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.