Haydn and Mozart

Michael Borgstede – fortepiano

Mozart Sonata KV 280 F major
Haydn Sonata Hob. XVI:23 F major
Haydn Sonata Hob. XVI:39 E flat major
Mozart Sonata KV 333 in B flat major

27.11.21 at 18.00 online-concert

Haydn and Mozart

Michael Borgstede – fortepiano


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Sonata KV 280 F major 

I Allegro assai

II Adagio

III Presto


Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Sonata Hob. XVI:23 F major

I Allegro moderato

II Adagio

III Finale. Presto


Joseph Haydn 

Sonata Hob. XVI:49 E flat major 

I Allegro

II Adagio e cantabile

III Finale. Tempo di Minuet


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

Sonata KV 333 B flat major

I Allegro

II Andante cantabile

III Allegretto grazioso

Great works of art stand alone – they need nothing and no one by their side. Even though we might look at or listen to them differently, depending on in what context they are framed. Regular visitors of classical piano recitals will recognize the following program order: A Sonata by Haydn is followed by one by Mozart, then maybe some Beethoven. After the intermission some later Beethoven, maybe Schubert, Schumann and finally Chopin. Haydn’s wonderful Sonatas are thus turned into a charming warming up exercise for listeners and performer alike. Hardly was a bigger injustice ever done to a composer.

This program does nothing of this kind. There is not an element of competitiveness in pairing those two Haydn Sonatas with their -more or less- contemporaneous sister works by Mozart.

Yes, the musical duel was extremely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries: Bach was supposed to compete against Marchand, Händel played against Scarlatti und Mozart had a competitive encounter with Clementi. But not unlike today musical competitions in those times were superficial events. Luckily Mozart and Haydn had nothing but mutual respect for one another and there is no need for us to recreate a competition that never was. Indeed Haydn – a generation older than Mozart – was almost personally insulted by what he perceived as a lack of official appreciation for Mozart’s music. In 1783 he wrote to a friend: “If I could only impress on the soul of every friend of music, and on high personages in particular, how inimitable are Mozart’s works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive!…  It enrages me to think that this incomparable Mozart is not yet engaged in some imperial or royal court! Forgive me if I lose my head. But I love this man so dearly.” In turn Mozart’s dedication of his six string quartets to Haydn – who before had single handedly revolutionized the genre – is non less affectionate.

A lot of arguments have been exchanged whether Mozart knew Haydn’s Sonata in F-Major Hob. XVI:23 when he composed his Sonata in the same key K280 sometime between late 1774 and March 1775. In any case: Some structural and compositional similarities are hard to miss. The slow middle movements in both Sonatas are in f-Minor and in the style of a Siciliano. Even the thematic material is similar. Still, listening to those Sonatas side by side it also becomes clear how there really is not one classical style but how the compositional techniques are very different. Haydn apparently doesn’t share Mozart’s apprecitation of Alberti-Bass figurations and can never resist a good musical joke. Mozart – for example in his mature Sonata KV 333 – overwhelms the listeners with an astonishing wealth of thematic invention. It is almost as if had had so many memorable melodies in stock that he could easily waste one or two on a small transition or the development section. Haydn on the other hand seems to purposefully restrict himself the first movement of Hob. XVI:49 to a theme that almost doesn’t deserve the name. But what does he manage to do with it? His motivic work is spellbinding, leaving at some point only the rhythm of his main subject and place and taking even that apart – only to put everything brilliantly together again. No, there is really no room for a competition here, no better or worse. But listening to those masterpieces side by side we understand better what those two musical giants recognized in each other. 

German harpsichordist, fortepianist and organist Michael Borgstede has been described as one of the most exciting virtuosos of his generation on historical keyboard instruments. 

He studied harpsichord with Jacques Ogg at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. As a soloist and member of the chamber music ensemble Musica ad Rhenum, he has toured most of Europe, the United States, Asia, South America and the Middle East and performed at the most prestigious venues and festivals. Michael Borgstede is professor of harpsichord and Basso Continuo at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne.  

His two dozen CD productions have all met with wide critical acclaim. His debut recording of the 4 Livres de Pièces de Clavecin by Francois Couperin on 11 CDs won the prestigious Gramophone Editor’s Choice. The Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant described it as „a real treasure box“ and the American magazine Fanfare stated there was „no excuse for not investing in an issue that will provide rich rewards for many years to come.“ No less enthusiastic was the reaction to the four CD set with harpsichord suites by Georg Friedrich Händel, which was hailed by the German and Spanish magazines Fono Forum and Scherzo alike as „a new reference recording“. 

Lately he has increasingly become interested in the history and performance practice of early pianos and now owns two original instruments from 1776 and 1812.  In his recordings as well as in live performances Michael strives for contrast and drama, for an interpretation which does justice to the rhetoric and affect of Baroque music, ideals that carried well into the Classical period. In 2021 the fruits of his new collaboration with Stephan Schardt, former first Violinist of ‚Musica Antiqua Köln‘ will be released: A three CD album recorded for German radio SWR that pairs Sonatas by Mozart with those of his  contemporaries like Kraus, Dussek, Leduc, Johann Christian Bach and Haydn.