On 14 May 1780 Haydn received his first major distinction from abroad. The Philharmonic Academy of Modena nominated Haydn as an honorary member. Orders for compositions arrived from a variety of European countries. The Spanish city of Cádiz, for example, requested the orchestral composition The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross. In France Haydns compositions had been widely circulated beginning in1764. The Paris Symphonies Nos. 82-87 and Symphonies Nos. 88-92 owe their existence to Claude Francois-Marie Rigoley Count d`Ogny (1757-1790), one of the initiators of the Concerts de la Loge Olympique and one of the leading Freemasons in France. Haydn`s relations with England began to intensify in 1782 when attempts were first made to invite him to London.
Haydn`s appearance is known from many descriptions and a large number of portraits and busts. He was somewhat below average height (...), his gaze expressive, fiery, yet modest, kind, inviting´´ (Dies). In daily life Haydn possessed pleasant qualities such as friendliness, helpfulness and understanding toward his musicians. A special trait apart from his mischievousness sense of humour´´ was his great love of order, which characterised him all of his life. As a member of the princely court Haydn had acquired social graces: ... I associated with emperors, kings and many men of great standing and received many flattering words from them....´´ (Griesinger).
In December 1781 Haydn gave musical instruction to Maria Feodorovna of Russia, the wife of Grand Duke and later Tsar Paul I of Russia. The string quartets from Op. 33 published a short time later are dedicated to the grand duke and are consequently known as the Russian´´ quartets. In 1805 Haydn sent songs for three and four voices to Maria Feodorovna through his former student Neukomm, for which he was rewarded a precious ring.
During the reign of Emperor Joseph II (1780-1790) Freemasonry, which was increasingly popular in educated circles, had also aroused Haydn`s interest. On 11 February 1785 he became a member of the True Harmony´´ lodge. The day after Haydn`s acceptance, a private concert was held at the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart`s (1756-1791). It was Haydn`s first opportunity to hear Mozart`s new string quartets, which Mozart dedicated to Haydn.
From 1780 Haydn remained in steady correspondence with the Artaria music publishing firm in Vienna. The piano sonatas, chamber music and songs were the first works which brought Haydn financial gain: a total of 20 compositions were printed by this publisher despite the efforts of other publishers such as Breitkopf & Hartel in Leipzig, Boyer in Paris, Forster in London and Torricella in Vienna to publish Haydn`s work. Haydn took increasing advantage of these new business connections but encountered problems since he was unable to provide enough compositions due to the enormous demand for his music. Artaria was Haydn`s main publisher until 1790, and the contact remained intact later on as well.
In 1779 29-year-old singer Luigia Polzelli (1750-1832) and her elderly husband Antonio, a violinist, were recruited into the services of Prince Esterházy. Shortly after their employment both were supposed to be dismissed, but Haydn appears to have hindered this. Until the death of Prince Nicholas in 1790 Luigia Polzelli remained at Eszterháza - as Haydn`s mistress, which numerous letters show. As Luigia lacked a remarkably beautiful voice, Haydn arranged her arias as advantageously for her as possible. In 1791 while Haydn in London, Luigia`s husband died and she returned to Italy. They never saw each other again. On several occasions Haydn provided her with financial support and after his return to Vienna looked after Luigia`s two sons.
In June 1789 Joseph Haydn received a letter which laid the foundation for a friendship of unique character. Marianne von Genzinger (1750-1793), the wife of Prince Nicholas` physician in Vienna, sent him a piano score she had written using an andante from one of his symphonies. With a request for correction and the expressed hope of soon seeing Haydn in Vienna, a long correspondence began, providing us a glimpse into the personality of Haydn. His admiration of Genzinger`s 23 year younger, well-educated wife moved Haydn to reveal his profoundest feelings and need for understanding concerning his sense of loneliness at Eszterháza.
On 28 September 1790 Prince Nicholas I the lover of splendour´´ passed away, and with his death an epoch in the world history of music came to an end. Prince Paul Anton II (1738-1794), son and successor to Nicholas I, was less interested in music and dismissed the orchestra and singers within a few days. Only Haydn and concert master Luigi Tomasini remained officially in the service of the prince. With an annual pension of 1000 gulden, Haydn retained his title as kapellmeister, though he no longer had any obligation toward Prince Paul Anton. The fairytale of Eszterháza´´ was over. Extraordinary opportunities had been opened up to Joseph Haydn in those three decades. He relocated to Vienna, but would leave there again soon after.