FRANZ JOSEF HAYDN was born on March 31, 1732, at the little Austrian village of Rohrau. His parents were peasants, and his home was a one-story farmhouse. He showed musical inclinations at a very early age, and was trained to some extent by a cousin named Frankh. At length he was heard by Reutter, choir-director in the Vienna Cathedral, who persuaded the lad's parents to let him sing in the choir of St. Stephen's.
While Frankh was severe but earnest, Reutter was neither, and neglected his protégé altogether; so that while Haydn came to feel grateful to Frankh, he could remember only two lessons given to him by Reutter. But the young Franz kept on at the church singing, until his voice broke, and he was replaced by his brother Michael. Misfortune was now upon him. The Empress of Austria had said of him, "Young Haydn sings like a crow"; and perhaps this remark, as much as a prank played on a fellow student, caused his dismissal. At any rate, Haydn found himself discharged, after a flogging, when seventeen years old.
As a return home might have involved the giving-up of music, Haydn determined to stay in Vienna. He lived largely on the charity of friends, taught whenever he got a chance, and played violin for dances. Meanwhile he continued his studies. He used as models Fux's "Gradus ad Parnassum," Mattheson's works, and a set of six sonatas by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.
An unexpected loan from a kindly tradesman named Buchholtz enabled Haydn to hire a garret of his own. Through this he met Metastasio, who not only brought him fashionable pupils, but introduced him to Porpora. Haydn became the latter's valet in exchange for lessons; and he has been sometimes nicknamed "Porpora's boot-black." But Porpora helped Haydn greatly, by letting him accompany or sit by at the lessons of richer pupils. Here Haydn learned composition as well as singing.