Mozart / Haydn in 1790

by richibi


                                 “Prussian Homage (1796)

                                       Marcello Bacciarelli


it’s 1790, a year after the French Revolution, 
and both Mozart and Haydn are peddling 
their wares, Mozart to the King of Prussia, 
Friedrich Wilhelm ll, who’d commissioned 
some string quartets, as well as piano 
works for his daughter, but wasn’t paying 
Mozart off for them, where Haydn with the
help of Johann Tost, was hustling his stuff
in very, of all places, Paris 

Haydn’s, incidentally, own Prussian Quartets,
dedicated to the same King of Prussia, were  
sold to two different publishers, one in
Vienna, the other in England, commercial
transactions left essentially, for all it might 
matter to us, for lawyers, and potentates, I
expect, eventually to have resolved

it is my habit to juxtapose two things always
to be able to see each more critically, 
determining my favourite sharpens my 
aesthetic pencil, one looks more closely at
what distinguishes one work from the other

therefore Mozart’s String Quartet no 22 in 
B flat major, KV 589, up against Haydn’s 
no 53 in D major, opus 64, no 5, “The Lark”, 
both written in the same year

it’s like comparing apples with oranges,
different fruit from the same nevertheless
genus, my favourite being lichee, so go 

it’ll be up to you to find your especially
preferred nutrient 

I‘ll just point out a few differences that
immediately set apart these, however 
similar, masterpieces for me, Mozart 
remains utterly Classical, relying on 
the established, by now, conditions of 
the string quartet, an entertainment for 
nobility, nothing at all controversial, 
where Haydn with his soaring notes 
for the first violin, followed by 
arabesques that define a personal 
agony, introduces drama into the 
equation, a music that speaks of 
sentiment, is pointing already towards 
the future, though I suspect he could 
never have imagined where, in the 
very next generation, Beethoven 
would take it

to look back, to look forward, that is 
the question, it’s not always an easy 

but this is where art speaks to us, 
reminding us of our tendencies, 
defining, truly, eventually, who we 
veritably are, according to our 
individual choices, preferences, 
for better or for worse, rendering 
the world an ever effulgent garden 
rather than a dour mausoleum

R ! chard