Duets for Violin and Viola (K.423, K.424)

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

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Mozart Duets for Violin and Viola (K.423, K.424)

There is a remarkable story told by Franz Joseph Otter and Georg Johann Schinn, two early biographers of Michael Haydn (1737–1806), of the reason for the composition of the two duets for violin and viola K.423 and 424 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  According to this, Michael Haydn had been commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg to write a series of duets for violin and viola which he was unable to deliver, due to illness, at the appointed time.  The Archbishop, either because he did not know of Haydn’s illness or through the arbitrariness of a despotic nature, threatened to withhold Haydn’s fee. 

Mozart, who was visiting his father in Salzburg at the time (July–November 1783), heard of Haydn’s difficult position and, it is said, wrote the duets for Haydn which were then handed over as if composed by the latter.  Haydn is said to have preserved the original manuscript of the two works “als ein Heiligthum” (as a sacred relic) and thus honoured “Mozart’s immortal memory forever.”

With these two duets, his only works for this instrumentation, Mozart continued the tradition of a type of piece which in its long history had shown widely differing characteristics.  Instructional features, such
as the use of counterpoint and etude-like writing, belong to it as much as great virtuosity.  Mozart has happily brought together in these two works all these elements and raised them to uncommon heights.

- Urtext of the New Mozart Edition

Baerenreiter Germany

Additional Information

Viola, Violin