Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 - 1809) was born at Rohrau, Austria.  His father was the village wheelwright, an he had 11 brothers and sisters.   His musical abilities were recognized by his family  early on, and he was taken in as a pupil and boarder by a nearby schoolmaster, to start his musical education.   Two years later he became a choirboy in Vienna at St Stephen's Cathedral.  From the age of 17 until he was 29, Haydn led a meagre existence as a music teacher in Vienna. 

His talent was spotted by a Prince on hearing one of Haydn's early symphonies, and so from 1761 to 1790 he was in the service of the wealthy Esterhazy family, who were his great benefactors for the rest of his life. Of the 104 symphonies Haydn wrote in his life, more than 80 were composed while he was employed by the Esterhazy family. He also wrote concertos, string quartets and piano sonatas.

Haydn was already 24 when Mozart was born, and the younger composer became one of Haydn's friends, and learnt a great deal from him. Haydn's fame had spread across Europe by 1890, and he longed to become free to travel and promote his compositions abroad. Then in 1790 he was "free", on a generous pension, and visited London, where he was acclaimed by all. He wrote his last 12 "London" symphonies in this period. King George III of England offered Haydn a post in London, as  his grandfather George I had also offered a post to Handel.  Unlike Handel, Haydn declined, and returned to Vienna, where he died in 1809, famous all over Europe and honoured by all. He is often called "the Father of the Symphony", or "the father of modern instrumental music".