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Similarities and Differences between Beethoven and Mozart

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Within the classical style of music stand two well-known, well-versed composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Both men were crucial, influential figures in the Classical era of music and composed works that are still held with great praise and dignity over 200 years later.

To passive listeners, Mozart and Beethoven are very similar in their style and compositions. Although similarities do exist, their music and personal lives differed, most appropriately due to the periods in which they rose to fame.

Mozart, considered the best and most successful composer of the Classical era, began his work at a time when classical music was prominent. Beethoven, meanwhile, was successful during the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras. Although he's considered an influential figure of the Classical era, he is also credited with developing a new style and pushing the boundaries of classical music. 

Because Beethoven was born when Mozart began composing his early successful works he was able to take advantage of learning and studying classical music when it was at its pinnacle. Both composers were born into highly-musical families. Their fathers were their first teachers who considered their sons musical prodigies.

Mozart's father was a composer and skilled music teacher. On family trips across Europe he began performing and meeting numerous musicians of the era. He was especially influenced by Johann Christian Bach, whom he met and studied with between 1764 and 1765. Beethoven's father was a tenor vocalist who gave lessons in piano and violin. It is believed that he was a harsh instructor who pushed Beethoven into early performances. The boy's talent was obvious at a very early age, however, which led to his lessons with several different well-known musicians.

Beethoven's rise to fame came after his studies with Joseph Haydn in Vienna in the early 1790s. Haydn had great musical influence on Beethoven, leading to a major departure from Beethoven's early works. Newly created compositions at this time showcased his growing range, intricacy, and advancement. Instead of trying to establish himself as a composer, Beethoven focused on his studies and musicality. He worked under Haydn for 4 years and continued studying in Vienna under the direction of several other instructors and composers.

Mozart, on the other hand, put all of his eggs in performing and making his name known world-wide. He traveled across Europe and performed as he composed, eventually gaining wider recognition and strong for praise for creating some of the best compositions of the time.

Sonically, their works were quite different. It's often said that Beethoven stands out more than Mozart in classical music, that his compositions are more complex are more in touch with personality and emotion. At the same time, it could be said that Mozart was ahead of his time. Beethoven borrowed many ideas from numerous composers before him, including Mozart; in adding his own touch he made his works loved then and now. 

In his thirty five years, Mozart composed nine major symphonies and over 600 classical pieces. His work is mostly structured and follows a common sonata form. Although Mozart does not incorporate much variety into his music, he is known as an innovator as his time, one of the best classical pianists ever born and a creator of some of the most technically-advanced pieces within the Classical period, often considered far and above works of other composers like Haydn

Beethoven had the advantage of having other works available to build from and incorporate into his own. By studying other composers and learning the technicalities of music at a young age he was able to play and compose with more passion and expression. His music is more loosely-structured from piece to piece. He was well-trained but his music was often hard to decipher on paper. His compositions were often complex and hard to understand by the masses. Such intricacies were left out by Mozart, who wrote music that could repeatedly be played for people across Europe. 

Meanwhile, Beethoven wrote at a time when the music was changing from Classical to Romantic. Classical style was largely based on sonatas, and although he wrote several and incorporated these into a large portion of his repertoire, his experimentation and willing addition of expression and emotion is what made him a leading figure in the Romanticism movement and largely different than composers, like Mozart, of the past. 

While Beethoven lived to be 57, he was almost entirely deaf by the age of 30; this did not stop him, however, from writing, composing, and performing music. He died in Vienna in 1827 and had a funeral attended by over 20,000 people. Mozart died in Prague in 1791, and interestingly, his fame, celebrity, and standing as a classical composer rose substantially after this death. Even now he is more well-known than he ever was during his lifetime. Beethoven, meanwhile, died as famous as he lived.

Similarities and differences exist between these two composers but their impact on musical performance and composition will never cease to resonate. Mozart and Beethoven will forever be remembered as important, influential figures of classical music. 


More about this author: Nick Somoski