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. Steven’s 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. Haydn’s 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. Hadyn’t quartets acted as models for Mozart, who also used Haydn’s 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.