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April 2021

Léopold Mozart, le père biologique

Joseph Haydn, le père spirituel ?

2ème Partie : « Papa Haydn »


“Before God and as an honest man, I must tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name; he has taste, and, furthermore, the greatest  knowledge of composition”.

This is how Haydn said about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on February 12, 1785 at the end of an evening during which Haydn, Leopold and the barons Tindi came to Leopold and played three of the six quartets Wolfgang dedicated to Haydn.


I - Haydn, first name Franz Joseph:

Franz Joseph Haydn[1] was born in 1732, 24 years before Mozart, and died in 1809 at the age of 77, i.e. 18 years after Mozart. His career spans over a period ranging from the end of baroque music to the beginnings of romanticism ... It extends from the Art of the Fugue (JS Bach) to the Pastoral Symphony (L. v Beethoven) published in May 1809.

When Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna forever one of his best friends and sponsors, Count Waldstein[2] gave him the following recommendation in 1792: “The Genius of Mozart is still mourning and weeping over the death of his pupil. He found a refuge but no occupation with the inexhaustible Haydn; through him he wishes once more to form a union with another. By the help of your assiduous labour you shall receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands. "

By convention, we place the "baroque" period at the beginning of the 17th century (1600). It continues with the "classical" period starting in 1750 which would end at the end of the 18th century.

The "romantic" period designates a movement that would embrace the entire 19th century[3].

The reality is not so clear-cut and can be different according to the German, French or Italian currents, ... Indeed, the end of the baroque era does not necessarily mean the beginning of the classical era, just as the hinge between the classical era and the romantic era is not as clear as the passage from one century to another.


More than a chronological classification, one could classify Haydn’s contemporaries according to the stylistic evolution of their compositions: to J.S. Bach the genius of the "baroque style" and the apotheosis of counterpoint; to Haydn and Mozart, the authorship of the "classical style", of the balance between fantasy and rationality, between invention and construction, between charm and rigor even if their compositions are neither free from contrasts nor surprises.

The romantic style, on the other hand, will be characterized as much by the exacerbation as by the internalization of feelings ... what some call "the exaltation of the ego", the seat of emotions to the detriment of reason.


The orchestra will gain strength and numbers. Without abandoning the violin, the piano in its modern version[4] will take a prominent place as much as a solo instrument as to accompany the lieder performer.


If Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are considered the pillars, the "triad" of Viennese classicism, don’t we find in some of their compositions the beginnings of a certain romanticism?


Wasn't there in Mozart himself both the gallant spirit of the 18th century, and the pathetic accents which already announced the romantic spirit of the beginning of the 19th century, questions Jean-Victor Hocquart?[5] Let’s not forget, he continues, that from 1770 to 1790 pre-romanticism was much more than a latent trend in Germany.


J. Massin, in reference to Mozart[6], prefers to substitute for the expression romanticism the qualifier "Sturm und Drang"[7], an expression born out of a Viennese literary movement which advocated the superiority of passions over reason.


It is often stated that the six quartets of Haydn's Opus 20[8], composed in 1772, fit perfectly into the "Sturm und Drang" movement.


[1] Depicted here in this portrait by Thomas Hardy.
[2] Ferdinand von Waldstein (1762-1823), composer, sponsor of the arts recommended that Beethoven study and train with Mozart and then Haydn during his two trips to Vienna in 1786 and then in 1792.
[3] Haydn's most famous contemporaries are therefore notably among the Baroque: Pachelbel, Telemann, J.S. Bach, ... Purcell, Handel, ... Couperin, Lully, Charpentier, Rameau, ... Monteverdi, Pergolesi, Allegri, Corelli, Scarlatti, Albinoni, Vivaldi, Porpora ... Among the classics: the sons Bach, Gluck, Gossec, Beethoven, Mozart, Pleyel
[4] The "modern" piano was developed by Sébastien Erard (competitor Ignace Pleyel). Erard is the creator of the principle of the double escapement which facilitates the repetitions of notes. The modern piano replaced the fortepiano which, replacing the harpsichord, allowed for the first time to play hard (forte) or soft (piano), hence its name "forte-piano"
[5] See Mozart - Ed° du Seuil.
[6] See Jean & Brigitte Massin, - Mozart - Ed° CFL 1958 page 680 note 1.
[7] "Sturm und Drang" (Tempest and Passion) is originally the title of a drama by Klinger performed in 1777. The characteristics of this movement applied to the musical genre are: the diversity of rhythms, the use of the minor mode and its affective dimension, the taste for chiaroscuro, muffled sounds, the recovery of counterpoint for expressive purposes.
[8] See extract from String Quartet Op 20 No. 5 (III - Adagio) by the Orion String Quartet for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

L. van Beethoven (1770-1827), Carl Maria von Weber[9] (1786-1826), but also Franz Schubert (1797-1828) should rather find their place in a truly "pre-romantic" period as the different genres are embodied in them. then cultivated by romantic composers. Indeed, Beethoven could be considered "one of the last classics in form and one of the first romantics in the enhancement of great ideals"[10]. With Beethoven, music takes the form of a message, till the universal message delivered, among other things, by Symphony No. 9.
But back to the relationship between Mozart and Haydn.


II - Why "Papa Haydn"?

For years the nickname “Papa Haydn” characterized the composer.
Several explanations have been given for this qualifier:
First, it was the musicians that Haydn was responsible for conducting at Prince Esterhazy's court as kapellmeister who allegedly named him because of his benevolent authority over them.
We will recall here the anecdote of the "Farewell Symphony"[11] which would testify to Haydn's willingness to act on behalf of his subordinates who, exhausted, demanded vacations. In the second part of the last movement of the symphony, the musicians take turns stopping playing and gradually leaving the ensemble ... The message is relatively clear, the metaphor will work, and Esterhazy will give them the leave they begged for.



[9] C.M. von Weber happens to be Constance Weber's cousin and therefore Mozart's cousin by marriage.

[10] See « Le romantisme en musique » in Encyclopédie Larousse.
[11] See extract from the last movement of the Farewell Symphony - IV. Final (New Year's Concert Vienna 2009 Barenboïm).

Another explanation would tend to attribute to Haydn the authorship of the development of the symphony and the string quartet; Haydn "father of the symphony", Haydn "father of the string quartet".
As for the symphony, the point is undoubtedly excessive. However, although the symphony existed before the birth of Haydn[12], he certainly had a crucial influence in the development of a new symphonic style. It was undoubtedly Haydn who guided the symphony to its maturity ... he will write 106 symphonies!
As for the string quartet, although Haydn was not the first composer to write for small-strength string ensembles, his contribution was essential. He composed 68[13], often in bunches of six.
It is said that it is the string quartets Opus 20[14] that earned their author the nickname "father of the string quartet".



[12] See for example “La symphonie des Plaisirs/ Symphony of Pleasures” by J.B. Lully (1632-1687) or “La Symphonie pour les Soupers du Roy” by M. Delalande (1657-1726).
[13] We could add the version originally composed for orchestra of "The Seven Last Words of Jesus on the Cross" and transposed for string quartet.
[14] Quartets known as "Sun Quartets" - See extract from String Quartet Op 20 No. 5 (I - Moderato) by the Orion String Quartet for Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Mozart, who had not yet met Haydn, under the shock of the discovery of the so-called "sun" quartets, wrote in quick succession in 1773 his series of six so-called "Viennese" quartets, he is 17 years old.
All biographers agree that it was Haydn who sealed the rules of the string quartet: the composition of the ensemble? two violins, a viola, a cello; the overall balance? the four instruments converse, dialogue, communicate or confront each other but are always expressed on an equal footing. Haydn limits the number of movements in a quartet to four.
Goethe wrote[15] "We hear four intelligent people conversing among themselves, we think we capture pieces of their conversation while discovering something specific to the instruments". This metaphor nicely captures two defining features of the genre: its intimate, personal nature as well as its capacity to convey profound musical thought through the essential ingredients of harmony and counterpoint[16].
It was the discovery of the Opus 33 quartets called "Russian Quartets" composed by Haydn in 1781, nine years after Opus 20, that again inspired Mozart. Like his elder, Mozart had abandoned the genre for 9 years. Deeply impressed by Haydn’s Op 33 quartets, Mozart wanted to rise to the level of his model. He composed the quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn from 1782 to 1785 which are, by his admission, the fruit of a long and arduous work.
Seven months after Papa Haydn’s compliment on Wolfgang[17], the Viennese publisher Artaria published the six “Quartets dedicated to J. Haydn”. This publication will be accompanied by the famous and moving dedication of Wolfgang to his friend:
“To my dear friend Haydn
A father who had decided to send his sons out into the great world thought it was his duty to entrust them to the protection and guidance of a man who was very famous at that time, and who happened moreover to be his best friend. In like manner, I send my six sons to you, most famous man and very dear friend. They are, indeed, the fruit of a long and laborious work… Please, then, receive them kindly and be to them a father, a guide, and a friend! ...
I entreat you, however, to be indulgent to those faults which may have escaped a father's partial eye, and in spite of them, to continue your generous friendship towards one who so highly appreciates it.
Meanwhile, I remain with all my heart, dearest friend,
Your most sincere friend.”

We recommend listening to the quartet n ° 19 K 465 in C minor "Les dissonances" (especially the first movement - Adagio)[18]. Obviously, we hear dissonances, strange friction of notes, which, when we do not know the work, leaves us wondering about its author. Some well-meaning musicians were tempted to correct the anomalies from which it suffered and, although he himself was quite troubled, Haydn defended Mozart by saying: "He must have his reasons".

III - "Monday Mozart composes like Haydn, Tuesday Haydn composes like Mozart".

Montaigne's most famous phrase will be remembered when discussing his friendship with La Boetie: “If I am pressed to say why I loved him, I feel it can only be explained by replying: Because it was he; because it was me.” Thus the author of the Essays summed up the dazzling friendship which bound the two men from 1558 to 1563. La Boetie had, moreover, had a premonitory vision of this posthumous success, when he wrote to Montaigne in a long poem: "If fate wills it, posterity, be sure, will bear our two names on the list of famous friends."[19]

“Monday Mozart composes like Haydn, Tuesday Haydn composes like Mozart”. One might be tempted to see in this saying which was still running in Vienna in the middle of the 19th century the equivalent of Montaigne's sentence ... It is true that like Montaigne and La Boetie, Mozart and Haydn appear in the list of famous friends.
But, as Jean Massin[20] writes, the friendship between the two men is all the more beautiful as they are profoundly different both in character and in aesthetics.
Rather than a spiritual fatherhood, it is therefore a deep friendship coupled with a sincere admiration that defines the bonds between Mozart and Haydn. We will obviously add the Mason fraternity. It will be recalled that Mozart and Haydn were initiated into the same Lodge two months apart in December 1784 and February 1785.
Mozart has a sincere regard for Haydn and does not suffer him to be denigrated or belittled.
J. F. Rochlitz relates the anecdote of an exchange between Mozart and a composer who was very critical of a new work by Haydn: I would not have done it like this, nor like that ...
"Sir, - Mozart replied with extreme vivacity - even if we both melted together, it would still take time for a Haydn to emerge ... No one can do it all - play and touch, make people laugh and move - all this as well as Haydn ”.[21]
He never hides his admiring affection "He alone has the secret of making me smile, of touching me in the depths of my soul ...". This Mozart confidence shows how much the two men appreciate each other. Never did Mozart speak without the greatest esteem of this Master, although they lived in the same city so fond of musical novelties as much as of gossips that feed conversations and even though neither one nor the other were lacking excuses for reciprocal jealousy.
For his part, as soon as he met Mozart and heard his works, Haydn recognized the genius of Mozart.
In December 1787, a citizen of Prague asked Haydn to write an opera bouffe. Hire Mozart! He answered “Who can compare to the great Mozart? If I could only impress on the soul of every friend of music, and on high personages in particular, how inimitable are Mozart’s works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive! (for this is how I understand them, how I feel them) —then the nations would compete with each other not only to possess such a jewel within their frontiers… but also to keep and reward him. Life of great geniuses can be sad indeed, … It enrages me to think that this incomparable Mozart is not yet engaged in some imperial or royal court! Forgive me if I lose my temper. But I love this man so dearly.”
After Mozart death, Haydn wrote “I was a long time beside myself by the death of Mozart; I could not believe that Providence had called so soon an irreplaceable man. Above all, I regret that Mozart did not have before his death the opportunity to convince English people who still ignore him, of the truth of his talent that I preach to them daily. "




[15] Letter to his friend the composer C.F. Zelter.

[16] See S. Hinton in “Defining string quartet: Haydn” for Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences.

[17] See the opinion of J. Haydn on the evening of February 12, 1785, introduction op. cit.

[18] See on youtube the version by the Cambini-Paris Quartet live recorded for France musique.

[19] Wrote by Catherine Vincent for le Monde - article du 21 Juin 2005.

[20] See Jean & Brigitte Massin, - Mozart - Ed° CFL 1958 page 442 & s.
[21] By Johann Friedrich Rochlitz (1769-1842) German playwright, friend of Goethe, Schiller, also musicologist and art critic.

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