Eavesdropping on Mozart and Haydn

September 2, 2007

Last year I blogged about attending a classical music festival on the island, including a performance of Bach’s challenging Goldberg variations.

This year my wife and I attended the second annual festival. A quartet performed works by Haydn and Mozart, including Haydn’s “Frog,” a Mozart Duo and as well as his “Dissonance” Quartet.

As before, the musicians played on period instruments and intermixed their performances with brief, illuminating comments about their venerable instruments and bows and about the composers. I hadn’t realized that Haydn and Mozart had performed together; I imagined with wonder how staggering it would be to hear the two in concert.

Haydn famously said of Mozart to Mozart’s father: “Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name: He has taste, and, furthermore, the most profound knowledge of composition.”

They mentioned that Mozart’s father was one of the leading violin teachers of his time. Given the difficult relationship Mozart had with his dad, one of our performers mentioned wryly that Mozart had switched to playing viola more often than violin.

The four musicians emanated considerable congeniality and affinity. At one point, one of the performers broke into a broad smile; the other three displayed answering gentle grins.

I could not tell if the smile represented shared joy at playing beautiful music together or if the first smile acknowledged some error in the performance too subtle for me to notice and the answering smiles ruefully acknowledged the slip.

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4 Responses to “Eavesdropping on Mozart and Haydn”

  1. janie Says:

    Ahhh–perfect bliss! The only thing better than listening to chamber music is also getting to watch it played by musicians who obviously love what they do. I’m always fascinated by their interactions. Like you, I’d usually be clueless if someone made a mistake unless it was really glaring.


  2. Sounds like a wonderful concert . . . and from my own long experience of watching quartet players, my guess would be that the smile was a reaction to the music, and the other echoing smiles were sympathetic pleasure at their colleague’s happiness.

    Mozart also gave a couple of piano and composition lessons to Beethoven before he died. Before Mozart died, that is. Of course, it was also before Beethoven died. I don’t know why I mentioned the death thing at all. Maybe I meant “toward the end of Mozart’s life.” Which isn’t saying much, considering how young he was when he died. I mean, when Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for two years.

  3. cheles Says:

    I love attending concerts such as these if I have the chance. This winter I want to visit the Vancouver Orpheum more and introduce my daughter to this wonderful world of music!

  4. modestypress Says:

    One striking note at such concerts is that there are few children in attendance. As I mentioned last year, I wonder if listening to classical music will die out in our current generation.


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