Franz Joseph Haydn
There's a reason that young piano students learn a jingle about "Papa" Haydn: the prolific Austrian composer is not only regarded as the father of the symphony and the string quartet, but was also a teacher and father figure to Beethoven. With his instrumental music, "Papa" Haydn's influence far outlasted his own life. Born on Match 31, 1732, Haydn was the son of a wheelwright who began musical training in the choir of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. After early appointments with Hungarian royals and high society, he began writing symphonies for twice-weekly concerts at the prince's Tafelmusik and earned a wide reputation. He wrote a few operas with limited success, but throughout his life instrumental music -- symphonies, sonatas, and quartets -- remained his chief interest. In the 1780s, he wrote quartets of consequence and, at the behest of violinist J P. Salomon, traveled to London where his last 12 symphonies were composed. Returning to Vienna he penned his most important work, The Creation oratorio and sophisticated late quartets. By his death in 1809, he had won wide renown, even though he was considered a bit old-fashioned compared to his celebrated student.