Two Prolific Geniuses: Mozart and Haydn

Music speaks to people’s souls, and great masters of sound tell their stories and make people feel new facets of the world. Such composers as Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart set the standards of music in the eighteenth century that are still used and appreciated (Botstein 114). The legacy of the two geniuses is considerable and marvelous, but their lives were very different (Irving 107). Haydn lived to be 77 while Mozart died at the age of 35.

They had different characters and quite different families but created some of the iconic pieces in the history of music, which makes it interesting to trace the origin of their talent. The purpose of this paper is to explore the way the talent of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart evolved and gained recognition by comparing the life and legacy of the two iconic composers.

Mozart – A Young and Revolutionary Prodigy in the World of Music

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756 to the family of a music teacher and composer Leopold Mozart. Leopold Mozart started teaching his little daughter when she was seven, and little Wolfgang revealed his interest and talent during such music lessons (Eisen 9). The family was financially secured due to Leopold’s composing and teaching, as well as conducting, but the Mozarts still had certain constrains throughout their life.

Leopold and his children, and later only Wolfgang, gave concerts to make a living (Eisen 11). The largest part of their income originated from a specific employer, such as Archbishop von Colloredo, who ordered some music pieces for various occasions.

Wolfgang Mozart created numerous compositions, and his early works, such as Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770) and Lucio Silla (1772), were very successful (Levin 231). Mozart was unwilling to work for Archbishop von Colloredo and preferred freelancing in Vienna, although he composed and conducted for numerous clergy people and other wealthy members of the society. Mozart created numerous piano concertos, sonatas, serenades, string quartets, symphonies, and operas (Levin 228). The composer also gave lessons, had concerts, and conducted to make his living in Vienna.

Haydn, His Early Years, and First Achievements in the World of Music

Joseph Haydn’s early years were characterized by financial issues and the presence of music. The future composer was born in the village of Rohrau to a family of Marktrichter and wheelwright in 1732 (Botstein 117). His father could not read music, but he could play a musical instrument and loved singing. Joseph’s singing was very good, and his father wanted to help his son develop his talent. Hence, the little boy was sent to a church choir where he could sing and improve his skills. When he grew older, he could no longer sing due to the changing voice, and after a prank he played, he was dismissed.

Haydn became a music teacher and tried to find different ways to earn his living. His work for Nicola Porpora became one of the milestones in his life as Haydn learned “the true fundamentals of composition” (qtd. in Diergarten 130). In the 1760s, Haydn started working for the Esterhazy family, and the relationships with the members of this family remained quite close and friendly for the rest of his (Proksch 124). In the late 1770s, Haydn received considerable freedom and could make contracts with other people.

The Most Prolific Years of Both Composers and Their Legacy

As mentioned above, Mozart became a freelancer and gave numerous concerts and composed hundreds of works in Vienna and traveled to different European cities. His most prolific years were the late 1770s and 1780s when he developed his own style bring new sounding to the style gallant and revived Baroque style (Levin 238). Mozart’s most well-known works are Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782), The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and dozens of piano, string, and woodwind concertos, as well as symphonies, masses, and religious music.

As far as Haydn is concerned, his most prolific years were the 1770s and 1780s when he had more freedom from the Esterhazy family. At that period, Haydn composed, traveled, and gave concertos in various European cities. Haydn explored the Baroque style that was regarded as old-fashioned at that time and brought more lightness and entertaining features (Proksch 74).

Haydn is mainly famous for his symphonies and string quartets, but he also created numerous concertos, several operas, and religious music. It is clear that the two composers created most of their works when they had considerable freedom to create and travel. Interestingly, these periods were almost the same for both composers. The last decades of the eighteenth century were the most prolific years for Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is necessary to add that Haydn and Mozart were acquainted and met numerous times. They admitted the influence of each other on their music (Botstein 114). Both geniuses revived Baroques style and made it sound in a new way that was favorably accepted by their contemporaries (Waltham-Smith 52). Mozart and Haydn learned from each other and placed a high value on each other’s works. The pieces created by the two composers had great popularity among their contemporaries and became the highest standards for future generations until these days.

The End of Life: Mozart and Haydn

Both Mozart and Haydn had to go through suffering associated with illness before their death. However, the course of their illnesses was different due to several reasons, one of which was their age. Mozart fell ill in (November) 1791, and he died in several months (he died in December 1791) (Link 32).

Haydn was in his seventies when his health started deteriorating gradually. After 1803, he rarely made official visits and could barely work, and he died in 1809 (Irving 95). It is necessary to stress that both composers were never forgotten and remained popular throughout their mature life. Therefore, their death was a shock for many, and people’s acclaims of their legacy was high.

The Factors That Had an Impact on the Evolvement of the Two Talents

When considering the life of the two composers, various similarities become apparent. However, differences are also significant, especially when it comes to their characters. Mozart and Haydn had some financial issues throughout their lives, but they were mainly prosperous for the major parts of their lives. Both men had families that supported them in different ways and had quite close relationships with their relatives. The end of life of these individuals was quite similar as the two composers suffered due to their inability to create music because of their deteriorating health conditions.

It is noteworthy that music was not only a way to create something beautiful and realize themselves, but it was a specific means of making their living. At that, this aspect is what makes the two figures quite different. Mozart managed to become a complete freelancer while Haydn was working for the Esterhazy family.

Mozart opposed his former employers and had quite a turbulent nature, while Haydn was a peaceful and sociable person (Botstein 114). Scandals and an image of a Romantic hero who opposed the system contributed to the development of Mozart-composer. Haydn did not have this kind of fame but was always associated with grace and peacefulness.

These features could become the primary factors that affected the way the two composers were seen by their contemporaries and future generations. Although Haydn is an acclaimed composer and the father of many music genres, Mozart remains a more popular figure. Mozart has an image of a young prodigy and rebel whose talent made his way through centuries. The Romanticism traits of Mozart’s life made him more popular among listeners, while Haydn remained a prolific composer, one in a row of famous men of the past.


On balance, it is necessary to state that Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remain key figures in the history of western music. Their most prolific years were the last decades of the eighteenth century when they created the most beautiful pieces that are now regarded as classic. Although both composers were highly appraised by their contemporaries and future generations, Mozart stood out due to his character and his way to his personal and creative freedom.

Haydn was less prone to scandals and arguments, which made his life more peaceful. Both composers’ legacy is substantial and is still under meticulous study. These two figures, their lives, and works are analyzed in detail as people still want to understand the nature of their genius. This brief study sheds light on certain aspects of the two masters’ lives and talents. It is possible to note that a combination of personal traits, environment, and genius made Mozart and Haydn some of the iconic people in the world culture.

Works Cited

Botstein, Leon. “The Consequences of Presumed Innocence: The Nineteenth-Cebtury Reception of Joseph Haydn.” Haydn, edited by David Wyn Jones, Routledge, 2017, pp. 93-128.

Diergarten, Felix. ““The True Fundamentals of Composition”: Haydn’s Partimento Counterpoint.” Haydn, edited by David Wyn Jones, Routledge, 2017, pp. 129-152.

Eisen, Cliff. “Mozart and Salzburg.” Mozart, edited by Simon P. Keefe, Routledge, 2018, pp. 5-21.

Irving, Howard. “Haydn and the Consequences of Presumed Effeminacy.” Masculinity and Western Musical Practice, edited by Kirsten Gibson, Routledge, 2017, pp. 95-112.

Levin, Robert. “Performance Practice in the Music of Mozart.” Mozart, edited by Simon P. Keefe, Routledge, 2018, pp. 227-245.

Link, Dorothea. “Mozart in Vienna.” Mozart, edited by Simon P. Keefe, Routledge, 2018, pp. 22-34.

Proksch, Bryan. Reviving Haydn: New Appreciations in the Twentieth Century. Boydell & Brewer, 2015.

Waltham-Smith, Naomi. Music and Belonging Between Revolution and Restoration. Oxford University Press, 2017.

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