Give Now

Harmonia Early Music

Music for the Freemasons: Haydn and Mozart

The fraternal organization known as Freemasonry is explored and its connection to two 18th-century composers who were members—Joseph Haydn and W. A. Mozart.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
drawing of ceremony

Photo: Wikipedia

An Freemason initiation ceremony as depicted at the turn of the 18th Century (artist unknown).

The mysterious fraternal organization known as Freemasonry can trace its origins all the way back to the Middle Ages. But its roots took hold sometime at the end of the 16th Century with the organization of the first Masonic lodges. (Lodges are basic structures within Freemasonry and can be simply described as a meeting of a group of Masons.)

It wasn’t until the early 18th Century that Freemasonry was reorganized into larger more distinct units whose presence spread across Europe.

Joseph Haydn

Many famous and influential figures from the 18th Century were Masons—musicians included. Among the handful of 18th-century composers who are known Freemasons is Joseph Haydn, who was inducted into the Lodge “Zur wahren Eintracht,” or “True Concord,” in February of 1785.

Little is known about Haydn’s participation and interest in the Viennese Lodge that he was a member of. Scholars believe it was minimal at best. The only known composition that he wrote for a Masonic lodge was not for one in Vienna, but in Paris.

In 1786, Haydn received a lucrative commission to write six symphonies that were subsequently performed at the Parisian “Concert de la Loge Olympique.” In the tradition of many a Haydn symphony, three of the six Paris symphonies received nicknames such as the “the hen,” the queen,” and “the bear.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In the same month that Haydn applied for membership to a Lodge, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was inducted into Freemasonry. On December 14, 1784, Mozart became a member of Lodge “Zur Wohltätigkeit,” or “Beneficence.” Unlike Haydn, Mozart was an active member of the Freemasons and wrote a number of works for them, including one entitled “Masonic Funeral Music,” which employed Masonic symbolism.

He also composed pieces for his musician friends who were also Masons such as the clarinetist Anton Stadler. Both the Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet were written for Stadler.

Arguably the most talked-about composition of Mozart’s to honor the Freemasons in its use of symbolism is the opera “The Magic Flute,” which incorporates the number three, a particularly important number in Masonic symbology. The use of the number three and other symbols are found in the overture as well as the “March of the Priests” and the aria “O Isis und Osiris.”

New Release

Our new release of the week is a program of J.S. Bach’s complete sonatas for viola da gamba. Baroque cellist Audrey Ciennwa and harpsichordist Paul Ciennwa appear in their debut release on the Whaling City Sound label.

Music Heard On This Episode

Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in D major, BWV 1028, Allegro
Audrey Cienniwa, violoncello piccolo, and Paul Cienniwa, harpsichord — Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Whaling City Sound , 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in D major, BWV 1028, Allegro
Audrey Cienniwa, violoncello piccolo, and Paul Cienniwa, harpsichord — Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Whaling City Sound , 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in D minor, op. 42, II.Menuetto. Allegro, III.Adagio e cantabile, and IV.Finale. Presto
Salomon Quartet — String Quartets (Hyperion, 1993)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Joseph Haydn: Symphony in C major (1786), L’Ours, no. 82, Hob. I:82, I.Vivace assai
Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt — The Paris Symphonies (DHM, 2005)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : “Masonic Funeral Music,” K. 477
The London Classical Players/Roger Norrington — Mozart Requiem, Mauerische Trauermusik and Ave Verum Corpus (EMI, 1992)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
W.A. Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, KV 581 (1789), III.Menuetto
Eric Hoeprich, early clarinets, and the London Haydn Quartet — Mozart/Brahms Clarinet Quintets (Glossa, 2006)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
W.A. Mozart: Ouvertüre, Marsch der Priester, and Aria with Choir “O Isis und Osiris”
The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists/John Eliot Gardiner — Die Zauberflöte (Archiv, 1996)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Johann Sebastian Bach: Sonata in D major, BWV 1028, [Adagio]
Audrey Cienniwa, violoncello piccolo, and Paul Cienniwa, harpsichord — Sonatas for Viola da Gamba (Whaling City Sound , 2009)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

View all posts by this author »

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Harmonia Early Music:

More Subscription Options

Follow Us

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Harmonia Early Music

About The Hosts

Search Harmonia Early Music

where to hear harmonia