Mozart, Mozart's Magic Flute and Beethoven

Beethoven,  1803


We began our overview of Mozart's Magic Flute  with a reference to the German music critic Joachim Kaiser's comment in his Bayern IV radio show, Beethoven:  Werk und Wirkung, according to which Beethoven found its variety very stimulating.  Since such an opinion might not have developed overnight, it might be very interesting for us to particularly investigate Mozart's influence and the influence of his opera The Magic Flute on Beethoven.

This investigative journey will not be 'smooth sailing' across a calm sea, but a rather lively, invigorating one that will require us to, on occasion, take detours and to watch out for every 'change of wind'.   It will set out in Bonn with our observing the youth Beethoven as he becomes acquainted with Mozarts works, but also as his teacher holds this former wunderkind and then-up-and-coming great young Viennese composer up as an example for him to follow, which might also have increased Beethoven's curiosity and eagerness to finally meet this great man in person during his first visit to Vienna.  Will his expectations of Mozart have been met?  

After that, we will, perhaps again, read certain prophetic words that have found entry in Beethoven's farewell album, after which we will follow him to Vienna in 1792 in order to learn if he was able to live up to what others expected of him in his role as Mozart's 'successor'.  However, we will also want to observe how he tried to free himself from this role in order to pursue his own path.

What will be the result of his severing his 'musical umbilical cord' to Mozart?  Perhaps, the result will be a continued appreciation of Mozart and also certain variations that might be of interest to us!

How will Beethoven's relationship develop during his more mature years of the beginning 19th century?  Will Mozart remain the greatest composer in his mind? What position will he take towards him in the event that this should not be the case?  Will his keen understanding of the variety of the roles of the Magic Flute also have an influence on his judgment in his personal life?  These are some of the questions that we will try to answer here.


Beethoven and Mozart during his Bonn Years

In our Biographical Pages, we discuss that during his court apprenticeship from about 1780 - 1784, Beethoven was intensively furthered by his apprenticeship master, Christian Gottlob Neefe, and that at the piano, in composition, but also in his growing into the role of substitute cembalist of the Bonn Court theatre.  

In our creation history of Beethoven's opera Fidelio, we present our readers with a list of the repertoire of the Bonn Court Theatre during these years.  The Bonn theatre season of 1782-1783  offered Beethoven an opportunity to become acquainted with Mozart's first German singspiel:  

"Listing of operatic works performed during the 1782/1783 Season:
.  .   .  Die Entführung aus dem Serail by W.A. Mozart" (Thayer: 32).

Barry Coopers comment in his new Beethoven book that was published in 2000, is very interesting:  " . . .  and in 1782-3 the programmes included Mozart's recently written Die Entführung aus dem Serail.  Beethoven must have heard many of these performances and probably took part in them on the violin or viola" (Cooper: 6).   Cooper's careful wording of 'perhaps' might point towards the fact that no written records have been found, yet, that would prove that Beethoven was already an occasional violin or viola player of the Bonn court orchestra.  Let us hope that such evidence might be forthcoming, in the future.   

In the spring of 1783, Neefe brought Beethoven in direct connection with Mozart's name in his article of March 2, 1783, in Cramers Magazin der Musik:<

"Louis van Beethoven, . . . a boy of eleven years and of most promising talent.  He plays the clavier very skilfully and with power, reads at sight very well, and--to put it in a nutshell--he plays chiefly The Well-Tempered Clavichord of Sebastian Bach, which Herr Neefe put into his hands.  Whoever knows this collection of preludes and fugues in all the keys .  .  .  will know what this means.  So far as his duties permitted, Herr Neefe has also given him instruction in thorough-bass.  He is now training him in composition and for his encouragement has had nine variations for the pianoforte, written by him on a march--by Ernst Christoph Dressler--engravet at Mannheim.  This youthful genius is deserving of help to enable him to travel.  He would surely become a scond Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were he to continue as he has begun" (Thayer: 66; italics mine)).

With respect to this, Barry Cooper comments as follows:

"The wonderfully prophetic reference to Mozart is perhaps the most interesting remark of all.  It shows that Mozart was already a household name in Bonn as the archetypal young genius and already great composer, even though he was still only twenty-seven and most of his finest works had yet to be written; Mozart, not Haydn or even Bach, was held up as the model for Beethoven to emulate" (Cooper: 9).

in the wake of the death of the Bonn Elector Maximilian Friedrich on April 15, 1784, a decided Mozart friend became his successor, namely Empress Marie Therese's son, Maximilian Franz.  Mozart himself, however, had his own opinion of this admirer of his music: 

"The brilliant, witty, shrewdly observant Mozart wrote to his father (November 17, 1781): 'To whom God gives an office he also gives an understanding.  This is really the case with the Archduke.  Before he became a priest he was much wittier and more intellectual and talked less, but more sensibly.  You ought to see him now!  Stupidity looks out of his eyes; he talks eternally, always in falsetto; he has a swollen neck--in a word, the man is completely transformed" (Thayer: 74).  

Maximilian Franz

The Mozart biographer Otto Jahn had this to say about Maximilian Franz' love of Mozart:  

" .  .   .   Mozart was everything to him; he signalized him at every opportunity and said, if he were Elector of Cologne, Mozart would surely be his Kapellmeister.  He had also suggested to the Princess [of Württemberg] that she appoint Mozart her music teacher, but received the reply that if it had rested with her she would have chosen him; but the Emperor (--'for him there is nobody but Salieri!' cried out Mozart peevishly--) had recommended Salieri because of the singing, and she had to take him, for which she was sorry.' . . .  Jahn gives no reason why Mozart was not engaged for Bonn at the time of Maximilian's succession.  Perhaps he would have been if Lucchesi had resigned in consequence of the reduction of his salary; but he kept his office of kapellmeister and could not very well be dismissed without cause.  Mattioli's resignation was followed by the call of Joseph Reicha to the place of concertmaster; but for Mozart no vacancy occurred at that time.  Maximilian was in Vienna during most of the month of October, 1785, and may have desired to secure Mozart in some way, but just at that time the latter was, as his father wrote, "over head and ears busy with the opera Le Nozze di Figaro."  Old Kapellmeister Bonno could not live much longer; which gave him hope, should the opera succeed, of obtaining a permanent appointment in Vienna.  In short, his prospects seemed just then so good that we need not be surprised at his determination--if he really should receive an offer from the Elector--to remain in the great capital rather than to take his young wife so far away from home and friends as the Rhine then was, and, in a manner, bury himself in a small town where so few opportunities would probably be given him for the exercise of the vast powers which he was conscious of possessing. . . .  Was it the good or ill fortune of the boy Beethoven that Mozart came not to Bonn?  His marvellous original talents were thus left to be developed without the fostering care of one of the very greatest of musical geniuses, and one of the profoundest of musical scholars; but on the other hand it was not oppressed, perhaps crushed, by daily intercourse with that genius and scholarship" (Thayer: 77-78). 

With respect to Beethoven's compositional attempts of this period, Cooper points out that: 

"Mozart was by now undeniably the prime influence, and evidently remained his favourite composer until Beethoven encountered the music of Handel after Moving to Vienna. Neefe had already held up Mozart as a model in his printed notice of 1783, the year in which Beethoven must have heard Mozart's Entführung in Bonn. And reports of Mozart's piano concertos of the early 1780's could have prompted Beethoven to turn to the genre, although he would have had difficulty obtaining scores of them since they had not yet been published. In the Piano Quartet in E flat the allusion to Mozart is unmistakable. The model is the Violin Sonata in G, K. 379, composed and published in Vienna in 1781. . . . Beethoven begins his work with an Adagio theme almost identical to Mozart's. . . . ." (Cooper: 16 - 17).

If we consider this carefully, we will not be surprised that in the spring of 1787, Beethoven was sent nowhere else but to Mozart in Vienna in order to eventually improve his compositional skills under his tutelage.  Let us take a look at Cooper's summation of their encounter:  

"Beethoven set out from Bonn towards the end of March 1787, reaching Munich 1 April and Vienna about six days later (Easter Eve). No documents survive relating to the meeting of the two great composers--all we have is second-hand anecdotes of uncertain reliability. Mozart is reported to have been extremely impressed by Beethoven's extemporization, and to have told bystanders: 'Keep your eyes on him; some day he will give the world something to talk about.' . . . Ries says that Beethoven regretted never hearing Mozart play, but Czerny claims that Beethoven did hear him and that his playing was 'choppy', with no legato. Most likely, then, Beethoven heard Mozart's playing, perhaps during a theory lessen, but never attended a performance as such"  (Cooper: 22).


Beethoven at the age
of 16 years

Cooper further raises the question as to whether Beethoven gained a great deal out of his encounter with Mozart and can not confirm this as certain  (Cooper: 22).  However, he also raises a further, very interesting question:

" . . . And what about Mozart? Was his next work, the String Quintet in G minor (K. 516, completed in May), written in an ultra-serious vein due to his encounter with this earnest, forceful youth; and did he venture into the remote key of E flat minor in both the first and third movements of the quintet after being struck by Beethoven's impressive quartet movement in that key? Whatever their cause, all these effects can certainly be observed" (Cooper: 22).

Although Beethoven's impression of Mozart might not have been as profound as if he had stayed longer, he would have many an opportunity after his return to Bonn to become better acquainted with Mozart's work.  

Such an opportunity arose with the arrival of Count Waldstein, which Cooper places at the beginning of 1788  (Cooper: 25).  The Biographical Pages of our Beethoven partner website,  Beethoven:  The Magnificent Master, discuss Beethoven's relationship with this patron in the chapter,  Beethoven's later Bonn Years.  That this new friendship might also have brought with it a lively discussion of Mozart's works and some active music-making, might be considered a matter of course.

Moreover, the years 1789 and 1790 brought for Beethoven, as Barry Cooper reports: 

"Another stimulus to Beethoven's development came with the reopening of the opera theatre in Bonn in 1789. After Maximilian Franz had disbanded the theatre of his predecessor, temporary arrangements for a reduced season had been made in subsequent years, but now the activities were put on a firm footing again. Over a dozen operas were produced in the early months of 1789, including Mozart's Die Entührung and works by Salieri, Gretry, Cimarosa, and others, and the following season (13 October 1789 to February 1790) included Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, which had been composed as recently as 1786 and 1787 respectively. Beethoven would have participated in all these works as a member of the orchestra, and was thus able to experience some of the latest and greatest operatic works of the time. It is perhaps surprising that his own involvement in writing music for the stage was so slow to develop. He was, however, learning the dramatic power of such music, and would shortly put that understanding to good use" (Cooper; 26).

Those of you who might have read the creation history of the so-called Imperial Cantatas of Beethoven which he had composed in 1790, will already know what Cooper is referring to here.  Those of you who have recordings of both the Imperial Cantatas (the Joseph and Leopold Cantats) and of The Magic Flute, can not only try to discover in them what Beethoven had learned from his practical application of his knowledge of the dramatic power of Mozart's opera music, but they will also be able to compare how in these different works, two composers of different ages and of different stages in their development(s), almost at the same time, namely in 1790 (Beethoven) and in 1791 (Mozart) musically expressed the ideas of Josephinian Enlightenment.

What the consequences of Haydn's looking at these works -- amongst other Bonn works of Beethoven--were, is quite evident to all of us:  Beethoven's move to Vienna in the fall of 1792, in order to study counterpoint with Haydn.  After we will have taken another look at Waldstein's famous words that he wrote into Beethoven's farewell album,    

"Dear Beethoven!  You are going to Vienna in fulfillment of your long frustrated wishes.  The Genius of Mozart is mourning and weeping over the death of her pupil.  She found a refuge but no occupation with the inexhaustible Haydn; through him she wishes to form a union with another.  With the help of assiduous labor you shall receive Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands.  Your true friend Waldstein" (Thayer: 115), 


Count Waldstein

it might also be very enlightening to read Barry Cooper's last  comment with respect to Beethoven's last Bonn years:

"the image of Beethoven as Mozart's true successor was by now deeply entrenched in the collective Bonn psyche, including Waldstein's . . . " (Cooper: 40).

How Beethoven fared at trying to do justice to these expectations is what we will try to investigate in the next section.


Beethoven and Mozart during his first Years in Vienna, in the early 1790's

In the event that Beethoven might have had some time on his hands during his first few weeks in Vienna, he might have learned, as Thayer reports, that  "on November 23rd, Schikaneder announced, falsely, the one-hundredth performance of Die Zauberflöte . . .  " (Thayer: 151).  Beethoven's financial situation would hardly have allowed him to attend this opera by himself, so that only some support by one or the other of his patrons might have enabled him to see this opera at this time.  We can neither confirm nor deny such a possibility.

Although it might be inviting to already investigate Beethoven's relationship to Mozart of this time from the viewpoint of Waldstein's prophesy, "through arduous labor, you shall receive Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands" at this points, another aspect of Beethoven's development during his first Viennese years should be investigated first, namely that of his role as piano virtuoso and improviser.  After all, it were such former Mozart patrons as Prince Lichnowsky and Baron van Swieten who opened their doors to him and gave him an opportunity to prove himself in these capacities before a select audience.  Beethoven's early success provides us with an opportunity to observe that he was quite successful at trying to fill the gap that Mozart's death had left in Vienna's musical life, in his very own way.  You might wish to read more about this in the section,   Beethoven's Vienna Study Years of the Beethoven biography of our partner website, or also in the creation history of his five piano concertos.

Barry Cooper's book provides us with a further, interesting comment with respect to Mozart's attempt at trying to emulate his idol Mozart in his own compositional efforts:

" . . . and it penetrated Beethoven's own mind to the extent that in his early years in Vienna he intensified his efforts to follow Mozart, copying out several passages from Mozart's music when working on similar compositions, and writing much music that shows unmistakable Mozartean influence. Meanwhile Haydn was rightly seen by Waldstein as a refuge rather than a home for Mozart's spirit. Haydn had been a close friend of Mozart, and they had shared many ideals. but Haydn had his own very different spirit and, being much older than Mozart, was not suitable as an heir to him. What Waldstein could perhaps not perceive was that Beethoven, too, had a strong and independent spirit that was different from Mozart's that he could never thoroughly absorb it" (Cooper: 40).

That Beethoven's very likely participation as Bonn court orchestra member (as violist) in the performance of the Mozart operas in Bonn in 1789 and 1790 would also have a direct effect with respect to one of these operas, is proven by his composition of his variations to 'Se vuol ballare' from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro that he had already begun to work on in Bonn and that he completed in Vienna, in 1793 (Cooper: 44). Cooper reports that Beethoven even saw himself urged to publish these variations, due to their being in great demand, and thus they were published by Artaria in July, 1793, bearing the opus number '1' and having been dedicated to Eleonore von Breuning  (Thayer: 179).   Beethoven had sent these variations to Eleonore von Breuning with his letter of November 2, 1793:

" .  .  .  With this you will receive a dedication from me to you concerning which I only wish that the work were a larger one and more worthy of you.  I was plagued here tp publish the little work, and I took advantage of the opportunity, mi estimable E., to show my respect and friendship for you and my enduring memory of your family.  Take this trifle and remember that it comes from a friend who respects you greatly.  .   .  .  "  (Thayer:162).

"P. S..  The V. (variations) you will find a little difficult to play, especially the trills in the coda; but don't let this alarm you.  It is so contrived that you need play only the trill, leaving out the other notes because they are also in the violin part.  I never would have composted it so, had I not often observed that here and there in V. there was somebody who, after I had improvised of an evening, noted down many of the peculiarities, and made parade of them the next day as his own.  Foreseeing that some of these things would soon appear in print, I resolved to anticipate them.  Another reason that I had was to embarrass the local pianoforte masters.  Many of them are my deadly enemies, and I wanted to revenge myself on them, knowing that once in awhile somebody would ask them to play the variations and they would make a sorry show of them (Thayer: 163-164).

With respect to the PS, we should note that this would belong to Beethoven's second letter to Eleonore, of June, 1794, in which he thanked her for her sending him a cravat.  Thanks to this correspondence of Beethoven we have proof of his working on them, but are also provided with an insight into his competition with the Viennese pianoforte masters of whom, in his own words, some were his 'deadly enemies'.  Does his competition with them not confirm our hunch that Beethoven, both as piano virtuoso and as improviser, was able to fill the void Mozart's death had left in this respect, his own way? 

While Beethoven, thus, could enjoy his success but also had to carry the burden of his success as piano virtuoso, and while he devoted himself to the serious study of counterpoint under Haydn and Albrechtsberger, he also worked on the completion of his piano concerto no. 2 which he had already begun in Bonn, which, as Thayer assumes, he played during his first public performance of March 29, 1795.  Of Mozart's influence on this concerto, Cooper writes:  

"The second movement is a wonderfully profound Adagio. Beginning very simply, it makes great use of dynamic contrasts and Mozartean expressive appoggiaturas. The piano part becomes increasingly decorative, again in a Mozartean manner, but in the recapitulation the decoration is so elaborate that it far surpasses anything in Mozart's concertos" (Cooper: 44).

Let us think about Cooper's comment for a moment and about that what it points towards:  Does not the dynamic of Beethoven's adagio also reflect the dynamic of Beethoven's attempt at, on the one hand, emulating his early idol Mozart and, on the other hand, at trying to find his own path?

Beethoven's participation in the benefit concert that Konstanze Mozart had arranged for the 31st of March, 1795, was another opportunity for him to show his admiration for the deceased composer.  Thayer reports with respect to it as follows:  

"Mozart's widow arranged a performance of La Clemenza di Tito in the Burgtheater.  'After the first part,' says the advertisement, 'Hr. Ludwig van Beethoven will play a Concerto of Mozart's composition on the Pianoforte'" (Thayer: 175).

Looking at Beethoven's Vienna study years, we can observe that he, in addition to his serious counterpoint studies with Haydn and Albrechtsberger, was also intensely dealing with his role as 'Mozart's successor', namely in trying to fill the void his death had left in Vienna, by delighting his patrons with his early success as pianoforte virtuoso and improviser, but also in trying to emulate him in his compositional attempts of this period.  That he was also starting to aim at finding his own, more intense musical language, already pointed towards the dynamics of his years as successful young composer, which we will examine in the next section as to the further development of his relationship to Mozart.  


Mozart and Beethoven as Successful Young Composer

As we know from our Biographical Pages, Beethoven, after having established himself as a successful young composer in the eyes of the Viennese public in 1795, carried his Viennese success abroad in his extensive travels of the year 1796.  Cooper provides a good summary of it and also creates relevant links to Beethoven's pursuit of Mozart's legacy:    

"The itinerary of his first and longest tour involved a northward journey to Prague, Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin, and was clearly planned in conjunction with Lichnowsky.  The prince had accompanied Mozart on a tour to precisely these four cities in 1789, and now went with Beethoven as far as Prague.  Although the route was chosen largely for practical reasons, the symbolic nature of Beethoven inheriting Mozart's mantle by undertaking an identical tour should not be overlooked" (Cooper:  62;).

Both Cooper and Thayer report of Beethoven's success in Prague the ground for which, not to the least degree, was laid by the contacts to Prague Mozart patrons his 'escort', Prince Lichnowsky was able to provide him with. Of several compositions that Beethoven wrote for his Prague patrons, both biographers point out his scena, Ah! perfido  (Thayer: 183, Cooper:  63), which was published a few years later without an opus number and which ultimately found its place in Beethoven's body of work as Op. No. 65. The Prague singer and former Mozart friend, Josepha Duschek, sang this scena in Leipzig on November 21, 1796, although Cooper finds it possible that she had already performed it in Prague during Beethoven's visit.  How else, argues Cooper, would she have been able to obtain the score for her Leipzig performance?


Josepha Duschek

With respect to the work, itself, Cooper writes:

"Mozart's influence is apparent almost throughout--far more so than in the Trios, Op. 1 or the Sonatas, Op. 2.  Mozart was particularly highly esteemed in Prague, and had even written a similar scena himself for Josepha Dussek in 1787 ('Bella mia fiamma', K. 528).  Perhaps, then, Beethoven was deliberately aping Mozart's style to please his own patrons.  Only in the rather prolonged coda does Beethoven's personal voice begin to show through clearly;  and the way he turns the opening motif of the second part of the aria . . . into a closing motif in the orchestral postlude . . . is also highly characteristic of him . . . " (Cooper: 63).

Cooper also mentions Beethoven's E-flat Quintet for Piano and Winds, Op. 16, that he very likely completed in Berlin; as proof for this, he mentions that the sketches for all three movements were written on paper that Beethoven used in Berlin.  The work, so Cooper, shows a strong influence of Mozart, for which Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds, K452, has often been described as the model.  However, Cooper also contends that it is not certain that Beethoven already knew this work at that time, since it had not been published, yet, and that he, after all, would not have needed this particular Mozart work as a sample.  In spite of Mozart's general influence on Beethoven's quintet, Beethoven is reported by Cooper as having lent his first movement with a particularly long development section and coda, virtually 'dwarfing' Mozart's coda in his quintet  (Cooper: 66-67).

All of this would indicate that during his 1796 journey to Prague and Berlin, Beethoven not only had Mozart along as a 'musical travel companion' which he, at times, tried to openly emulate, but that he also tried to speak his own musical language.

That Mozart would also not be absent from Beethoven's creative efforts after his return to Vienna, is proven by his composition of his Variations for two Oboes and English Horn, on La ci darem la mano, from Mozart's Don Giovanni, WoO 28 (Thayer: 202).

Although Beethoven returned to Prague once more in 1798 and gave several public and private performances as a piano virtuoso and improviser, his compositional efforts of the period of 1797 to the fall of 1802 (with his return from Heiligenstadt) can generally be considered as striving towards gradually conquering all compositional genres.  The slow development of his own musical language that would increasingly gain the upper hand over the influence of his classical examples, Mozart and Haydn, can be seen as a natural part of this process. 

This did not mean, however, that he entirely turned his back on his role as piano virtuoso and improviser:  The gradual process of his hearing loss that set in approximately around 1797 still left him several years to also express himself in this artistic capacity, before his increasing anxiety over his impending deafness would, at least at times, send him into isolation during the years 17801/1802.    

Let us consider Beetoven's further development during these years and his relationship to Mozart with these two aspects in mind.  With respect to Beethoven's creative relationship to Mozart, Wenzel Tomaschek of Prague had the following to report of his visit to and performance there in 1798:

"Beethoven, the giant among pianoforte players, came to Prague.  He gave a largely attended concert in the Konviktsaal, at which he played his Concerto in C major, Op. 15, and the Adagio and graceful Rondo in A major from Op. 2, and concluded with an improvisation on a theme from Mozart's Titus (duet no. 7), Beethoven's magnificent playing and particularly the daring flights in his improvisation stirred me strangely to the depth of my soul; indeed I found myself so profoundly bowed down that I did not touch my pianoforte for several days .  .  .  " (Thayer: 207).

"The singular and original seemed to be his chief aim in composition, as is confirmed by the answer which he made to a lady who asked him if he often attended Mozart's operas, 'I do not know them,' he replied, 'and do not care to hear the music of others lest I forfeit some of my originality'" (Thayer: 208).

When Beethoven, during the late 1790's and early 1800's, found himself confronted by formidable pianistic competitors in Vienna, his and their fans would form factions, of which those of his competitors tended to value accurate, graceful playing in Mozart's style as compared to Beethoven's style:

"It was no longer the case that Beethoven was without a rival as pianoforte virtuoso.  He had a competitor fully worthy of his powers; one who divided about equally with him the suffrages of the leaders in the Vienna musical circles.  In fact the excellencies peculiar to the two were such and so different, that it depended upon the taste of the auditor to which he accorded the praise of superiority, Joseph Wölffl of Salzburg, two years younger than Beethoven, a "wonder-child", who had played a violin concerto in public at the age of seven years, was a pupil of Leopold Mozart and Michael Haydn.  Being in Vienna, when but eighteen years old, he was engaged, on the recommendation of Mozart, by the Polish Count Oginsky, who took him to Warsaw.  His success there, as pianoforte virtuoso, teacher and composer, was almost unexampled.  But it is only in his character as pianist that we have to do with him; and a reference may be made to the general principle, that a worthy competition is the best spur to genius.  When we read in one of his letters Beethoven's words "I have also greatly perfected my pianoforte playing," they will cause no surprise; for only by severe industry and consequent improvement could he retain his high position, in the presence of such rivals as Wölffl and, a year or to later, J.B. Cramer.  A lively picture of Wölffl by Tomaschek, who heard him in 1799, in his autobiography sufficiently proves that Wölffl's party in Vienna was composed of those to whom extraordinary execution was the main thing; while Beethoven's admirers were of those who had hearts to be touched. ..." (Thayer: 204-205).

We can not be sure if the following anecdote is entirely based on fact and if all of its details are accurate.  However, in the event that it might at least be based on a true core, it would shed a very positive light on Beethoven's esteem of Mozart's compositional qualities, at that time:

"Cramer's widow communicates a pleasant anecdote.  At an Augarten Concert the two pianists were walking together and hearing a performance of Mozart's pianoforte Concerto in C minor (K 491); Beethoven suddenly stood still and, directing his companion's attention to the exceedingly simple, but equally beautiful motive which is first introduced towards the end of the piece, exclaimed:  'Cramer, Cramer!  we shall never be able to do anything like that!'  As the theme was repeated and wrought up to the climax, Beethoven, swaying his body to and fro, marked the time and in very possible manner manifested a delight rising to enthusiasm" (Thayer: ).

Beethoven's enthusiasm for Mozart's music was certainly not hampered by his composition of the Variations for Pianoforte and Violoncello on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from Mozart's Magic Flute, which might have been an occasional work.  Thayer lists them as having been composed during the years 1798-99 (Thayer: 217) and as also having been published by Traeg of Vienna during this period (Thayer: 218).

As already discussed above, Beethoven's unique musical language began to gradually emerge during his conquest of various compositional genres, particularly in his String Quartets, Op. 18, and in his First Symphony, while the influence of his classical predecessors Mozart and Haydn slowly moved into the background.  As we already know from the first part of the creation history of Beethoven's string quartets from our partner website, Beethoven wrote his String Quartets, Op. 18 during this period.  With respect to their development and with respect to that of the First Symphony, Cooper writes:

"Thus a serious composer such as Beethoven could not approach either genre without due preparation if he hoped to succeed at the highest artistic level rather than produce mere works of entertainment.  Here it was a question of inheriting Haydn's spirit more than Mozart's (although the situation is complicated by the fact that Mozart's later quartets and symphonies were partly inspired by Haydn's example)" (Cooper: 78).

Cooper's contention would indicate that, in the development of Beethoven's creativity discussed here, Mozart's spirit was supposed to play a lesser part than Haydn's spirit.  We can, of course, not attempt to investigate this ourselves by examining all of Beethoven's works of this period as to their respective influences on him by Mozart and Haydn.  However, we can at least ask ourselves the question as to whether it was, indeed, Mozart's influence that gradually moved into the background even before Haydn's influence on him would.

A further problem of this period was that many of Beethoven's contemporaries could not imagine that any musician would grow beyond the classical examples of Haydn and Mozart.  Let us quote Thayer with respect to this:

".  .  .   The older generation of musical amateurs at Vienna, van Swieten and his class, had accepted the young Bonn organist and patronized him, as a pianist.   But when Beethoven began to press his claims as a composer, and, somewhat later, as his deafness increased, to neglect his playing, some of the elder friends had passed away, others had withdrawn from society, and the number was few of those who, like Lichnowsky, could comprehend that departures from the forms and styles of Mozart and Haydn were not necessarily faults.  With the greater number, as perfection necessarily admits of no improvement and both quartet and symphony in form had been carried to that point by Haydn and Mozart, it was a perfectly logical conclusion that further progress was impossible.    They could not perceive that there was still room for the invention or discovery of new elements of interest, beauty, power; for such perceptions are the offspring of genius.  With Beethoven they were instinctive" (Thayer: 241). 

Nevertheless, both Thayer (page 255) and Cooper (page 90) report that for his benefice concert of April 2, 1800, on the occasion of which Beethoven featured his Septet, the First Symphony, and one of his piano concertos, he selected a Mozart symphony for its introduction and also two movements from Haydn's Creation.  This would indicate that, in spite of all of Beethoven's moving forward in his own great works that he had composed 'before Heiligenstadt', he did not hesitate to openly express that he had not severed his ties to his great predecessors.  However, with respect to his compositional style after his return from Heiligenstadt, Cooper notes:  

" . . . Nevertheless, the works written immediately after Heiligenstadt can be seen as more profoundly innovative, pointing in new directions and moving much further away from the legacy of Haydn and Mozart" (Cooper: 122).

Perhaps this is the right time in our discussion to turn towards taking a look at Beethoven's knowledge of and his relationship to Mozart's Magic Flute.  If we consider that he had written his Variations on Papageno's Aria,  Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from the second act of this opera and also had them published in 1798-1799, we will ask ourselves if he already knew this opera very well from public performances, by that time.  Let us first quote Thayer with respect to Beethoven's visits of Schikaneder's suburb theatre: 

"Some two weeks after Beethoven's arrival in Vienna, on November 23rd, Schikaneder announced, falsely, the one-hundredth performance of Die Zauberflöte, an opera the success of which placed his theatre a few years later upon a totally different footing, and brought Beethoven into other relations to it than those of an ordinary visitor indulging his taste for the comical and, according to Seyfried, listening to and heartily enjoying very bad music" (Thayer: 151).

As we can see, Thayer discusses two issues here, namely, on the one hand, Beethoven's familiarity with Schikaneder's  Freihaustheater auf der Wieden, and, on the other hand, his later relationship with Schikaneder and his new  Theater an der Wien that had been opened in 1801Even if not all of us can understand German, we might still enjoy this brief film excerpt in which the Austrian art critic, Marcel Prawy, talks about the development of this theatre, on the occasion of its 200th anniversary in 2001, since it gives us a chance to take a look at its inside and outside and also to listen to some very relevant and familiar music in its introduction:

A brief excerpt from the film on the 200th anniversary of the Theater an der Wien Geburtstag 
aus: 3SAT; Sp
eaker: Marcel Prawy
WMV-Video 1.624 KB (Media Player 7 Download)

That Beethoven must also have been familiar with the performances of the Magic Flute in Vienna during 1801 is shown by these comments from Thayer-Forbes:

"In his Verzeichnis, Thayer lists as Item 81 the 7 Variations for Pianoforte and Violoncello on the theme "Bei Männern, welche Liebe Fühlen" (from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte), and dates it 1801 (?)  He notes (p. 42):  "The performance of Die Zauberflöte in the Court Theatre (beginning of 1801), produced by Schikaneder in the new Theater-an-der-Wien, which was repeated for a few months thereafter (to great effect) made this opera the subject of common gossip and was the apparent cause for the above variations."  ...  "The compositions for the year were:  1801. ...  Variations for Pianoforte and Violoncello on "Bei Männern, welche Liebe Fühlen" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, WoO 46" (Thayer: 298).

We would like to point out that, in addition to this rather amgiguous report on the various 1801 performances in Vienna of the Magic Flute, we will, shortly, feature a further comment in Thayer by Treitschke.  With respect to WoO 46, Thayer further reports that these variations were published by Mollo in Vienna, in 1802  (Thayer: 323).

From the creation history of Beethoven's opera Fidelio, which we feature in this site as well as in our Beethoven partner website, we have already become familiar with Beethoven's relationship to the Theater an der Wien.  However, it might not do any harm to take a look at Cooper's and Thayer's remarks with respect to it, particularly, since Thayer's remarks will also lead us back to the Magic Flute

"Around the beginning of 1803 Beethoven was appointed as composer at the Theater an der Wien, the main independent theatre in Vienna, where the directorate, led by Emanuel Schikaneder (librettist of The Magic Flute) wanted him to write an opera" (Cooper: 124).

"For a background to these negotiations let Treitschke, a personal actor in the scenes, explain:  "On February 24, 1801, the first performanace of Die Zauberflöte took place in the Royal Imperial Court Theatre beside the Kärtnerthor.  Orchestra and chorus as well as the representatives of Sarastro (Weinmüller), the Queen of Night (Mme. Rosenbaum), Pamina (Demoiselle Saal) and the Moor (Lippert) were much better than before.  It remained throughout the year the only admired German opera.  The loss of large receipts and the circumstance that many readings were changed, the dialogue shortened and the name of the author omitted from all mention, angered S. [Schikaneder] greatly.  He did not hesitate to give free vent to his gall, and to parody some of the vulnerable passages in the performance.  Thus the change of costume accompanying the metamorphosis of the old woman into Papagena seldom succeeded.  Schikaneder, when he repeated the opera at his theatre, sent a couple of tailors on to the stage who slowly accompanied the disrobing, etc.  These incidents would be trifles had they not been followed by such significant consequences; for from that time dated the hatred and jealousy which existed between the German operas of the two theatres, which alternately persecuted every novelty and ended in Baron von Braun, then manager of the Court Theatre, purchasing the Theater-an-der-Wien in 1804, by which act everything came under the staff of a single shepherd but never became a single flock" (Thayer:  344).

"'I have finally broken with Schikaneder, whose empire has really been entirely eclipsed by the light of the brilliant and attractive French operas. . . .  I have quickly had an old French libretto adapted and am now beginning to work on it.'  These comments by Beethoven, in a letter to Friedrich Rochlitz dated 4 January 1804, are the earliest indication of his decision to compose Leonore, later known as Fidelio.  Rochlitz had sent Beethoven the first act of a libretto he had written, but Beethoven rejected it, claiming the public was prejudiced against subjects with magic, though the prejudice was more Beethoven's than the publics.  He preferred grand, heroic topics, and on various occasions expressed distaste for the subjects of most of Mozart's major operas" (Cooper: 137; ).

What we can observe here is Beethoven's further development of his own taste with respect to opera subjects that he found suitable for his own opera work, such as the libretto to his opera Fidelio.  

Beethoven's views on marriage and marital fidelity, however, does not only become apparent from the choice of the subject of his only opera, but also found, as Thayer reports, expression in his relationship to Mozart, in real life:  

"A story related by Jahn is also to the point, namely, that Beethoven only by the urgent solicitations of the Czerny family was after much refusal persuaded to extemporize in the presence of a certain Madame Hofdamel.  She was the widow of a man who had attempted her life and then committed suicide; and the refusal of Beethoven to play before her arose from his having the general belief at the time, that a too great intimacy had existed between her and Mozart.  Jahn, it may be observed, had the great satisfaction of being able to prove the innocence of Mozart in this matter and of rescuing his memory from the only dark shadow which rested upon it" (Thayer: 245).


Mozart and Beethoven as Mature Composer

With respect to Beethoven's more 'mature' years, namely from the complete development of his so-called 'heroic' style on to the end of his life in 1827, we are now only left with the possibility and task to investigate as to how his relationship to Mozart continued to develop after he had severed his 'artistic/musical umbilical cord' to him in his own compositions.  

With respect to this, in his chapter pertaining to the year 1805, Thayer features reports by Ries, Czerny and other Beethoven friends that we should not rely on as being entirely accurate but that give as a general idea of his relationship of this time to Mozart:

"We pass to the notices of Ries, Czerny and others, which record divers characteristic anecdotes and personal traits of the master, not susceptible of exact chronological arrangement but which belong to this period.  "Of all composers," says Ries (Notizen, p. 84), 'Beethoven valued most highly Mozart and Handel, then S. Bach.  Whenever I found him with music in his hand or lying on his desk is was surely compositions of these heroes.  Haydn seldom escaped without a few sly thrusts."  Compare this with what Jahn heard from Czerny:  "Once Beethoven saw at my house the sores of six quartets by Mozart.  He opened the fifth, in A, and said:  'That's a work!  that's where Mozart said to the world:  Behold what I might have done for you if the time were right!" (Thayer: 366).

That Beethoven continued to value Mozart highly as a sample to follow for students of composition, becomes apparent from the following comments by Thayer and Cooper, with respect to the years 1808 and 1809:

"By 1808, at the latest, Beethoven had written out a cadenza for the first and third movements of Mozart's Concerto in D minor, K. 466 for Ferdinand Ries.  This was a favorite concerto with Beethoven which he played himself, it will be remembered, between the acts of the performance of La clemenza di Tito arranged by Mozart's widow at the Court Theatre on March 31, 1795.  According to Kinsky the handwriting is clearly of a later date; that it was composed for his student is indicated by the fact that the autograph to the first-movement cadenza was found among Ries' possessions" (Thayer: 478).

"One positive activity during these months, however, was the preparation of teaching material in composition for Archduke Rudolph.  . . .  It was probably during this summer, too, that he composed cadenzas for each of his first four piano concertos . . . and the piano version of the Violin Concerto, as well as two for Mozart's D minor Piano Concerto (K. 466).  These were presumably also intended for Rudolph, although at least one of the Mozart ones was evidently given to Ries shortly before his departure that summer" (Cooper: 186).

Beethoven's request of the Leipzig music publisher Breitkopf & Härtel of July 1809 for scores of Mozart, Haydn, J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach works (Cooper: 186) might not only have related to his using them for teaching purposes, but also out of personal interest and for their performance in private households or singing parties, that he had introduced before the war and might have wished to take up again, at that time.

That Beethoven might not have found as much pleasure in his more mature years in attending public opera performances than in earlier years could mostly be attributed to his ever-increasing hearing loss that was even more intensified after 1812.  However, we should not assume that his in-depth knowledge of and familiarity with the characters of Mozart's Magic Flute would have provided him with an 'appropriate substitute' in real life, in his applying this knowledge to his uneasy relationship with his sister-in-law, Johanna van Beethoven, nee Reiss, the mother of his nephew Carl.  With respect to this, Cooper writes: 

"Beethoven was sufficiently aware of her faults to conclude that, whatever qualities of love and affection she might bring as a mother, she was unfit to be a co-guardian and was likely to be a bad influence on Karl.  Once convinced of this, he put as much energy and determination into attempts at excluding her from the guardianship as he put into composition and all his other activities, for he saw Karl's education as a sacred duty that had been bestowed on him.  Some of his subsequent comments about Johanna's evil nature may have been exaggerated as a result of his desire to put his case, but his references to her as 'Queen of the Night', after the character in The Magic Flute, certainly had some basis, and several other people referred to her behaviour unflatteringly" (Cooper: 246 ).

Approximately around this time, namely in 1817, Beethoven received a visit from Endlgand by Cipriani Potter, the director of the Royal Music Academy in London, who brought him news from Ries, Neate, Rode and Dragonetti.  During several walks around Vienna that both took, the following conversation is reported as having occurred: 

"Beethoven used to walk across the fields to Vienna very often and sometimes Potter took the walk with him.  Beethoven would stop, look around and give expression to his love for nature.  One day Potter asked:  'Who is the greatest living composer, yourself excepted?'  Beethoven seemed puzzled for a moment, then exclaimed 'Cherubini'.  Potter went on:  'And of dead authors?'  Beethoven answered that he had always considered Mozart as such, but since he had been made acquainted with Handel he hat put him at the head" (Thayer: 683).  

A few years later, namely in 1821, Beethoven, in a conversation with the Viennese composer and pianist  Johann Friedrich Horzalka (1778 - 1860), is reported as having said about the Magic Flute:  

"In April, 1860, the author had a conversation with Horzalka in which the latter spoke very highly of Schindler and his disinterested fidelity in Beethoven.  Horzalka also said that in 1820 or 1821, as near as he can recollect, the wife of a Major Baumgarten took boy boarders in her home.  Her sister, Baroness Born, lived with her.  Fraum Baumgarten had a son who studied at Blöchlinger's Institute, and Beethoven's nephew was amongst her boarders.  One evening Horzalka called there and found only the Barnoness Born at home.  Soon another caller came and stayed to tea.  It was Beethoven.  Among other topics, Mozart came under discussion, and the Baroness asked Beethoven, in writing of course, which of Mozart's operas he thought most of.  'Die Zauberflöte,' said Beethoven, and suddenly clasping his hands and throwing up his eyes exclaimed, 'Oh, Mozart!'  As Horzalka had, as was the custom, always considered Don Giovanni the greatest of Mozart's operas, this opinion by Beethoven made a very deep impression upon him.  Beethoven invited the Baroness to come to his lodgings and have a look at his Broadwood pianoforte" (Thayer: 776). 

As Cooper reports, in the 22nd variation of his Diabelli Variations that Beethoven wrote at about this time, he quoted the aria 'Notte e giono faticar' from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, probably having discovered its similarity to Diabelli's opening phrase (Cooper: 306).  This might point towards the possibility that, although Mozart considered The Magic Flute as Mozart's greatest opera, he was also able to value the musical treasures of Don Giovanni, particularly if he nearly 'stumbled' across them. 

As we already know from the Beethoven Biography of our partner website, during the 1820's, Beethoven received many visitors from England, such as, for example, in 1823 by Edward Schulz who published his recollection of this visit in the Harmonicon, in January 1824.  Thayer quotes it as follows:

"An excerpt from the letter will serve to advance the present narrative:  'In the whole course of our table-talk there was nothing so interesting as what he said about Handel.  It sat close by him and heard him assert very distinctly in German, 'Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived."  I cannot describe to you with what pathos, and I am inclined to say, with what sublimity of language, he spoke of the Messiah of this immortal genius.  Every one of us was moved when he said, 'I would uncover my head, and kneel down at his tomb!'  H. and I tried repeatedly to turn the conversation to Mozart, but without effect.  I only heard him say, 'In a monarchy we know who is the first'; which might or might not apply to the subject.  Mr. C. Czerny--who, by-the-by, knows every note of Beethoven by heart, though he does not play one single composition of his own without the music before him--told me, however, that B. was sometimes inexhaustible in his praise of Mozart. . . . " (Thayer: 871).

Thayer further reports that the Thuringian-born Londoner, Johann Andreas Stumpff, visited Beethoven in Baden near Vienna, in September 1824.  On this occasion, Beethoven is reported as having been in good spirits.  Let us read Thayer's report of this:  

"To-day I am just what I am and what I ought to be,--all unbuttoned!"  And now he unbosomed himself on the subject of music, which had been degraded and made a plaything of vulgar and impudent passions.  'True music,' he said, found little recognition in this age of Rossini and his consorts.'  Thereupon I took up the pencil and wrote in very distinct letters:  'Whom do you consider the greatest composer that ever lived?' 'Handel,' was his instantaneous reply; 'to him I bow the knee,' and he bent one knee to the floor.  'Mozart,' I wrote.  'Mozart,' he continued, 'is good and admirable.' 'Yes,' wrote I, 'who was able to glorify even Handel with his additional accompaniments to The Messiah.'  'It could have lived without them,' was his answer.  .  .  . "  (Thayer: 920).

After the premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Vienna in May 1824, the financial success of it was not to his liking, his former pupil Ferdinand Ries, as Cooper reports, had, in the meantime, settled in Godesberg near Bonn and tried to promote Beethoven's music in the Rhineland, and particularly this opera, at the Music Festival of the Lower Rhineland in Aachen.  Since the publisher Schott would not have the score ready in time, Ries asked Beethoven for it and received what Beethoven could willingly offer him.  Some passages, however, had to be copied out, again.  Beethoven entrusted this work to the copyist Ferdinand Wolanek.  Let us read Cooper's report of this incident:  

"The task was entrusted to Ferdinand Wolanek, who made so many mistakes that Beethoven soon became angry.  Wolanek then returned what he had copied, excusing himself thus: ' . . . I am comforted only by the firm conviction that the same fate as mine would have befallen Mozart and Haydn, those celebrated artists, had they been employed by you as copyists.'  .  .  .  Beethoven, enraged, crossed out the entire letter and wrote across it in large letters: 'Stupid, conceited, asinine churl'; then at the bottom: 'So I must yet compliment such a scoundrel, who steals money from people!  Instead I'll pull his asinine ears.'  Turning over, he continued, 'Bungling scribbler!  Stupid Churl!  Correct your mistakes made though ignorance, arrogance, conceit and stupidity--this would be better than wanting to teach me, which is just as if the sow wanted to teach Minerva.'  In the margins he added: 'It was decided yesterday and even before then to have you write no more for me', and, 'Do Mozart and Haydn the honour of not mentioning them.'  Such vehemence in the face of arrogance and incompetence was highly characteristic of Beethoven" (Cooper: 326).

Just as much as Beethoven could be enraged by his copyist's 'dishonoring' Mozart and Haydn, he could also come to Mozart's defense in a more appropriate manner, as Thayer reports with respect to Beethoven's letter to Abbe Stadler, in which he commended the latter for his defense of the authenticity of Mozart's 'Requiem'

"on the 6th of Feby, 1826... Respected and venerable Sir!  You have done a really good deed in securing justice for the manes of Mozart by your truly exemplary and exhaustive essay.  Both lay and profane, and all who are musical or who can in any way be accounted such must give you thanks--Either nothing or a great deal is required to broach such a  subject as Herr W. has done.   When it is also considered, as far as I know, that such a one has written a book on composition and yet tries to attribute such passages as [musical example to Mozart, and if one adds to it an example of W(eber)'s own crudities such as [musical example] we are reminded by H.W.'s amazing knowledge of harmony and melody of the old and dead Imperial composers Sterkel, Haueisen, Kalkbrenner (the father), Andre (certainly not the other one) and so forth.  ...  Requiescant in pace--But I am particularly grateful to you, my honored friend, for the happiness you have given me in sending me your essay.  I have always counted myself among the greatest admirers of Mozart and shall remain so until my last breath--Reverend Sir, your blessing very soon--With sincere regards, venerable Sir, I remain your faithful Beethoven" (Thayer: 987-88).

Even after Beethoven's death, this Requiem would still play a role with respect to him:  

"On April 3rd [1827] Mozart's Requiem was sung at the Church of the Augstinians, under the direction of Lablache. . . . " (Thayer: 1056).

In conclusion, we might, perhaps, be able to come to the realization that with respect to Beethoven's relationship to Mozart, Friedrich Nietzsche's comment in his Also sprach Zarathustra applies very aptly:

"Man vergilt einem Lehrer schlecht, wenn man immer nur Schüler bleibt."  (Zarathustra I, Von der schenkenden Tugend 3; 'One does not do proper justice to one's teacher by permanently remaining (his) pupil').

Did Beethoven not, in this sense, do proper justice to Mozart?



Cooper, Barry.  Beethoven.  (The Master Musicians, Series edited by Stanley Sadie).  Oxford: 2000, Oxford University Press.

Thayer's Life of Beethoven, edited by Elliott Forbes. Princeton, New Jersey Princeton University Press, 1964.