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A case of give and take

What? An influence on Mozart? The idea at first seems as unlikely as an influence on the Greek goddess Athena -- who as everybody knows sprang fully influenced from the brow of Zeus.

But Mozart wasn't just a kind of mythological thunderclap. He was of course a very humanm being, with human responses, a human intellect -- responding to human influences. If his music seems perfect to us, beyond influence, it is because he was in a marvelous and almost instantaneous way perfectible, responsive as a composer to the best that came along, from the Italianate "singing allegro" of one Bach (Johann Christian, in Mozart's childhood) to the cosmic counterpoint of another (Johann Sebastian). Whether or not Zeus' brow (or his Roman colleague Jupiter's) was in there as well, Joseph Haydn's definitely was. That was fortunate for Mozart, for Haydn, and for us.m

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May we say, then, that Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony sprang, at a distance, from the wigged brow of Haydn? To an extent, yes.

Mozart and Haydn were only very occasionally in contact, since the former -- when not restlessly on the move -- centered first in Salzburg and later in Vienna, while the latter was tied closely to the Esterhazy courts as a rather contended, liveried, musical servant. But their friendship became one of the phenomenal interchanges of history carrying its influence first in one direction , then the other. It came about in spite of -- or even because of -- their great differences in age, in emotional and intellectual makeup, and in life development.

Haydn was peasant oriented, a slow grower who wrote the first of his 104 symphonies at age 27. Mozart took quickly to ideas and to the aristocracy, and was so intensely and totally occupied with the life of his music that he seemed hardly to have time or energy left for merely growing up. Or surviving.

But what about the "Jupiter?"

When Haydn went to the Esterhazys in 1761 he was 29, and the five-year-old Mozart was writing his first pieces. Though it was to be ten years or more until their probable first meeting, it was only three or four before their music began touching.

Haydn's 13th Symphony in D major, dated 1763, was full of his pleasure with the Esterhazy appointment and bustling with new ideas.Among them (though not in itself new) was a four-note theme in the finale -- D,E,G,F sharp -- that was rather popular among composers of the time. Haydn gave it new twists, overlapping it and lacing it with a faster countermelody in different instruments. It became a real building-block in the compact symphonic structure he was finding his way into.

If you try these four notes on your piano or in your head, slowly and firmly, they'll carry you with a surprised leap into that much more famous finale of Mozart's "Jupiter." Some of the counterpoint there is distinctly reminiscent of Haydn's, though taking off of the titanic runway of Mozart's most advanced style.

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This was to be Mozarths last symphony. But if we go all the way back, we realize the same motif had been used in the F-Major Mass of 1774. And if we go all the way back to his first symphony -- written by the eight year old Mozart in London early in 1765 -- there it is again, in the slow movement. Haydn's works were something of a rage in Paris at that time, and his 13th was published there in 1764. Mozart was in Paris in the same year, with his family entourage, and very likely heard the new music.

Plagiarizing? Of course not. Simply the beginning of a musical interplay that reached through both men's lives, along with other influences. Haydn's full example, however, was crucial in Mozart's mastering of his own symphonic technique and form. And then Haydn's recognition of what Mozart learned between the 1st Symphony and the "Jupiter" fed back into his own writing, most especially during the 17 years by which he survived his 24-year-younger friend. In his 70's, he still insisted that he never heard a Mozart work without learning something. His wind instrumentation, for one thing, took on refinement , as did his sense of symphonic drama and subjectivity.

In 1772 Haydn wrote the set of six "Sun" quartets, his most serious yet. They drew a good deal of attention. A year later Mozart, in Vienna, wrote his own set of six, equally contrapuntal and following Haydn's new four-movement form. In fact, Mozart hurried back to his single previous quartet, and added a minuet to its three movements, to bring them up to date.

Another Mozart cycle of six, written in 1785, were dedicated to Haydn, and sometime that January, three of them were played in Mozart's Vienna house with Haydn present. During about the same period the two composers were reported to have played together (Haydn on 1st violin, Mozart on viola) at the home of an Englishman, William Storace. The quartet, being the most incorporeal of instrumental forms, made them for those moments part of the same music.

After Mozart's passing Haydn had difficulty in believing, as he wrote at the time, "that an irreplaceable man like him should be fated to leave this world so soon." This was no perfunctory professional courtesy, but a deep awareness arrived at through his own long maturing. In 1787, after the premiere of "Don Giovanni," he had written of his indignation "that this unique Mozartm has not yet been appointed to an imperial or royal court! Forgive me for digressing, but I love that man too much."

Misfortune -- and a marvel. Not only the marvel of Mozart himself, but the more than Jovian one that steered these mutually needful composers, allowing the different rhythms and tempos and lengths of their lives to touch in a perfect concatenation of time.