Joseph Haydn was born in the village of Rohrau, about 30km to the east of Vienna, in 1732. He was brought to Vienna in 1740 to sing in the choir of the Stephansdom after being 'talent-spotted' in Hainburg – not far from Rohrau – where he was being trained in music (from the tender age of 5) by a schoolmaster relative (Frankh) of his parents. When his voice broke in 1749 he was considered of no further use to the Stephansdom choir and was dismissed.

With little formal education, but with knowledge gained by his acute observation of the music of the Stephansdom, he lived with some difficulty as a freelance musician, sharing a room with a friend, working as a teacher and occasional performer, and studying the works of Fux and CPE Bach to improve his skills. Eventually he became accompanist and servant to the Italian composer Porpora, moving on to work for two aristocratic patrons in Vienna: first Baron Fürnberg, then in the late 1750s for Count Morzin, his first full-time job, and for whom he wrote his first symphonies. In 1761 he was appointed assistant Kappellmeister for Prince Anton Esterházy at Eisenstadt.

Thirty years later, when the musicians at Eisenstadt were disbanded following the death of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, Haydn retained his salary and title, but moved back to be based in Vienna. In fact, freed of the ties of Eisenstadt, he set off on his first highly successful London visit at the invitation of the impresario Salomon, staying for 18 months from January 1991. On his return to Vienna he bought the quite substantial house that is now the Haydn Museum. He went to London again from February 1794 to August 1795, a visit that was even more successful both financially and artistically.

The Haydn Museum was five minutes walk from my hotel. As is usual with the Wien Museum places, the display consists largely of contemporary drawings, paintings and copies of manuscripts, etc. The etching of the composer and conductor Antonio Salieri, Haydn's contemporary, is there, as everywhere; and two large paintings side by side of the music patron Gottfried van Swieten, and the organist Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, with whom Beethoven studied composition after not getting on too well with Haydn. The rooms nicely preserved, and a real feeling that they could have been this way when Haydn was here.

I was particularly interested in a coloured etching entitled Ansicht des Großer Redoutensaales der Wien Hofburg [View of the Redouten Hall of the Hofburg in Vienna] by Joseph Schütz, which shows a musical do for the rich and famous: musicians up on the balcony left, posh clothes everywhere. But right at the front, in the centre, clearly the focus, is what looks like a beggar holding out his bowl to a smart gentleman, who is very much looking down his nose; his wife turns away in disgust. Why this focus? What's the story? Back home, an internet search fails to provide a good answer. One of the few references suggests it's a masked ball at the Congress of Vienna in 1814 (probably correct), but also mentions a performance of Beethoven's seventh symphony. This symphony (and the eighth, and Fidelio) were indeed performed during the Congress, but clearly not by the few musicians lined along the gallery in the Redoutensaal in this picture, unless there are many more of them 'out of shot' – I count three violins, a bassoon and (I think) a horn. And it doesn't explain the beggar.

One room in the Haydn Museum is given over to a few effects of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897). One of these is a chair with a line of music and a simple tune painted on its back, with words underneath which the curator translated as: "Hey gypsy, play for me". The room felt a bit incongruous: Brahms was an admirer of Haydn, but then so were many other people. I guess, cynic than I am, that Wien Museum felt they should have a Brahms room somewhere, and Haydn's house was OK. Anyway, it was nicely done, as always.

Just over the river in Taborstraße, not far from the Johann-Strauss-Museum, I sought out the Kirche der Barmherzigen Brüder [Church of the Brothers of Mercy] where Haydn – then in his mid-20s – was organist from 1755-1758, a few years before starting his long employment in Eisenstadt. Taborstraße is a wide, dull street with parked cars and tram wires, and the weather was dire, so I took just a few photos of the outside and the plaque, using the Coolpix P5000 as being easier and more discreet.

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