Two Giants of the Classical PeriodWhat does perfection sound like? Does it even have a sound? Is there such a thing as perfection in an art form that, by its very nature, is asymmetrical? How do you express beauty in music?
There are, of course, no definitive answers to these questions. If we were, however, to begin a quest for answers, the first place to search would be the music of Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, two great masters of the Classical period.
These composers and their music have a lot in common. For a time, both lived in Vienna, composed in all of the major genres, and expressed an indefinable element of charm or even whimsy in their works. Yet, in other respects, they could not have been more different. One was a venerated gentleman, the other an impudent young man. One held a long, prosperous position with a respected music-loving aristocratic family, the other suffered through tremendous financial ups and downs, partly incurred by his own mismanagement. One was a self-made musician who lived to the ripe age of 77, the other a child prodigy who died at 35. Together they wrote the greatest music of the Classical age and, thus, are considered two of the greatest composers the world has ever known.
Haydn was one of the main forces behind the development of the classical style. It has been argued that his music is perhaps some of the most cheerful ever written, and, to a large extent, that is true. At times, however, it also shows the serious, perhaps even tragic side of his character. Haydn was a deeply religious man that could write intense, powerful music.
Even though Haydn composed over 750 works, he is most famous for his 104 symphonies, including the one nickname…
…od opera, I go to Esterhaza.” However, when he became familiar with Mozart’s genius for opera composing, Haydn acknowledged his own works as being of lesser quality. Today Haydn’s operas are all but forgotten.
Masses and OratoriosThe last six of Haydn’s twelve Masses, composed between 1796 and 1802, are his crowning achievement as a church composer. These works composed during his mature period, demonstrate a mastery of form and technique accumulated over more than fifty years of composing. Several of them, for example the Missa in tempore belli (Mass in Time of War, 1796), the Missa in Augustiis (Nelson Mass, 1798), and the Harmoniemess (Wind Band Mass, 1802) are among Haydn’s masterworks. Inspired by Handel’s oratorios, some of which he had heard during his London visits, Haydn composed two great oratorios entitled The Creation (1798) and The Seasons (1801).