Between the years 1782 and 1785, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote six string quartets which were dedicated to his friend and fellow composer, Joseph Haydn. These quartets, known as the “Haydn Quartets,” were among Mozart’s “first six masterpieces in the medium” (Keller, 64). In composing these works, Mozart was inspired by Haydn’s recently published Opus 33, which is also a set of six string quartets. When Haydn wrote his Opus 33 in 1781, it was the first time he had written for the string quartet in a period of ten years. With the six pieces of Opus 33, Haydn established a style of chamber music that he described as being in “an entirely new, very special manner” (Pauly, 45). At the same time, it had also been nearly 10 years since Mozart had written for the string quartet. Mozart met Haydn in Vienna, and heard the quartets of Opus 33. He “regarded these quartets of Haydn with special reverence and was moved to write six of his own” (Crocker, 393). It is clear that Haydn had a strong influence on the composition of these works. In fact, Mozart once claimed: “I have learned from Haydn how to write quartets” (Berger, 286). Nonetheless, Mozart’s unique personality and technical mastery are also apparent in these works. This paper will discuss the ways in which Mozart’s “Haydn Quartets” are similar to the string quartets of Haydn.
Haydn and Mozart represent the classical style in music, which was popular during the late eighteenth century. This style placed emphasis on the use of standardized forms such as the rondo and the minuet. One of the most popular forms was the sonata, in which contrasting themes were developed through a series of variations. The classical composers were inspired by the arts of ancient Greece …
…to a higher level than Haydn had done himself.
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