Where Did ‘Papa’ Haydn Get His Nickname?

Portrait by Thomas Hardy, Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Haydn – often called the father of the symphony and the string quartet, teacher to many and all around good-natured man. To this day, he still wears the nickname “Papa Haydn” – but where did it come from?

Haydn earned the name “Papa” in many ways. He cared deeply for his students and musicians in orchestras. He was a patient, gentle, and good-humored teacher. He was also a prolific composer and earned a reputation as the finest of his time – recognition that has lived on to this day. He also contributed so much to the mediums of the string quartet (he wrote 68!) and the symphony (106!), he is often called the “father” of both genres.

One of his best loved symphonies, “Farewell,” is a great example of both his humor and his caring nature.  After a season that had gone on too long, Haydn decided to send a goofy reminder to his patron, Prince Esterhazy, that it was high time the musicians be released and allowed to return home. The last movement slowly decreased in the amount of players, and the musicians actually left the stage during the performance. Luckily, the message was received and the musicians were released for the season.

With his caring nature and his contributions to music, it’s easy to see how he wholeheartedly earned the nickname, and how to this day we still call him “Papa Haydn.”

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Photo of downtown Mount Vernon, Washington. Black and white photo from the 1900s.

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