Wednesday, June 14, 2017


How and Where did Beethoven channel Mozart ?

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Two of the greatest composers in history. Two composers who mastered Viennese Classical Style. Two composers who took Classicism to its apotheosis, and then, with Beethoven, opened the door to Romanticism, the door that Mozart knocked on. Two composers inextricably linked together, historically and stylistically.
Yet, Beethoven and Mozart most likely never met. Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen, in his detailed commentary in Hermann Abert's magisterial 1921 biography of Mozart, (edited and annotated in 2007), points out that the only time in which both composers were even in the same place, were a few weeks in April 1787, when both were in Vienna. 
Beethoven arrived in Vienna some time in the first week of April of 1787, at the behest of his patrons in Bonn, with the ultimate purpose of meeting and studying with Mozart. However, he had to leave abruptly only a few weeks later, because his mother was severely ill back in Bonn.
In April, 1787, Beethoven was an unknown sixteen year-old piano prodigy. Mozart was 31, well established in Vienna as a composer, pianist, violist, conductor and piano pedagogue.
In 1856, sixty-nine years after those April weeks in 1787, the Mozart biographer Otto Jahn commented in his monumental Mozart biography that "it was communicated to me in Vienna on good authority" that Beethoven may have played piano at a recital at which Mozart attended.

Here is Jahn: "....Beethoven made his appearance in Vienna as a young musician in the spring of 1787, but was only able to remain there a short time; he was introduced to Mozart, and played to him at his request, Mozart, considering the piece he performed to be a studied show-piece, was somewhat cold in his expressions of admiration. Beethoven, noticing this, begged for a theme for improvisation, and, inspired by the master he revered so highly, played in such a manner as to gradually engross Mozart's whole attention; turning quietly to the bystanders, he (Mozart) said emphatically, "Mark that young man; he will make a name for himself in the world...."

This second-hand anecdote is the only written comment we have about the putative meeting of the two great musicians. 
However, there is no contemporary document to corroborate the meeting. There is no letter written by Beethoven to commemorate it. Mozart does not describe an encounter with Beethoven in any of the copious correspondence that has been left to posterity. 
The authoritative Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians does not describe the meeting. 
Beethoven himself never mentioned or wrote that he had ever met Mozart or had ever played for him. Someone of Beethoven's enormous self-confidence and ego would likely have documented such a monumental event. He never did.
Carl Czerny and Ferdinand Reis, two of Beethoven's piano students and among his closest friends, stated that Beethoven and Mozart had never met.
However, Mozart's influence is evident in many of Beethoven's compositions.
Beethoven used a motif from Mozart's 40th Symphony in his Fifth Symphony (the third movement of which opens with a theme similar to one of Mozart's).
The musicologist Charles Rosen hears Mozart's C minor Piano Concerto, K. 491, within Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto in the same key.
A famous example of Beethoven channeling Mozart can be heard in the many similarities between Mozart's sublime Quintet for Piano and Winds in Eb, K. 452, and Beethoven's quintet for the same instruments and in the same key, Op. 16.
Mozart's  A major String Quartet, K. 464, was a source for Beethoven's A major String Quartet Op. 18 No. 5.
Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K. 457, was a  model for Beethoven's "Pathétique" Sonata, Op. 13, in the same key. 
Beethoven wrote cadenzas (WoO 58) to the first and third movements of Mozart's D minor piano concerto, K. 466, and four sets of variations on themes by Mozart:
on "Se vuol ballare" from Le Nozze di Figaro, for piano and violin, WoO 40 (1792–3);
on "Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni, for two oboes and cor anglais, WoO 28 (?1795);
on "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" from The Magic Flute, for piano and cello, Op. 66 (?1795);
on "Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen" from the same opera, for piano and cello, WoO 46 (1801).
Beethoven paid homage to Mozart's Don Giovanni (the opening notes of Leporello's aria ‘Notte e giorno faticar’) in the 22nd of his  Diabelli Variations.