The three prominent composers of the classical period were Franz Haydn, Wolfgang Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. These three composers together are known as the masters of the Viennese School. All three of them studied and composed their music in a time of experimentation. They examined the different uses of the major-minor system and then capitalized on the possibilities. From this came the ideal form, the sonata. Franz Joseph Haydn was born in Austria in 1732. At the age of eight he became a choirboy at St. Stevens Cathedral in Vienna, he stayed there for eight years.
At the age of sixteen Haydn got out on his own and made a living teaching and playing with bands in the streets. In 1961 Haydn began to serve the Esterhazys, a wealthy Hungarian family. Haydns service to the Hungarian family is a perfect example of the patronage system. He stayed with the family for almost thirty years. After leaving the Esterhazy family in1791 he visited England twice with great success. Franz Joseph Haydn died in Vienna in 1809. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in Austria. Mozart was a child prodigy. At the age of 5 he composed his first minuets and at age six he performed before the Empress Maria Therese.
In 1763, led by his father Leopold, Mozart went on tour to Paris and London, visiting many courts and also played for the French and English royal families. He composed his first symphony in 1765 and three years later his first opera. Although his career had much promise many became disappointed with his work. Unlike Haydn, Mozart did not agree with the patronage system. After his patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, dismissed him he became a musical freelancer. Mozart found it hard to find suitable work for a composer with the skills he had, because of his rebellious attitude.
He made his living by teaching, publishing music, and playing at patrons houses. In 1781, Mozart met Haydn and they soon became good friends. Haydn was one of the most influential composers of his time and Mozart admired him and was influenced by his music style. Hadynt quartets acted as models for Mozart, who also used Haydns four-movement plan compared to his earlier quartets, which only contained three movements. In 1784 Mozart and Haydn were joined with two other prominent composers of their time and formed a string quartet.
And in the following year Mozart held a party in honor of Haydn and played all six Haydn quartets, composed by Mozart. Unfortunately, at a young age of 35, Mozart died. The third master of the Viennese School was Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven was born in Germany in 1770. Although Beethovens father was a singer for the prince, he had a difficult childhood. Beethovens father was an alcoholic and Beethoven was forced to support his mother and younger siblings. At the age of 17, Beethoven visited Vienna and was able to perform for Mozart, who was impressed by the young Beethoven.
Beethoven stands apart from Haydn and Mozart in several ways. Whereas Haydn was a perfect example of the patronage system and Mozart the exact opposite, Beethoven falls in the middle. Although he received gifts from noble patronage and gave lessons, he also was able to play at concerts aimed at the middle-class. Beethoven conducted symphonies and concerts and also played his own piano concertos. He was known to be a difficult and irritable man but he strongly believed in the brotherhood of man and the freedom for all regardless of class. What also sets him apart from Haydn and Mozart is the time in which he was a prominent composer.
During Haydn and Mozarts time it was extremely hard to break out of the royal patronage system, which Mozart found out. All three masters of the Viennese School were composers in the Classical period but Beethoven was also the transition between the Classical and Romantic periods. In 1792 Beethoven received composition lessons from Haydn and they became lifelong friends. In 1802 he was starting to loose his hearing, and by 1824 he was almost completely deaf. Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827, and in his 57 years was able to compose nine symphonies, sixteen quartets, and thirty-two piano sonatas.