Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven were all employed in the patronage system. How did the careers of each composer differ from one another?

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The career of Joseph Haydn differs from the careers of Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart and Beethoven have much in common. Both composers had musical fathers. Mozart’s dad, Leopold, was a violinist, composer, and assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg court. Beethoven’s dad, Johann, was a singer and teacher for the court of the Elector of Cologne (Maximilian Franz).

Through their fathers, Mozart and Beethoven enjoyed early access to the patronage system. At six, Mozart’s dad took him on a tour of select courts. As a teen, Beethoven secured positions in Maximilian Franz’s court. As they grew up, Mozart would be become frustrated with the patronage system, while Beethoven would find patrons that encouraged his creative independence. Mozart’s career was adversely impacted by several physical and mental ailments. Beethoven’s career was hindered by deafness.

Joseph Haydn didn’t have a musical father. Haydn’s dad was a manual laborer who repaired wooden wheels. Haydn did not have immediate access to the patronage system. At six, Haydn left his parents and went to live with a cousin. A choirmaster, the cousin helped Haydn cultivate his singing talents. Soon, Haydn was singing in the choir of an important church in Austria.

Once his voice changed, Haydn lost his role in the choir and struggled to make ends meet. Nonetheless, Haydn taught himself about music and forged connections on his own that would eventually lead to the long-term patronage of Prince Miklos. Despite their differences, Haydn had a positive impact on the career of Mozart and played a contentious role in the career of Beethoven. Like Beethoven, Haydn had patrons who didn’t try to limit his art.

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