Research Papers and Essays
Ronnie Oldham

Mozart and Haydn: More Alike than Different

    The highly acclaimed masterpieces penned by both Mozart and Haydn have long withstood the critical test of time. Along with Beethoven, a one-time pupil of Haydn, they are considered the three great composers responsible for the development of the Classical style in music during the eighteenth-century; symphony, opera, string quartet, and concerto, in particular. Haydn is undeniably recognized as one of the most creative and resourceful composers in history, yet he continues to be overshadowed by Mozart. Does that mean that Mozart had more talent or that he contributed more to the development of western music? Talent alone cannot account for the accomplishments and innovations of these two brilliant composers. The music they left us is a product of their natural ability combined with formal training and experience, personal inspiration and motivation, hard work, and a good deal of being in the right place at the right time. Does modern society judge the quality of a musical composition in light of the man who composed it, as well as the circumstances surrounding when it was written, or does the music stand alone without regard for the man? Perhaps Mozart’s death at the relatively young age of thirty-five or the popular tales of his cavalier attitude and active libido influenced the way in which future generations would see him. Haydn was apparently deeply religious and certainly more virtuous than Mozart, although they became friends and had significant influences on each other’s work. Their lives, taken as a whole almost two hundred years later, with the added benefit that accompanies hindsight, suggest that, despite their obvious differences in values, attitude, and lifestyle, they actually had much in common.

    Haydn has been described as deliberate, kindly, bright, and capable of calm judgement. Mozart, in contrast, has been called sensitive, vivacious, arrogant, and impressionable. The most obvious differences between Mozart and Haydn occur as a direct result of their lineage and other circumstances surrounding their youth. By the age of six, Mozart and Haydn had both displayed considerable natural talent; however, their prospects for wealth and fame were vastly different. To succeed as a composer, one’s music must be performed and heard. Getting a commission or control of an orchestra was a lofty goal. Any successful composer would, by necessity, have to be intelligent and it is natural to assume that either Mozart or Haydn could have been successful at endeavors other than music, yet each was led to music by circumstance, if not fate.

    Joseph Haydn’s father, Mathias Haydn, was a wheelwright in the Lower Austrian village of Rohrau and, prior to their marriage, his mother, Anna-Maria, had been a cook for a local lord. Mathias had a good tenor voice and had learned to strum the harp on a trip to Frankfort am Mayn (Griesinger 8-11). The Haydns, though peasants, appear to have been a fairly musical family. In fact, two of Joseph’s siblings would later be quite successful in music, one as a composer and the other as a tenor (Landon 22). Haydn’s parents recognized the musical potential in their son and desired to provide a proper education for young Franz Joseph, but their meager means were far insufficient. Luckily, for the rest of the world, a distant cousin in the nearby town of Hainburg offered to take the five-year-old boy into his charge. The cousin was a school principal and choirmaster and, as such, was able to provide a fundamental knowledge of music, including training on almost all wind and string instruments. Still, it was not a pleasant circumstance for Haydn. The cousin had a growing family of his own and only a modest salary to support them. According the 15th Edition Encyclopædia Britannica, "Joseph was not given the love and care a child needs" (5.770). Haydn is quoted as saying "I shall owe it to that man even in my grave that he taught me so many things, though in the process I received more floggings than food." (Griesinger 8-11). At the age of eight, Joseph was offered a position as a chorister at the most important church in Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There he received much practical experience in music performance, but the accommodations were not much better than at his cousin’s and he increasingly desired to learn music theory. After his voice finally broke at age 17, rather than become a castrati over the objections of his father (Griesinger 8-11), he was discharged from the choir and left to his own devices.

    Mozart, on the other hand, was born to a well respected family. His father, Leopold, a highly esteemed violinist and composer in his own right, recognized the potential in Mozart’s ear sophistication and musical memory. Leopold saw "a faint hope of achieving the desired social advancement that he had only partly fulfilled by his own efforts (Elias 69)" and set young Wolfgang on an intensive curriculum of musical studies. By the age of five, he was composing music; at six he was a keyboard virtuoso. His growing reputation as a child prodigy resulted in Leopold taking him on first of many concert tours throughout Europe and England, showcasing the boy’s unique talents to the astonishment of nobility and royalty. While Mozart was still In his teens, Leopold secured for his son a salaried position as Konzertmeister for the Archbiship Colloredo of Salzburg. Though their exchanges were probably somewhat different than depicted in the 1984 movie, Amadeus, Mozart was hardly challenged by his assigned tasks and it soon became clear to both Mozart and his father that a change was needed. Leopold petitioned the Archbishop on behalf of his son and was granted his release. By this time Mozart was twenty-one and ready to break the ties of paternal domination. By the age of twenty-five, though he had failed to secure a court position, he had written three symphonies and a well-received opera. At odds with his father, he went to Vienna to set about earning a living.

    Mozart’s travels with his parents exposed him to cosmopolitan range of influences, including meeting the greatest composers of his time. Haydn had never traveled more than eighty miles from Vienna until, at the age of sixty, he went to London. At least in Vienna, much of the world’s best music could come to him. Mozart and Haydn also influenced each other’s work. As early as 1770, Mozart’s compositions showed increasing evidence of Haydn’s influence. Sometimes it is apparent in "thematic invention, but more often in the development of his compositional technique" (Schmid 94). The warm relationship between the two gave impetus for "one of Mozart’s most glorious works, the quartet cycle of the years 1782-85, which he dedicated to Haydn" (Schmid 99). Though Haydn incorporated some of Mozart’s melodies into his own compositions, he must have been sensitive to comparisons with Mozart because "in 1787 he refused an opera buffa for Prague, partly to avoid comparison ‘with the great Mozart’, yet in the same year he was proposing to compose opera seria for London" (London 186). Haydn was also influenced by Handel and had a significant influence on Beethoven. Mozart was influenced by J.S. Bach. Italian opera and Baroque music had a significant impact on both composers. Haydn’s time in Vienna allowed him to be exposed to the height of Italian Baroque. Mozart experienced the pompous and solemn world of the Baroque through his father. In addition, both Mozart and Haydn were exposed to common folk music. Haydn lived in an environment surrounded by such music. Mozart did not live in such an environment; yet, as Ernst Schmid explains:

"that style [Baroque] reaches the young Mozart only indirectly through his father. Wolfgang grew up in the age of Empfindsamkeit and of the style galant, and his enlightened father acquainted him with a number of fashionable works, as can be seen in his early musical notebooks…A careful examination of the books discloses that Mozart was exposed to another sphere-that of native folk music, with which none of the great masters remained unacquainted" (87).

    Contrasting Haydn’s music with Mozart’s, the book Haydn: His Life and Music states "Uniqueness is a clear sign of artistic maturity and, through features like the wider harmonic vocabulary owe something to Mozart, the end result is completely unlike anything in Mozart. Typically, in Haydn’s music of this period (1781-1790), harmonic sophistication does not produce melancholy, but reinforces the sinewy textures (Landon 202).

    While touring through Mannheim, Mozart met and fell in love with Aloysia Weber. Albert Einstein, as editor of the first thorough revision of the Köchel catalog, said of her: "True coquette that she was, she encouraged Mozart only so far as her mother permitted, and only as long as he seemed a good matrimonial prospect" (78). Einstein’s worst criticism, however, was reserved for Aloysia’s sister, Constanze, who Mozart later married.

"… she was not even a good housewife. She never looked ahead, and instead of making her husband’s life and work easier by providing him with external comforts she thoughtlessly shared the boheminaism of his way of living… Constanze’s musical gifts were not very considerable as expressed either in her singing or in her understanding of music, and the fact that Mozart never finished any of the compositions intended for her is significant" (78-80)

    Like Mozart, Haydn made the fateful mistake of marrying the sister of his true love. Haydn had fallen in love with a young student, Therese, but she entered a nunnery in 1756 (Landon 31). Four years later he married Therese’s elder sister, Maria Anna Aloysia Apollonia. Griesinger, who actually met Frau Haydn in 1799, wrote:

"Haydn had no children by this marriage. ‘My wife was incapable of having children, and thus I was less indifferent to the charms of other women.’ Altogether his choice was not a happy one, for his wife had a domineering, unfriendly character; and he had carefully to hide his income from her since she was a spendthrift. She was also bigoted, and … more liberal in her support of charity than her financial situation allowed… ‘She doesn’t deserve anything, for it is a matter of indifference whether her husband is a cobbler or an artist.’" (15)

    In any event, it was not a good marriage and there is some indication that, regardless of her husbands infidelity, Frau Haydn would have had difficulties with her husbands meteoric rise in social stature, as she spoke a primitive Viennese dialect and was totally uneducated (Landon 32).

    Much has been written about Mozart having debts and being buried in a pauper’s grave upon his death in December 1791, yet he worked and received good commissions almost continuously. Mozart’s income was far above that of a common musician. He did acquire some debt, primarily as a result of the couple’s taste for hob-nobbing with the rich and famous, but it did not keep them from having servants, fine clothes and experiencing the Vienna party life. Who is to say that Mozart’s lifestyle, primarily the type of activities that did not appeal to Haydn, did not destroy his already fragile health, resulting in his own premature demise? Mozart was indeed buried in a multiple grave, but that was standard procedure at the time in Vienna for a person of his social and financial situation. "Although Haydn, like any other eighteenth-century gentleman, enjoyed his glass of wine" (London 239), he led a much more pious life. It is generally agreed that Haydn led a prosperous, if not personally fulfilling, life throughout his adult years.

    For both men, music was their escape hatch as well as a comfort and refuge. It was a means to an end, to leave to pain of their younger years. Music provided Haydn with an avenue to happiness and a better life. Once he left home, he almost never went back (Britannica 5.771). For Mozart, it undoubtedly earned him long periods of much-craved love and admiration. Both saw opportunities to exploit their talents and better their lives. Both were men who actualized their potential and were acclaimed by those whose opinions they valued. Both had an unmistakable impact on the evolution of music and those who would create it. Indeed, they did have much in common.


Works Cited

Encyclopædia Britannica. 15th ed. 1990.

Einstein, Alfred. Mozart, His Character, His Work. New York: Oxford University Press. 1945.

Elias, Norbert. Mozart: Portrait of a Genius. Ed. Michael Schroter. Trans. Edmund Fephcott. Berkely and Los Angeles: Univeristy of California Press. 1993.

Griesinger, G.A. Biographische Notizen uber Joseph Haydn, Leipzig 1810; new ed. Franz Grasberger, Vienna 1954. Landon and Jones 23-24

Landon, H.C. Robbins and David Jones. Haydn: His Life and Music. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1988.

Schmid, Ernst Fritz. "Mozart and Haydn." The Creative World of Mozart. Ed. Paul Lang. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1963.



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