Rideau Chorale reignites a friendship

By Janice Manchee

Two great friends. Both artists, musicians. They’d probably be tickled to learn their music would be performed together more than 200 years in the future.

Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart reportedly connected as friends despite many differences.

Haydn’s family was musical, but untrained. At six, his talent led to him being apprenticed to obtain musical training. By eight, he was recruited to work as a chorister in Vienna. He never lived with his parents again, and his employers believe hunger made him more likely to impress. He did learn a few instruments but received no training in composition or musical theory. These he picked up on his own.

His increasing inability to sing the treble part led to his firing when he was 17 and a patchwork of employment followed. But within a few years, he began earning a name as a composer and by 25 had his first-time employment as music director for an aristocrat.

Mozart was born not long after Haydn took on these duties. His father was a composer and teacher, who was surprised to find his five-year old son composing small pieces on his own initiative. By six, Mozart was travelling and performing as a child prodigy. During this time, Mozart wrote his first symphony.

At 17, at this father’s urging, Mozart accepted employment with Colloredo, the ruler of Salzburg. The next eight years were difficult as his employer paid little and repeatedly prevented Mozart from performing in venues that could lead to other opportunities. Mozart finally persuaded his patron to let him quit, but he was dismissed with a literal “kick in the arse” delivered by Colloredo’s steward. Mozart promptly moved to Vienna.

And here the two friends met and quickly bonded. They played together in concerts, and Haydn joined Mozart’s Masonic Lodge. They were vocal about their respect for one another. Mozart penned the series of works called the Haydn Quartets. Haydn told Mozart’s father “your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”

There was one other thing the two had in common – each married the sister of the woman they truly loved. Neither marriage went well.

Haydn moved to London in 1790. The two friends had a sad parting, with Mozart reportedly saying, “We are probably saying our last farewells in this life.” Haydn had no idea it would be his young friend who died the next year.

Rideau Chorale is pleased to bring them back together, if only musically, for the performance of Haydn’s Mass No. 9 in C Major (Mass in the Time of War) and Mozart’s Mass in F Major.

Kevin Reeves is the guest music director for this concert. The choir will be joined by Matthew Larkin on organ as well as soloists Elizabeth Brown, Danielle Vaillancourt, Adam Sperry and Phillip Holmes.

The concert takes place Saturday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Southminster Church in Old Ottawa South. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.ca.

Janice Manchee sings tenor with Rideau Chorale. Information about Rideau Chorale and its virtual and upcoming performances can be found at rideauchorale.com.

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