Haydn and Mozart
Updated: Apr 26
With Haydn’s Symphony No.97 in our current music repertoire, we take a look at his relationship with Mozart.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) were friends. Like many other younger musicians, Mozart addressed Haydn with the honorific term‘Papa’. Evidence suggests that they enjoyed each other's company and greatly respected each other's work, and that Haydn acted as a mentor to Mozart. Six string quartets by Mozart are dedicated to Haydn K.387,421,428,458,464, 465, the Haydn Quartets.
Haydn was already a fairly well-known young composer in Mozart's childhood. His six string quartets Opus 20 (1772), the Sun Quartets, were widely circulated and are believed to be the inspiration for the six early string quartets K.168-173 Mozart wrote aged 17 during a 1773 visit to Vienna, the Viennese Quartets.
There were various points in the 1770s and early 1780s when Haydn and Mozart may have met; Haydn visiting Vienna from his normal work venues of Esterháza and Eisenstadt, Mozart from Salzburg. The earliest they likely would have met is Christmas1783, at a performance sponsored by the Vienna Tonkunstler-Societat a charitable organization for musicians. On the program were works by both Haydn (Il ritorno diTobia) and Mozart,(Misero! osogno![K.431], and,on the first night,a piano concerto).
At this time, Haydn, aged 51, was the most celebrated composer in Europe. Mozart’s reputation, aged 27, was on the rise. His opera The Abduction from the Seragliohad premiered with great success in Vienna, and was being produced in several other cities. Haydn published his Keyboard Concerto No.11 in D Major in1784 and the influence of Mozart is deemed to be evident.
Mozart's view of Haydn:
Contemporary biographer Franz Niemetschek wrote that Mozart had ‘High esteem for true merit,and regard for the individual,influenced his judgment of works of art. He was always very touched when he spoke of the two Haydns or other great masters’. The second being Joseph’s brother Michael, who was both Leopold and W.A.Mozart's friend and colleague whilst in Salzburg the cathedral organist-choirmaster. Niemetschek also wrote ‘At a private party a new work of Joseph Haydn was being performed. Besides Mozart there were a number of other musicians present, among them a certain man who was never known to praise anyone but himself. He was standing next to Mozart and found fault with one thing after another. Fora while Mozart listened patiently; when he could bear it no longer and the fault- finder once more conceitedly declared:"I would not have done that", Mozart retorted: "Neither would I,but do you know why? Because neither of us could have thought of anything so appropriate.’ By this remark [Mozart] made for himself yet another irreconcilable enemy.
Haydn’s view of Mozart:
Haydn freely praised Mozart, without jealousy,to his friends. He wrote to Franz Rott, ‘If only I
could impress Mozart's inimitable works on the soul of every friend of music, and the souls of high personages in particular, as deeply,with the same musical understanding and with the same deep feeling, as I understand and feel them, the nations would vie with each other to
possess such a jewel. ’To musicologist Charles Burney he said, "I have often been flattered by
my friends with having some genius, but he was much my superior." In a letter to his friend Marianne von Genzinger, he confessed to dreaming about Mozart's work, listening happily to a performance of The Marriage of Figaro.