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Thread: Haydn- Why not so popular?

  1. #1
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    Haydn- Why not so popular?

    Whenever I finish listening to a Haydn symphony or string quartet I am always perplexed as to why he is not more popular. I know that everyone who knows anything about classical music knows his name and perhaps his influence but he always seems overshadowed by Mozart and Beethoven.
    What do people think- perhaps those who dislike his music can explain why.
    Thanks for any comments.

  2. #2
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    Well, I could be wrong, but I don`t think you`ll find anyone who really dislikes Haydn`s music in particular. He may not be as popular as Mozart and Beethoven, but he remains one of the very best composers from the classical period.

    Haydn`s music is still performed fairly often; things like his Oxford, London, Clock, Matin, Midi, Soir and Surprise (wake up!) symphonies are well-known and liked. His string quartets also; the Lark, the Emperor...

    Maybe I could generalize and say that his works (with exceptions of course) tend to be of a somewhat lighter and less dramatic nature than Mozart`s or Beethoven`s? Most probably lighter than Beethoven`s at least. Maybe Haydn`s works have less of an 'effect' for that reason.

    I would say that I like more works by Mozart and Beethoven respectively than works by Haydn. Having said that, I admit I haven`t listened to all works by these three composers. But from what I`ve heard, I would say, imo, that Mozart and Beethoven wrote better works than Haydn. There, I said it.

    That doesn`t mean, however, that Haydn`s works are not of excellent quality; they certainly are.

    Also, not sure about comparing Beethoven to Haydn; they weren`t really from the same period. Then again, Mozart and Beethoven tend to overshadow many, many other composers from all periods, not just Haydn...

    It`s not really fair to compare one composer to another though... the only comparing I tend to do is by going work to work, deciding which works I like best. But that`s only for personal preferences...
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


  3. #3
    Captain of Water Music
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    Haydn is one of the more popular composers out there, at least gauged by the number of recordings and concert performances. I guess he’s not as popular as LvB or Mozart using those standards – and perhaps even Mahler nowadays – but it’s hard to miss his music. I must say that I find Haydn among the very greatest of all composers, and I certainly don’t think that Mozart or Beethoven – as much as I love them – are really superior. Mozart was better at opera and piano works, and Beethoven was a better symphonist (though not by much) and piano composer, but to my ears, Haydn is the supreme master of the string quartet, matches (or surpasses) anyone in piano trios, and is among the elite choral composers in history – right up there with Bach. Haydn does tend to be less immediately appealing or flashy or whatever than some others, but the riches in his music are great indeed.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  4. #4
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    Thanks for your opinions. I have to say rojo, I was careful to say "why is Haydn not so popular" rather than unpopular. I agree with you in that his music is indeed performed quite often but more as a filler in my opinion (+ performances I have seen including a Haydn symphony don't seem as well rehearsed as the rest of the program). I suppose the wording shows what I really mean- that Haydn is appreciated but should be more so.
    When I first heard his London symphonies (my first real encounter with Haydn) I felt what most people probably feel- they are a bit weak, sort of formalised (archaic even), watered down Beethoven- the word "nice" seemed to describe the music perfectly.
    Now I instead feel like I’m tuned into it and his music is more than just pleasant. I have learnt not to look for the qualities of some other composers in Haydn- don't expect the fire of Beethoven. Instead see Haydn as a good wine, OK at first but a slightly acquired taste. Beethoven is a premium vodka- powerful and in some ways unforgiving! Both are the same price and you may want to regularly drink both although they are really quite different.
    So there's my analogy- I’m sure many would disagree. Another point is the sheer quantity. Of course I wouldn't sacrifice pure quality for simple quantity- I would take the John Stuart Mill argument that it's better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. However if taken (hypothetically) to extremes I would prefer to have 100 great symphonies as oppose to 1 brilliant one (say- 85*100= 850, 1*100= 100).
    when all is said and done it is likely that it's going to have a lot to do with personal taste but I’m sure most would agree that your average guy on the street scarcely knowing of Haydn's name little own his music does a genius considerable disservice.

  5. #5
    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster ParryHotter's Avatar
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    I think other important facts need to be known as to why much of Haydn's work is perhaps underappreciated. He spent nearly his entire professional career working for his patron, Nikolaus Esterhazy, composing symphonies right and left (over 100) and directing all the orchestra's and chamber groups. He rarely took vacations and was constantly trying to please his listener base. He was in fact a very original and brilliant composer, but was limited because of where his money was coming from. Most of his musical "experimentation" came within the boundaries of standard classical form, however, which can at times seem just a little dry. TPieces such as his "Surprise" or "Farewell" symphonies show off his brilliance and great sense of humor. For example, if you're familiar with Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto (1805), you'll know that many people gave the piece a poor review, because it was much more romantic than they were used to (meaning it didn't follow the classical forms as closely as his earlier works). And this is a piece with deep classical roots ! Had Haydn tried to compose something similar to that 10-30 years earlier he may have lost his job!
    My point is Haydn almost definitely had much less personal opinion in what he composed as opposed to almost every composer after him (he is the last prime example of the patronage system). Beethoven was the first composer who completely supported himself as a musician without a patron, and we haven't had them since.

    Anyway, thats mostly just my opinion on what I know as facts, and actually some of those could be completely offbase (i just don't want to sound like a know-it-all ass )

    Hope that helps !

  6. #6
    Midshipman, Forte
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    Can anyone provide me with any background of cello concerto in major c by Haydn? And as a first learner I just think this piece is humourous, what's more there in this piece?
    Side question: how did a patronage system work?
    Thank you

  7. #7
    Commodore con Forza Sybarite's Avatar
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    Is it not a case that many composers – and artists and writers – 'miss out' on public acclaim?

    Does Liszt get his due merit in terms of the Romantic era, for instance? Or Ravel in the 20th century?

    Obviously these composers are well known and popular, but do they suffer in comparison with the absolute greats of their eras? In terms of the Classical era, is Schubert more popular than Haydn? Neither Schubert nor Haydn seem to have had the kind of characters or lives that read like a film script, whereas Mozart and Beethoven were (are!) fascinating, complex, tragic, awesome humans whose life stories still captivate, particularly in terms of human beings attempting to understand genius.

    That pair will obviously get the popular plaudits. Someone (in the West) who doesn't listen to classical music will still probably have heard of Mozart and Beethoven, but is less likely to have heard of Haydn. I also don't think that it's surprising, given how Mozart and Beethoven are credited with changing the path of music (along with Wagner later), that their names and works are heard in popular circles more often and that they are better known than others.

    As a comparison, it's a bit like saying that Ben Jonson was a great playwrite and asking why he isn't as well known as Shakespeare.

  8. #8
    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster ses's Avatar
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    To get big names, they’re some possible ways to go.

    Die in an air crash
    Cancel concert 5 minutes after the queen arrived
    Strip while you play
    And so on,

    To be popular is not the same as being a superb artist or composer. To play good Haydn and Mozart is not easy, and an artist will not be famous in the same way if he/she you could deliver feverish Chopin, Listz with the hair blowing around.

    Which composer could I live with forever, if I only could choose one? For me it is Bach, but Haydn, Mozart, Schubert will do fantastic too. Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms are also very strong candidates.

    Haydn is like clear fresh water from the mountains. He is very popular in this house I think we love him! Even when he wrote entertainment music like the “Baritone Trios” *) it is good entertainment.

    *) A must hear!!!

    Thanks to Antal Dorati we have fine recordings of his opera, great music again!

  9. #9
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    I have just one beef against Haydn, and that is that his sonata movements aren't as much fun to analyze as those of Mozart and Beethoven.

    In each sonata movement, Mozart and Beethoven give us a second subject in a related key. Once I find that second subject, I get to pat myself on the back.

    Haydn, on the other hand, modulates to the related key but doesn't provide anything which can be pinpointed.

  10. #10
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    I know this isn't what exactly what the OP asked, but the conversation seems to be on rating composers of the Classical Era, so I jsut have to ask: how would you rank Clementi?

    William S. Newman, author of "The Sonata in the Classic Era," seemed to think that he deserved to be placed on the highest level. Newman speaks of a contest between Mozart and Clementi. According to Newman, Clementi's performance was comparable to that of Mozart. Mozart unjustly bad-mouthed Clementi, other people listened to Mozart, and the ill effects survive to this day.

    Here's what I think: Clementi's sonatina's in op. 37 and op. 38 are not as melodious as those of the celebrated op. 38. Nor are the sonatinas composed by Clementi's contemporaries, such as Dussek and Kuhlau.

    However, Clementi did not do anything original in the area of musical form. It was up to Mozart to experiment with new twists, such as sub-dominant recapitulations, subjects recapitulated in reverse order, and sonata movements with more than two subjects.

    However, K 545 is the only item in the sonata form which Mozart offered to students on the Clementi op. 36 level. Maybe Mozart could write a whole set of sonatinas for intermediate pianists, but Clementi deserves the credit, because Clementi actually did.

    I agree that Clementi deserves his immense popularity in the piano studio. Does anyone besides William S. Newman agree that he deserves a similar place in circles of musical snobbery?

  11. #11
    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomato View Post
    how would you rank Clementi?
    One word. Boring.

  12. #12
    Commander, Assistant Conductor zlya's Avatar
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    And I agree that Haydn tended to pick a theme and stick with it, but he did it so well.

  13. #13
    Seaman, Mezzoforte Theodor Ulieriu's Avatar
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    Somehow parallel to the subject (because I didn`t knew how to begin a new thread), I would like to ask you all, what`s your opinion about (1) Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach and (2) the path music has taken in that Sturm und Drang period of the 1760-70s. You know, I can`t compare composers like a Top Ten - I have to sink in the intellectual atmosphere of the period, and I think this is fair. Haydn is not a primitive Beethoven, Haydn is a tough guy shocking a J.C. Bach London fan )
    New recs(with period instruments and technique doing justice ) have offered me some great music from this "Sturm und Drang" period, and often from quite unpopular (not to say forgotten...) composers. CPE was a star, and also respected by all the great mainstream Classicals; still, he is away from the main audience. What to say about a guy like Filtz (Fils), lucky to die at 27 and to fall into oblivion, but God, listen this: (link to a French blog with an excerpt) http://jardinbaroque.mabulle.com/ind...-la-musica/p14 And this is 1760, Telemann was still living and Haydn hadn`t yet composed much... As an example.
    Waiting your opinion,
    Theo

  14. #14
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso rojo's Avatar
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    I just listened, and the excerpt was great fun Theodor; thanks!

    Just to mention, I`ve been teaching C.P.E. Bach`s 'Solfeggio', or 'Solfegietto', and I think it`s great.
    ''Music, I feel, should be emotional first and intellectual second.'' - Maurice Ravel
    ''The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.'' - Michael Jackson


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