Category Archives: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Franz Joseph Haydn Composer of the Week

Hyden conducting string quartet

Haydn conducting a string quartet [Britannica.com]

 

Name: Franz Joseph Haydn

Born:March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria (About 46 km South East of Vienna)

Died: May 31, 1809, Vienna, Austria

WhereHaydnLivedVersion2

 

Nationality: Austrian

Genre: Classical

Famous Works:

 

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1809) was an Austrian composer,
one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. Haydn wrote 107 symphonies in total, as well as 83 string quartets, 45 piano trios, 62 piano sonatas, 14 masses and 26 operas, amongst countless other scores.
[ClassicFM.com]

Life:

Franz Joseph Hayden was the second son of a wheelwright father and cook mother. His musicianship was recognized when he was a young boy. At six he was sent away to a school run by his cousin where he sang in the choir, learned music theory and took lessons on several instruments. In 1740, when Hayden was just 8 he moved to Vienna at the invitation of the music director of St. Stephen’s Cathedral to serve as a choirister.

He stayed at the choir school for nine years, acquiring an enormous
practical knowledge of music by constant performances but, to his disappointment, receiving little instruction in music theory. He had to work hard to fulfill his
obligations as a chorister, and when his voice changed, he was expelled from both the cathedral choir and the choir school. [Britannica.com]

Thus at 17 he was left to fend for himself, working odd musical jobs and teaching himself musical theory. He began to build his reputation as an accompanist and composer. In 1758 he was put in charge of a 16 piece ensemble as music director and chamber composer for Count Ferdinand Maximilian von Morzin. There he wrote his first symphonic work.

Haydn Library of Congress

Britannica.com

His next appointment was as assistant conductor to the court of Prince Esterhazy in 1761.  As assistant he “conducted the orchestra and coached the singers in almost daily rehearsals, composed most of the music required, and served as chief of the musical personnel. ” [ibid] He became the musical director in 1766. The Esterhazy family were  well known musical patrons and Haydn remained happily employed with them for over 30 years. Most of his enormous catalog of music (340 hours of it by some accounts) was written during that period.

Hayden and Mozart were both extremely popular in Vienna at the same time and they shared a good natured competition. Both men were inspired by the other’s work and they were friends. Mozart claimed that he learned how to write quartets from Hayden and dedicated a set of six quartets to the older composer. Haydn — already a master of the ‘surprise’ —  admired Mozart’s innovations and creativity and the younger composer’s influence made its way into Haydn’s compositions.

He took two extended trips to England, one in 1791 and one in 1794. Hayden’s musical genius was celebrated on both trips and he was much inspired by the change from Vienna to London. Over the course of his two trips he wrote 12 symphonies including The Surprise Symphony, the Military Symphony [Finale], the London Symphony and the Symphony No. 102 in B flat Major.  King George the Third personally entreated him to stay in London, but the composer returned Vienna and the Esterhazys.

It was on his way back from the first trip in 1792 that he met his most famous student, Beethoven. (Hayden also had a strong influence on the works of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms. )

Haydnportrait

By Ludwig Guttenbrunn – Photo Nevilley at en.wikipedia. Public Domain

Back in Vienna he put the finishing touches on a new piece, an oratorio, The Creation. It was so popular that Haydn went to work on another, The Seasons [Spring] based on a poem by James Thomson. Originally written in English and then translated into German it could be performed in either language. He wrote six masses,  and more string quartets.

In 1797 he wrote a composition that is perhaps his most performed piece today,“Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser” (“God Save Emperor Francis”). It became the national anthem for Austria then was recycled into “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” (“Germany, Germany Above All Else”) which is Germany’s national anthem.

As Napoleon took Vienna in 1809 Haydn refused to leave his house. ” Napoleon placed a guard of honour outside Haydn’s house, and the enfeebled composer was much touched by the visit of a French hussars’ officer who sang an aria from The Creation. On May 31 Haydn died peacefully, and he was buried two days later.” [Britannica.com]

By one estimate, Haydn produced some 340 hours of music, more than Bach or HandelMozart or Beethoven. Few of them lack some unexpected detail or clever solution to a formal problem. [AllMusic.com]

800px-Joseph_Haydn by Thomas Hardy 1791

Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy, painted in 1791

Musical Output:

  • 108 Symphonies
  • 20 opera
  • 14 masses
  • 6 oratorios
  • 68 String Quartets
  • 2 cello concerti [Cello Concerto in C-Adagio]
  • 32 divertimenti for small orchestra
  • 126 trios for baryton, viola and cello
  • 47 piano sonatas

Haydn began his career composing under a Baroque influence. From there he “adopted the light, gay, and elegant musical style that was popular at the time in Austria”[Britannica.com] Then the darker, more emotional style of north German composers began showing up in his music. When he came into his own maturity as a composer he was able to marry all three styles.

 

Here is Piano TV’s review of Haydn’s music  including The Piano Sonata  in E-flat major;  Piano trio in G Major in Gypsy trio; 11th Keyboard Concerto in D Major; String Quartet  No. 65 Op. 76 No. in E Major; London Symphony; The Creation Oratorio “In Splendor Bright”

 

And if you are really sparked to listen to much more Haydn… go to Classicfm.com’s article that ranks his symphonies “in order of greatness“.  The poor guy who got assigned the task to listen to each symphony and do the ranking does a great job of explaining why each one works (or doesn’t) in his opinion. And there is lots of lovely audio.

 

 

For a YouTube biography you can go HERE. She does a good job of giving all the facts in a light, quick way. So if you don’t want to read all of my bio, this is a good alternative.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1.27.14 Thought of the Day

“My great-grandfather used to say to his wife, my great-grandmother, who in turn told her daughter, my grandmother, who repeated it to her daughter, my mother, who used to remind her daughter, my own sister, that to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know the right moment to stop.”–Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Painting of Mozart by Barbara Krafft (1764–1825) (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Painting of Mozart by Barbara Krafft (1764–1825) (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on this day in Salzberg, Austria in 1756. Today is the 258 anniversary of his birth.

The youngest of seven children, only Wolfgang and he sister Maria Anna (whose nickname was Nannerl) survived infancy. His father, Leopold Mozart was a composer, teacher and violinist. Leopold began teaching Nannerl to play the keyboard. Little Wolfgang looked on and was soon absorbing the basics of the instrument. By four years old Leopold would play a game with his son, teaching him a minuet  which Wolfgang would play back “faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy, and keeping exactly in time… At the age of five, he was already composing little piece, which he played to his father who wrote them down.” [Mozart: a Documentary Biography]

 

 

Portrait de Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Salzbourg, 1756-Vienne, 1791) jouant à Paris avec son père Jean-Georg-Léopold et sa sœur Maria-Anna [Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]

Portrait de Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Salzbourg, 1756-Vienne, 1791) jouant à Paris avec son père Jean-Georg-Léopold et sa sœur Maria-Anna [Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]

 

 

Starting in 1762 the Mozarts began to tour Europe. At first Leopold, Nannerl and Wolfgang all performed, but by 1769 Nannerl was left at home, and Leopold focused his efforts exclusively on Wolfgang.  The purpose of the tours was to showcase the talents of the family and to try to get a position as a court composer. In March  of 1773, at 17 years of age,  Mozart was appointed as assistant concert master for the Royal Court of  Salzburg. Wolfgang was prolific in composing a number of instrumental pieces (string quartets, symphonies, sonatas) and vocal works (masses minor operas). Most notable works from this time period were his violin concertos (espeically K. 216, 218 and 219) and his breakthrough Piano Concerto  in E-flat (K. 271). But Salzburg offered him neither the salary nor the opportunity to write operas that he desired and he began to look elsewhere.

Here’s Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D, K. 218

He resigned from his post and traveled to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich touring, and looking for a new position. Eventually he wound up in Vienna as an independent composer and performer.

The year 1784, proved the most prolific in Mozart’s performance life. During one five-week period, he appeared in 22 concerts, including five he produced and performed as the soloist. In a typical concert, he would play a selection of existing and improvisational pieces and his various piano concertos. Other times he would conduct performances of his symphonies. The concerts were very well attended as Mozart enjoyed a unique connection with his audiences who were, in the words of Mozart biographer Maynard Solomon, “given the opportunity of witnessing the transformation and perfection of a major musical genre.” [Biography.com]

In 1776 and 1777 he had back to back operatic successes when he joined forces with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte for  The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.

Circa 1780: Family portrait: Maria Anna ("Nannerl") Mozart, her brother Wolfgang, their mother Anna Maria (medallion) and father, Leopold Mozart, by artist: Johann Nepomuk della Croce [Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]

Circa 1780: Family portrait: Maria Anna (“Nannerl”) Mozart, her brother Wolfgang, their mother Anna Maria (medallion) and father, Leopold Mozart, by artist: Johann Nepomuk della Croce [Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons]

Emperor Joseph II appointed him “Chamber Composer” a decade later.

It was a part-time appointment with low pay, but it required Mozart only to compose dances for the annual balls. The modest income was a welcome windfall for Mozart, who was struggling with debt, and provided him the freedom to explore more of his personal musical ambitions. [Ibid]

His financial problems continued, due in part to his lavish spending, and in part to the fact that Austria was at war. The composer sank into depression.

The two-year period of 1788-1789 was a low point for Mozart, experiencing in his own words “black thoughts” and deep depression. Historians believe he may have had a cyclothymiacs personality with manic-depressive tendencies, which might explain the periods of hysteria coupled with spells of hectic creativity. [Ibid]

He rallied in 1791 (his final year). He composed The Magic Flute, one of his most beloved Operas, along with piano and clarinet concertos, a string quintet in E-Flat and his Ave Verum Corpus . All the while he was working on his Requiem.

Here’s Mozart’s Ave Verum:

Mozart died at the age of 35 on December 5 1791. The cause of death is unclear. While his death certificate list  “Military Fever” as the final cause, there have been over 100 theories on how he died (including mercury poisoning and rheumatic fever.)
He composed more than 600 works in his short life. “Works that are widely acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music.” [The New World Enclyclopedia]


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