reality. Several abrupt transitions between soprano and bas arias project the sensibility on the whole concept of what is described in play of instruments and in signing of three soloists.

Such a feature to touch upon the listeners in a spontaneous way is devastatingly influential. To say more, Haydn made the best attempt to make listeners nuzzle up to the concept of the oratorio from the very beginning. After the words of God “Let there be light” the parts in G major preoccupy the continuum of the play.16

This scene in the oratorio is manifested via the “massive fortissimo chord of C major from the unmuted full orchestra.”17 The final piece of the first part (The Heavens are telling) reconciles the unity of choir and soloists’ signing in a plain and patterned way. The loudness of chord in signing and playing is illuminated through different means of illustrative movements.

Such movements and frequent hesitations in sounding come off as a quiet and genteel melody.18 It is another reminder for a listener that in its Classical manner there should be another loud variation pursuant to the beginning of the second part.

Part II: The creation of living beings and a man

One should have an idea of that this part demonstrates the development in the oratorio. It depicts the creation of living beings (animals, sea creature, and at last, a man).19 It corresponds in its implementation to mainly bass recitative dispersed by soprano and tenor arias at the beginning and at the end of the part. Such a framing Haydn used to demonstrate the logic of development in his work.

In ascendant scale the soprano recitative of Gabriel leads quickly to the Bass recitative and adagio of Raphael.20 It runs the gamut of what is happening at the moment. Violin and cello parties are ornamented by cembalo and basso. It is necessary to admit that for all bass recitatives in this part Haydn uses play of cembalo accompanied by basso.

After the apogee of bass recitatives and arias has been reached out the flow of music goes on a descending scale. The culmination takes place at the tenor recitative of Uriel when God creates a man.21 It is the point at which the chorus reaches its height in an expanded reprise.

It gives more impressions in the form and execution. Mainly in a major key, the flow of instrumental play is varied according to the main point of the development part. Recognizably related to the exposition, the main theme of creation in the second part is reflected through the final creation of a man.22

This idea is felt in the demonstrative representation of choral singing after the moment of creation of living beings. The emergence of a man is represented in the oratorio by dint of exclamatory reactions seen in the various key. A single melodic and rhythmic idea at the end of the second part surpasses the main treatment that the composition embraces.

In this case one should pay attention to the fact that the jarring drops in sounding are intentionally used by Haydn to focus a listener on the reality of actions described. The creation of a man evokes everyone due to the many-faceted nature of signing at that moment.

All in all, the second part is introduced in fifteen acts which are implemented in terms of plain transition between them. Haydn’s harmony depicted in predominant use of choir to delineate the gist of the composition is apparent throughout the second part. It means that along with the exposition the second part describes the first six days of world’s creation.

The religious thematic of Haydn is depicted hereby through abrupt variations in key and music. It is picturesque to gain the momentum when everything states the glory and joy of God’s creation. The Classical tradition of Haydn is represented here through the features of sonata. It is appropriate to admit that the second part is also a tripartite unity of the opening, development, and coda (when God created a man).

Part III: The Garden of Eden

The concept of the third part evaluates the scope of events which took place in the Garden of Eden. It is a demonstration of human divinity at that moment. In this respect two soloists are added to the main three, i.e. Adam and Eve.

Their parties are described in the form of duet signing. Thus, it makes even more emphasis on the joyful recognition of what God made for people. To say more, Haydn does not describe Adam and Eve as sinners later on. The final act demonstrates the exhalation, for this happy pair was given such a great mercy to be that gorgeous.

Consisting of six acts, this part is not small in its main idea. The unabridged version of The Creation is better to be reproduced with wind band.23 Full of praises to God, the representation of instrumental and vocal characteristics is amplified by the arias of two main soloists in the part.

In this respect the duet of Eve and Adam is highlighted by soprano and bass parties.24 This signing is accompanied in a major key, so that to underline the triumphal objectivity of this glorious moment. It is remarkable that the main the parties of Uriel (tenor recitative) enclose the parties of Eve and Adam in a coherent entity of picaresque tuning.

The end of the part, as strange as it may seem, is incorporated into the final chorus. It is the moment when the characteristic feature of Classical tradition in music might take place. The question is about the use of coda which is known to prescribe the end of the melody exemplifying the inference of the whole composition. Haydn developed the final idea through the sequential fading of the violin parties.25 Hence, a listener gets a feeling of a substantial relief.

The exceptional value of The Creation

The Creation adored various contemporaries of Haydn. In this case it was no wonder that such eminent persons as Mozart and Werner were pleased to have been on the concert.26 Thus, the talent of Haydn, as an expressive composer of the Classical era in music, was recognized pro vita.

Actually the composition by Haydn can be distinguished from other oratorios and operas due to the fact that it was the first suchlike work produced in German and in English.27 The value of the whole work is that it lets a listener shape the patterned flow of music and signing in terms of homophonic implementation.

This honorable attitude of Joseph Haydn toward Johann Peter Salomon was a response of the first to the libretto he was given initially. It is here that Haydn start doing miracles by means of his deep and versatile talent in music. Owing to the help of his precious friend Baron van Swieten he dared translate the whole oratorio in English.28

Moreover, in the course of translating, no abruptness or scenes with loud chords were omitted but reflected in the similar way as it was pointed out in German variant.

The most startling impression gained after listening to the whole work is in ambiguous harmonies on muted strings, brass and timpani embodied in the expressiveness of vocal and orchestral representation.29 It is the way in which a listener gets bewildered and then relieved.

This contrast is merely included by Joseph Haydn throughout his capability of touching upon human innermost souls. Thus, it is better imposed in the central acts of the second part up to the end of the third one. The recapitulation is depicted in this huge piece of the oratory in quite an ostensive manner.


The outstanding masterpiece of Joseph Haydn The Creation represents a scope of ideas characterizing the composer as the eminent representative of Classical music. Thereupon, one should bear it in mind that The Creation is the masterpiece of music that made Haydn one of the most profound Viennese composers during Classical Period.

Having a thing with music and vocal, Haydn tried to incorporate beauty of both constituents in terms of the oratorio. In other words, he described the originality of his style through oratorio, not through traditional opera. Hence, each work by Haydn was acknowledged as a masterpiece at once.

It is no surprise, for the composer never stopped working over new acts or scenes for the whole composition. It was described on the experience of Haydn during 1796-1798 when he was creating The Creation. Thus, his large-scale work introduced in its bilateral performance turned the glory concerned with Haydn around.

The main recommendation for listeners is that the oratorio should be listened to from the very start up to the end without being disturbed. Only in this way the gist of The Creation can be designated in the conceptual unity.

Transitions followed by spontaneous chords and abrupt breakdowns are applied in the composition in the various key. Further still, C major and G major are the most peculiar keys as pertaining to the composition.30 Hence, a listener should be very attentive and accurate not to miss any sparkling detail.


Bawden, John. (1732-1809). 2009.

Brians, Paul. “Music of the Classical Period.” WSU. 1998.

Green, Janet. Musical Biographies. New York, NY: READ BOOKS, 2008.

Haydn, Joseph. The Creation in Full Score. Mineola, NY: Courier Dover Publications, 2001.

Jenkins, Neil. Haydn The Creation (King’s Music edition ed. N. Jenkins). ON PREPARING A NEWENGLISH TEXT FOR “THE CREATION”. 2009.

Muhlbach, L. Louisa of Prussia and Her Times. Translated by F. Jordan. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.

Neiderhiser, Jonathan. “Franz Joseph Haydn‟s Writing for Wind Instruments and the Evolution of the Military Band and Orchestral Wind Section.” WVU. 2008.

Norton, James R. Haydn’s World. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2007.

SDCO. “Haydn’s Masterpiece: The Creation.” San Diego Chamber Orchestra. 2008.


1 Janet, Green, Musical Biographies, (New York, NY: READ BOOKS, 2008), 361.

2 Janet, Green, Musical Biographies, 362.

3 L., Muhlbach, Louisa of Prussia and Her Times, Translated by F. Jordan. Whitefish, (MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005), 33.

4 James R., Norton, Haydn’s World, (New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2007), 12.

5 Janet, Green, Musical Biographies, 246.

6 Paul, Brians, Music of the Classical Period, WSU (23 June 1998).

7 Paul, Brians, Music of the Classical Period, 2.

8 Paul, Brians, Music of the Classical Period, 2.

9 SDCO, “Haydn’s Masterpiece: The Creation,” San Diego Chamber Orchestra, (2008), 1.

10 SDCO, “Haydn’s Masterpiece,” 1.

11 Jonathan, Neiderhiser, “Franz Joseph Haydn‟s Writing for Wind Instruments and the Evolution of the Military Band and Orchestral Wind Section,” WVU, (2008), 15.

12 John, Bawden, (1732-1809), (2009),  1.

13 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation in Full Score (Mineola, NY: Courier Dover Publications, 2001), 1.

14 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 27.

15 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 8.

16 Paul, Brians, Music of the Classical Period, 3.

17 John, Bawden, The Creation – Franz Joseph Haydn, 1.

18 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 14.

19 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 14.

20 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 14.

21 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 16.

22 Paul, Brians, Music of the Classical Period, 3.

23 Jonathan, Neiderhiser, “Franz Joseph Haydn‟s Writing, 3.

24 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 15.

25 Joseph, Haydn, The Creation, 20.

26 Neil, Jenkins, Haydn The Creation (King’s Music edition ed. N. Jenkins). ON PREPARING A NEWENGLISH TEXT FOR “THE CREATION,” (2009), 1.

27 Neil, Jenkins, Haydn The Creation, 1.

28 Neil, Jenkins, Haydn The Creation, 1.

29 John, Bawden, The Creation – Franz Joseph Haydn, 1.

30 John, Bawden, The Creation – Franz Joseph Haydn, 1.

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