Haydn’s and Mozart’s Sonata Styles- A Comparison

Author: Harutunian, John
The names of Franz Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are so closely intertwined that most people speak them in the same breath. As contemporaneous composers, they spoke the same musical language, that of late eighteenth-century Classicism. Specifically, they shared the summit in the development of a procedure known as sonata style. Nevertheless, experienced listeners can readily distinguish between the two composers. Articulating these differences, however, is another matter entirely. This book does so, in a way which 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. – (from the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Robert L. Marshall, Sachar Professor of Music Emeritus, Brandeis University

“Oddly enough, it is only quite recently that we have understood the inner workings of perhaps the greatest music in the Western canon: the instrumental and operatic masterpieces of Mozart and Haydn. Understanding has come slowly because the average music-lover has a misconception of the usual organization of the sonata-form movements that are so important to Classical composers and their greatest works. According to this inadequate view, often gained from music appreciation texts, most such movements consist of a contrasting first and second theme (or subject), a development section, and a recapitulation. These sections, many books teach us, conform strictly to rigidly laid out spatial forms. Thus many listeners think of Classical symphonies as very much like one another and, accordingly, rather boring-although the symphonies and concertos of Mozart and Haydn are some of the most varied, flexible, and exciting music we possess … John Harutunian's splendid book, Haydn's and Mozart's Sonata Styles: A Comparison, follows the Parry-Tovey phrase-by-phrase method with results that are nothing short of revelatory. Here, once and for all, stands one great work after another, its uniqueness of character and fascinating wealth of detail made clear for all to see. The book is conveniently divided into five chapters and a conclusion … Each chapter is filled with musical examples on which Harutunian comments generously and insightfully. His comments typically move from a technical description of the music's content to a clear and convincing statement of its imaginative effect … Little musical education is required to appreciate Harutunian's splendid, elegantly written book; but anyone who bothers to follow through his musical examples and check his judgments will gain an entry to the worlds of Mozart and Haydn that is denied to most listeners.” – Dr. W. H. Yougren, Boston College

Table of Contents

Chord Symbols
A General Overview of Research
List of Repertoire
1. Tonic-Dominant Polarity
2. Tonal Deflections
3. Structural Junctures
4. Development Procedures
5. Recapitulation Procedures
6. Conclusions