This book presents a clear and comprehensive picture of these two great figures of Western music. The names of Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, like those of Bach and Handel before them and Brahms and Wagner after, are almost inseparably linked. But Haydn and Mozart were more than contemporaries, compatriots, and musical geniuses of the highest order. Unlike their Baroque and Romantic counterparts, their works, in particular their great instrumental compositions, represent more than the twin pinnacles of a central musical tradition; they are, with respect to the High, or Viennese, Classical Style, virtually its exclusive embodiment. As such they arguably constitute the high point of the Western musical tradition altogether. The critical and scholarly literature devoted to this repertoire is nothing short of oceanic and includes contributions from some of the most profound musical thinkers of the past two centuries - among them such authorities as Hermann Abert, Friedrich Blume, Wilhelm Fischer, Leonard Ratner, Charles Rosen, and Donald Francis Tovey. In consequence we possess a scholarly "canon" roughly commensurate with its towering object.
Thanks to their achievements the hallmarks of the Viennese Classical Style are fairly well understood. This makes it all the more surprising that one fundamental, and embarrassingly obvious, question bearing on the music of Haydn and Mozart has been far less satisfactorily addressed. In light of their shared musical language and aesthetic understanding, what, exactly, makes Haydn's music so palpably different from Mozart's? Every serious musician and music lover is keenly aware of the unmistakable individuality of these two composers. Yet a fully comprehensive attempt to identify its source and to account for it has never before been undertaken. In the ambitious work presented here John Harutunian provides some of the most perceptive answers offered by anyone in the last thirty years to this perennial challenge to musical criticism. With refreshing, unconcealed enthusiasm and an ear for the significant detail, Harutunian offers nothing less than a systematic explication for the uniqueness of musical genius.
Concentrating on a few critical issues of formal and tonal design raised by the conventions of eighteenth-century sonata style, Harutunian investigates Haydn's and Mozart's differing approaches to them with admirable specificity. The discussion is generously illustrated with hundreds of musical examples drawn from virtually every pertinent instrumental genre cultivated by the two Viennese masters. Above all, in presenting his argument Harutunian does not fail to inquire into the aesthetic rationale - that is, the intensely personal motivations and strategies - that animated and informed critical compositional decisions. In sum, all admirers of the music of Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart owe a substantial debt of gratitude to John Harutunian for this landmark of musical scholarship.