Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Michael Haydn & Mozart

This week's Tuesday Blog is no. 270 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast270


2018’s first “fifth Tuesday” quarterly montage proposes as its key work one of Mozart’s numbered symphonies that should be rightly assigned to Joseph Haydn’s brother; the so-called Symphony No. 37 adds an introduction by Mozart to a symphony in G by Michael Haydn.

According to Wikipedia , the number of symphonies actually written by Mozart is imprecisely known; of the 41 formally numbered, three (Nos 2, 3 and 37) are established as by other composers and another, No. 11, is considered by scholars to be of uncertain authorship. Outside the accepted sequence 1–41, however, there are around twenty other genuine Mozart symphonies, and beyond these, a larger number of problematic works which have not been authenticated as Mozart's.

The Symphony no. 37 was for a long time believed to be a work by Mozart, but is now known to have actually been written by Michael Haydn, being his Symphony No. 25 in G major, [Perger 16, Sherman 25, MH 334]. As a result, this symphony, which had been quite widely played when thought to be a Mozart symphony, has been performed considerably less often since this discovery in 1907.

Indeed, several of Michael Haydn's works influenced Mozart. To give just three examples: the Te Deum (which Wolfgang was later to follow very closely in K. 141); the finale of the Symphony No. 23 which influenced the finale of the G major Quartet, K. 387; and the (fugal) transition and (nonfugal) closing theme of the G major second subject expositions of the finales of both Michael's Symphony No. 29 (1784) and Mozart's monumental last Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter") (1788), both in C major.

Mozart probably copied out the score in order to learn from it, but he wrote a new Adagio maestoso introduction for it (few of Michael Haydn's symphonies have slow introductions). The introduction was probably composed in late 1783 to be performed in the same concert in Linz, in which Mozart's Symphony No. 36 received its premiere.

Modern commentators find it difficult to comprehend how Mozart scholars could have considered the three movements of the G major Symphony (more aligned with Mozart’s early symphonic output) as the immediate successor of the 'Linz' Symphony.

Although his compositions are less known and performed than his brother’s, Michael Haydn was no slouch! Haydn's sacred choral works are generally regarded as his most important; his musical taste and skill showed themselves best in his church compositions and were already in his lifetime old-fashioned. He was also a prolific composer of secular music, including forty symphonies and wind partitas, and multiple concertos and chamber music including a string quintet in C major was once thought to have been by his brother Joseph.

The montage opens with another Michael Haydn symphony – his 28th. The montage closes with Mozart’s Symphony no. 39, the first of his “final trilogy” of symphonies.

Happy listening!

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