Haydn v Mozart

edited April 2008 in Classical
I have to side with Mozart on this one, mainly because there's a lot of Mozart music that I really love, whereas with Haydn it's a case of really liking. There's about twice as much Mozart as Haydn in my collection, so it's as much about knowledge as anything else. So here's your challenge, SoNot: suggest tracks for a "Haydn at his finest" CD and I'll download at my next refresh (about 12 days away).

I recently read a biography of Haydn (in the "Master Musicians" series, not too deep) and 2 things came across especially - what a decent man he was, and how he assiduously developed his talent rather than necessarily being born with it. Success didn't come quick but when it did it was well earned


  • I'm splitting this post into multiple posts because my original post was too long.

    I think there's not one reason, but a variety of reasons which, when added together, prompt me to give that smidgen of recognition to Haydn over Mozart. Don't get me wrong - Mozart is an amazing composer, and I am still disappointed that my parents didn't name me 'Wolfgang' (they almost did). I think it's only fair for me to discuss, to some extent, why I still think Haydn sometimes gets a short shrift.

    First of all, I will say that - while I am not an expert - just about everything I've read and heard indicates that Haydn was an extremely important figure in the development of the string quartet, the modern symphony orchestra, and sonata form. While it would be an overstatement to say that he 'invented' any of these things, it is true that he was crucial in developing and solidifying them. Mozart did innovate in some ways, but most commentators agree that he was more of a refiner, a perfecter, of the forms that he inherited largely from Haydn (and from, to a lesser extent, J.C. and C.P.E. Bach).

    Now, perfection and refinement are nothing to sniff at, but I disagree with one commentator (can't remember his name) who says that anybody can be the first, anybody can invent something, but it takes a true genius to perfect it. I agree with the second half of that statement, but not the first; I think it takes a great mind to be the first to come up with something if that something becomes a standard fixture in western music for the rest of history (in other words, being the first to include instructions to have your performers play naked wouldn't be quite so impressive to me).
  • edited April 2008
    Another reason I respect Haydn is that he was such a hard worker. We tend to glorify innate genius, precociousness, natural ability, and prodigies above people who achieve the same things through hard work in our culture. I will say this here and now: Mozart was a greater natural musical genius than Haydn, no question. But the fact that Haydn was able to make himself the most respected musician in all of Europe, able to pull himself out of poverty, make huge contributions to the musical language and to things as basic as the composition of the symphony orchestra, and was able to secure himself as an immortal composer, despite not being quite as natural a genius as Mozart, means a great deal to me. And, as you mentioned, Haydn was an eminently decent fellow, almost universally beloved, and I really do have a soft space in my heart for individuals of historic achievement who still managed to be really wonderful people.

    There are more specific reasons why I think Haydn stands at least shoulder-to-shoulder with Mozart. For me, being a pianist and piano teacher and lover of piano music, nobody's output even comes close to Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. He is so far above anyone else (perhaps Chopin is the only one even on the same planet) when it comes to piano music that I have to mention him first. But after him, the two greatest classical piano sonatists (I want that to be a word) were Mozart and Haydn. Moart of course is the more respected, and his sonatas are played more, but I think on a sonata-by-sonata basis, Haydn's are actually greater.

    I'm not the only one to think this; I read a review of some Haydn piano music recently where the reviewer pointed out that Mozart never wrote a sonata as great as Haydn's No. 59 (formerly 49) in E-Flat Major. To be sure, plenty of Haydn's sonatas are rather modest keyboard divertimenti, but if one were to take, say, the ten greatest Haydn sonatas, they could go toe-to-toe with just about any Mozart sonata (although I will add that Mozart's A-Minor sonata is one of my favorites). The other thing that hurts Haydn is that his sonatas on a large scale show huge musical growth (compare Sonata No. 1 with No. 62 and the development is obvious). But even in his late output, Haydn would occasionally turn out a modest sonata that, seen on its own, would not necessarily indicate his great genius in the realm of keyboard music (take No. 61, for example, although that's still a delightful work). To be even-handed, I must point out that Mozart's sonatas show musical development, but not as radically as, say, his symphonies.

    I think Haydn's string quartets, as a group, could compare favorably with Mozart's, if only because Haydn wrote so many more, and because Mozart himself was such an acknowledged fan and follower of Haydn's quartets.

    Where is Mozart undeniably superior? Opera. Mozart is probably the greatest opera composer of all time; certainly, he is the greatest of the classical era. Mozart is also the clear superior when it comes to piano concertos and perhaps of concerti in general (although Haydn's piano concertos are criminally underperformed, and one must not forget Haydn's wonderful, life-affirming trumpet concerto).

    What about symphonies? Here's where it gets tricky. Again, Beethoven must be mentioned as reigning overall; but my single favorite pre-Beethovenian symphony is Mozart's No. 40 in G Minor. I know it's an overplayed work, but its power has still never been lost on me. I would concede that the few greatest of Mozart's symphonies are greater than the few greatest of Haydn's. However, one must again realize that Haydn in many ways set or at least helped to develop the mold - not only in terms of sonata form, and of performing forces, but also in terms of the basic forms and tropes of "a symphony" - that Mozart followed. Haydn's 104, as a group, need not shrink in comparison to Mozart's 41, as a group. Haydn the innovator, Mozart the refiner - I call this one something of a wash.

    As you can see, this is a topic I could go on about forever. I will just end by saying that one of the reasons I consider myself a staunch defender of Haydn is that I too often have heard him insulted; I've had teachers in college music courses, for example, who say "if you hear music that sounds like Mozart, but more boring, it's probably Haydn". To me this is a terrible reduction of Haydn's genius and his wonderful music. I will admit that, when I was much younger (early teens) I basically felt the same way. But my (admittedly biased, untested, and tenuous) belief is that one of the signs of a true musical maturity is an appreciation of Haydn's subtle, refined genius, as well as his humor. Haydn is not just 'Mozart light' - rather, he was largely 'Mozart's light'. The fact that he was one of the few composers whom Mozart genuinely admired and respected says something big, I think.
  • In he end, Haydn gets a single slot higher than Mozart for me, in essence, because I think he is under-appreciated, because his actual contributions to the history (i.e. the development) of Western music exceed Mozart's, even if Mozart contributed more pieces to the realm of truly great musical literature, he exceeds Mozart in certain specific areas, because I like to be provocative, and yes - silly as it sounds - because he was a great guy. I constantly seem to be discovering some new Haydn piece that I love, in just about every genre in which he worked (and, by God, we all know how prolific he was). Mozart's genius is not diminished, for me, by the elevation of Haydn's achievement.

    As for a 'Haydn at his best' CD, I really need to think before I throw some tracks out there; I haven't downloaded much Haydn off of eMu yet, and there are still plenty of realms of Haydn's output I need to explore.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post. Thanks for reading.
  • Very well said! I find myself agreeing with all your reasons - I suppose I veer a little more towards "contributed more pieces to the realm of truly great musical literature" as a deciding factor. But as I said, I know more Mozart than Haydn so there's what you might call a statistical bias there.

    Take your time with Haydn suggestions. I think a "greatest hits" would help a lot of composers and alter our perceptions of them, or remind us how good they are. Just yesterday I was listening to a disc I'd burned years ago that brought together various Dvorak pieces from sampler discs and I was constantly going "Hey, this is really good..." Dvorak is another one of those composers who kept his head down, never got into trouble, but (New World and Song to the Moon aside) doesn't really get his due. Whereas Brahms is another case entirely - I would class him under "don't particularly like" but there's some individual things that I really love. Or Telemann... he's never going to outclass Bach or Handel but I keep hoping.
  • I agree with you about Dvorak - another excellent composer who perhaps doesn't quite get his due.

    As for Brahms, I'm really only exploring Brahms in depth for the first time over the last few months. I would say off the bat that I like a great deal of his music, but I haven't quite achieved the reverence for him that many classical music enthusiasts and scholars have... but I have a feeling my appreciation of him will grow with time. For now, though, I would probably classify him as a top dozen composer but I'm not yet ready to equate him with the other two Bs, Bach and Beethoven.

    Telemann... well, again, everything is relative. He is a fine composer, but I don't feel the same connection with his music that I do with Bach's, and to be frank I also prefer both Handel and Vivaldi. I know Vivaldi was often very formulaic, but like many his music just appeals to me on a basic level of enjoyment, and I think some of his vocal music is really outstanding. Still, there's plenty more Telemann I have to hear before I can really say I'm qualified to form a complete opinion.
  • Wow. That was a long post.
    The character limit is set at 5000 by default (which may include line ends and paragraph breaks), I can increase it if you like, or try and add an extension for character count while posting?

    Vote in the poll!...


    I'll look into that too.
  • Well, I'm obviously long-winded, so a longer maximum would be nice. But I can always uber-post when necessary.

    It's just that I could go on and on about Haydn. Or Shakespeare. Or cheese. I have one of those kinds of personalities.
  • Your wish etc...

    Limit upped to 10,000 characters and character count extension installed.

    There is a 'Poll' extension, but it seems to be seriously out of date and problematic, so I'll give that a miss for now.
  • edited April 2008
    So I went away and reminded myself what Haydn's Piano sonata no.59 sounds like (Brautigam's recording) and oh yes it's good. I was struck especially by the silences at the beginning of the slow movement (now that's a sign of a great composer - when even his rests are impressive!).

    One area you didn't mention was choral music - Haydn wrote more of it and I think probably has the edge here. Which leads me on to something I discovered a couple of months ago - Haydn's English canzonettas: http://www.emusic.com/album/Stephan-Van-Dyck-Jean-Pierre-Bacq-Haydn-Pleasing-Pain-MP3-Download/11140932.html. Somewhat off-the-beaten-path but very charming.
  • That's a cool album, Nereffid. This month for me was Bach month, but next month I plan on making Choral Month, and I will add that to the top of the list of choral music I must be getting. Thanks :)

    Incidentally, rather than flooding the board with new threads, I'll just use this one to alter the topic slightly: essential choral /group vocal music. Let's say any album on eMu 20 tracks or under. Compared to other genres, my collection of music of this sort is quite modest:

    - Allegri: Miserere / Palestrina: Pope M. Mass (The Sixteen)
    - Adorate Deum: Gregorian Chant from the Proper of the Mass (Nova Schola G.)
    - Bach Motets (Naxos track-economical version)
    - Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (several versions)
    - Brahms Deutsches Requiem (Shaw)
    - Miscellaneous Frank Bridge works with orchestra (Chandos)
    - Kuhlau: Elverhoj (Da Capo)
    - Mendelssohn Symphony No. 2
    - Palestrina Masses (Oxford Camerata)
    - Eton Choirbook, Books I, II, and III (The Sixteen)
    - Rachmaninoff Vespers (Shaw)
    - Rodrigo misc.
    - Schnittke Symphony No. 2 and Requiem
    - Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms (which I'm singing in concert in a couple days)
    - Borodin Polv. Dances (same)
    - Music for Compline (Stile)
    - Vaughan Williams Hodie

    So, any suggestions from anyone for more great choral music? In general I like everything, but I really don't feel like I need to add more Gregorian chant to my collection for a while. I'd love some interesting 20th/21st century choral works, but any suggestions at all would be wonderful.
  • Oooh, you absolutely have to get the album of Lepo Sumera's choral music
    which completely knocked me sideways when I first heard it.

    I also love this King's Singers album
    which is mostly new music (written for the King's, in fact)

    Pretty much anything directed by Paul Hillier is good, in my experience
    For instance, http://www.emusic.com/album/Estonian-Philharmonic-Chamber-Choir-P%C3%A4rt-Da-pacem-MP3-Download/10944315.html
    or http://www.emusic.com/album/Paul-Hillier-Home-To-Thanksgiving-Songs-of-Thanks-and-Praise-MP3-Download/10901256.html
    is a good sampler. Mrs Nereffid really likes this one.
    I would say the recording of Stockhausen's Stimmung but that's a "get it on CD" if ever there was one.

    Richard Hickox's 2 series of Haydn and Hummel masses on Chandos are also a good bet.

    What else?
    Janacek's Glagolitic Mass.
    "They" say http://www.emusic.com/album/Leos-Sv%C3%A1rovsk%C3%BD-Glagolitic-Mass-The-Eternal-Gospel-MP3-Download/10824437.html
    is a good version.

    One Brahms thing I do like is this one

    Finally, here's one plucked from the soon-to-be-launched (promise) proper Nereffid's Guide - at present, with about a third of the votes counted, the holder of the non-existent title "Best Renaissance choral album on eMusic":
  • edited April 2008
    You're awesome. Thanks. The one album you mentioned that I promised myself I'd get is the Part, but somehow I've kept neglecting to get it. Next month, NO!

    I also recall an album called 'Baltic Voices' that had been suggested many times. It's been languishing in my SFL list for about 4 months. Next month, I'm gettin' it. And I love Janacek, so I'll go with your suggestion there, too.

    I kind of enjoy having theme months. Once I reached 3500 classical tracks I no longer felt the need to pick and choose from every genre each month. I've decided to dedicate my 300 downloads a month to different specific themes, so as to more thoroughly explore different branches of classical music. Here's my plan for the year - whaddya think?

    April: Bach
    May: Choral music
    June: Solo piano music
    July: 20th and 21st-century
    August: Haydn
    September: Value month - all albums with 10 or fewer tracks
    October: Songs/Lieder
    November: Violin concertos
    December: Schubert

    I'm already planning 2009. I'm such a classical nerd ;)
  • Nice.
    My last couple of months have been themed too - medieval music and Vaughan Williams. Next month is pot luck but I have my eye on Vivaldi, Mozart, and Haydn for later. Also maybe a month devoted to one particular label.
    I'm grandfathered on two 90-a-month discounted annual subs which there's no way I'll give up (about 33 euros a month for 180 tracks!) so I just had to go get a third account, which so far I've been able to use as a "booster" - upgrading and then downgrading again.

    I'll not-so-humbly suggest you make Jan or Feb 2009 a "Nereffid's Guide Awards" month (all going well) :)
  • Earlier this year, due to the U.S. switch to digital TV stations, I replaced the small TV/Radio in the Kitchen with a small CD Player/Tape Player/Radio. Since it has no line-in ports for my MP3 player, I began to play CDs on it while making breakfast. Since most of my CDs are buried in my closet, I turned to a CD case mostly filled with bargain classical CDs that no longer have their jewel cases. This led me to play an Onyx Classix CD of Haydn's 6th to 8th Symphonies, the ones called Le Matin, Le Midi, and Le Soir. I liked this CD so much that I soon turned to emusic and Audio Lunchbox to start building a Haydn collection. I presently have all of his piano sonatas, played by Jeno Jando, and several of his string quartets and symphonies. So I have been listening to lots of Haydn of late. I have also been listening to lots of Mozart, because I own the Brilliant Classics 170 CD box set of his Complete Works, and I have routinely been listening to one after another while making breakfast. Aside from not playing some CDs all the way through, due to leaving the kitchen before the CD ends and not knowing where it stopped, I have now listened to all of Mozart's instrumental music. I have not listened to much of his choral music or opera, because that doesn't interest me as much. Having listened to a lot of Haydn and Mozart recently, my preference is in favor of Haydn. The main difference I sense between them is in the mood of the music. Haydn's music tends to be light and cheerful, while Mozart's tends to be more somber than light and more spiritual than cheerful. I generally prefer the lighter, more cheerful mood of Haydn's music to Mozart's. At present, my top Haydn recommendations are his 6th through 8th symphonies, which are very popular and available in many recordings, and his last piano sonatas, which show a greater maturity than even Mozart's piano sonatas, which may not be too surprising given that Mozart was already in the grave when Haydn wrote them. We often think of Haydn as the teacher of Mozart, but Haydn also learned from Mozart, and in general his work seems to have matured a lot from his exposure to Mozart.
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