Joseph – Wolfgang – Michael [Mozart and the Haydn Brothers]
a paper by Marius Flothuis
from the book:
Mozart and the Netherlands (p. 127)
This paper by Marius Flothuis is particularly interesting, because it reveals the great ability of this scholar in discovering and individuating the major substantial points, which are still hidden in the musicological research.
This paper (that, like others by Flothuis, is particularly dense and likeable also for the neat and rapid style, typical of a syllogism) in a few traits delineates an entire complex world for the musicological research, by focusing on some great subjects that are fundamental for the comprehension of the musical environment within which the two brothers Haydn and Mozart operated.
The three main Haydnian/Mozartian subjects are all about which type of relationship (also musical and technical, not only personal) really existed among these three great masters of music:
1. the relationship among the two Haydns (Joseph and Michael) and Mozart, a relationship which was much more complicated than usually thought;
2. the intense and complex game of musical borrowing, with a clear system of cross-quotations among the compositions of the three composers (and Flothuis gives, in his paper, a good fundamental series of lists of borrowings and of examples of this common practice of these three masters);
3. the theme of rivalry and the concept of artistic ever-lasting.
In particular, the last theme is probably the less studied and the most intriguing.
The concept of the non omnis moriar (used by Haydn applied to himself in some writings) was already a complex subject in the Augustean circle and had (with the ideas of the monumentum aere perennius and of the artist as vates) an extremely complicated history behind it, in part derived from that Ancient Egyptian literature that ended up absorbed by the Roman world thanks to the military conquest by Augustus (his Roman imperial seals were all derived from Egyptian symbolism). Certainly, all this may have made Wolfgang Mozart and Haydn particularly happy, since they were both attached to the 18th century freemasonry and its own Ancient Egypt symbolism.
Mozart, already, in 1778 had left a written statement that he possessed a superior talent, as Flothuis points out. In a musical world, that was dominated by the rhetorical rules and by a whole series of models from the classical literature (the poet, who has full conscience of his superior position and declares it, is one of the most ancient models in the European literature), the statements from Haydn and Mozart certainly go beyond the immediate Horatian model.
And exactly here Flothuis opens up an entire whole sector to the musicological investigation: the self conscience of these composers as superior artists (like Horatian priests of the cult of music, fundamental to understand a certain behaviour of Cannabich Jr. and of Constanze Mozart after 1791) and the consequent relationship with all the other composers!
At this point, one should start reflecting on stories like this one left by the controversial memoirs by Sulpiz Boisserée: «In the company of Paisiello, Martini, Salieri and Haydn etc. Mozart said to the last, with whom he was very friendly: "I will make an exception for you, but all other composers are veritable asses!" ».
It is as if someone were asking us: what is there behind this strange anecdote? why Mozart and Haydn were superior and told the others? which elements made Mozart's and Haydn's music as superior music? why is there not any reference to Michael Haydn?
This complex, dense and beautiful paper by Flothuis gives us many answers and some extremely important (in particular on certain aspects of Michael Haydn as a composer/man and on the system of music borrowing Mozart - Haydns and vice versa in their compositions) but, at the same time, creates a real quaestio on a few focal points, which must be the object of further accurate musicological investigation.
Flothuis, once again, has shown us the path to follow!
S. & L.M. Jennarelli