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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I posted this question as reply in a thread but I'd like to open it to the general audience here.

Would you consider Haydn as one of the most underrated composers in history? I sometimes look at these comparison articles about greatest composers like the NY Times had one a while back about the top 10 greatest composers in the history of classical music. To my surprise, Haydn didn't even make the top 10 list.
 

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Not underrated, just neglected. We have Haydn experts here on TC.
 

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To my ears his music doesn't seem to carry the same weight, depth or gravitas as other composers generally considered "great", so personally, no I don't find him at all underrated, quite the opposite actually.

The other composers I occasionally see on top ten lists that I don't think deserve to be there are Handel, Tchaikovsky and Verdi.
 

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I may be wrong about this, but as far as I know Haydn is one of (the only?) top top tier composers with no mainstream soundbite; you'd think at least one of his many catchy minuets would have caught on.

I don't know about underrated, but I do think that those two highly intimidating numbers 104 and 67 will forever make one of the most accessible and entertaining composers of all time seem inaccessible to a lot of people, and that no one is going to put their precious list on hold to wade through those numbers.
 

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In all my years of listening to Classical Music I've never heard the words 'underrated' and 'Haydn' used in the same sentence. Until now that is. He's certainly been amongst the top of my 'playlist' for a very long time.
 

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I think the problem with Haydn is that- Oratorios and Masses apart- he doesn't lend himself to building a concert programme round. His "Oxford " Symphony (no 92) was the first symphony I ever heard, and I still love it after 40 years. The wit and invention in his music is often breath-taking. His sanity and optimism can civilise life for people under the cloud of distress or divorce.

Would you choose his piano sonatas or symphonies (let alone his concerti) above Mozart's, or Beethoven's? No. Does he have the profundity of Bach? No.

He's an original- like Chopin, or Debussy, or, perhaps more truly, Ravel- a master of wit and specific forms, a colourist, with a distinctive optimism, wisdom and playfulness.

Top ten? Bach. Mozart. Beethoven. Then it becomes personal- for me, Schubert, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Brahms, Schumann, Scriabin. Haydn would get his place in the next ten, I expect.
 

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When we think of the short list of composers typically cited as "greatest" or "most important," they are usually thought of in terms of certain individual works that have achieved a sort of "iconic" status as among the highest or most beloved achievements of a genre, an era, or music as a whole: Bach's Well-tempered Keyboard, Art of Fugue, St. Matthew Passion, B-minor Mass; Handel's Messiah; Mozart's Symphony #40, Marriage of Figaro, clarinet concerto, string quintets: Beethoven's Eroica, 5th, 9th, "Hammerklavier" Sonata, late quartets; Wagner's Tristan and Ring; and so on. This "greatest hits" criterion is harder to apply to Haydn, whose long list of superb works certainly has its high points but seems mostly lacking in those "mountain peaks of Western music." But I doubt whether this constitutes a meaningful value judgment on his stature as a composer of genius. His level of achievement, across an immense opus over a long life, would certainly put him on my short list.
 

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I would definitely choose Haydn's piano sonatas above Mozart's.
Me too. In fact, I prefer his string quartets to Mozart's, which are quite fine but (to me) less entertaining. Symphony-wise, I think he wrote none to match Mozart's best, though he wrote a passel of really good ones, and he doesn't come close in the piano concerto department. But his two superb cello concertos and his trumpet concerto walk right over Mozart's in a default decision.
 

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To my ears his music doesn't seem to carry the same weight, depth or gravitas as other composers generally considered "great", so personally, no I don't find him at all underrated, quite the opposite actually.

The other composers I occasionally see on top ten lists that I don't think deserve to be there are Handel, Tchaikovsky and Verdi.
You'd be wrong on all four counts... IMNSHO :D
 
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Would you choose his piano sonatas or symphonies (let alone his concerti) above Mozart's, or Beethoven's? No. Does he have the profundity of Bach? No.

I would choose Haydn's piano sonatas above Mozart's and certainly play his symphonies more often than Mozart's... for the simple reason that Haydn has far more symphonies that I would consider great. No, I probably wouldn't play any single Haydn symphony more often than Mozart's 40 or 41 or Beethoven's 3, 5, 6, or 9.

Still Die Schöpfung gets played by me as much or more than almost any choral work by any other composer and there are any number of other works I frequently must hear.
 

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When we think of the short list of composers typically cited as "greatest" or "most important," they are usually thought of in terms of certain individual works that have achieved a sort of "iconic" status as among the highest or most beloved achievements of a genre, an era, or music as a whole: Bach's Well-tempered Keyboard, Art of Fugue, St. Matthew Passion, B-minor Mass; Handel's Messiah; Mozart's Symphony #40, Marriage of Figaro, clarinet concerto, string quintets: Beethoven's Eroica, 5th, 9th, "Hammerklavier" Sonata, late quartets; Wagner's Tristan and Ring; and so on.

Yes. Thinking of the visual arts it would be hard to put forth any single paintings by Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh that rival such epic masterworks as Michelangelo's Sistine frescoes, Giotto's Arena Chapel, Botticelli's Primavera or Birth of Venus, Raphael's School of Athena and Transfiguration or Rembrandt's Night Watch. Still I have little doubt that Degas, Monet, and Van Gogh rank among the greatest painters ever.
 
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When it comes to classical era concert programming, Haydn does seem to get shortchanged (along with everybody else except W.A. Mozart) because of a fellow named W.A. Mozart who simply overwhelms music of that (or any other) era.

But, as I just posted in the thread polling listening preference for Haydn or Mozart, I claim to listen to Haydn more often than to Mozart under normal circumstances, just because I happen to admire many of the qualities of Haydn's music (though I certainly do not deem it greater than Mozart's).

I've been trying to think back to whether I first heard Haydn or Mozart and cannot make a determination, though I do recall that at about the same time I became familiar with Haydn's "Surprise" and "Clock" Symphonies (sides A and B on one of the first records I ever owned) I also came to know the Mozart Oboe Quartet (which still remains my favorite work by Mozart). I have heard each of these three pieces hundreds of times (most of those times being early on when I had only a handful of records to play on my old phonograph including the Haydn "Surprise" and "Clock" Symphonies and the Mozart Oboe Quartet). And they still remain favorite works.

But I have since then gained access to all of Mozart and Haydn and find great joy in so many works by both men. I would not want to be without either. Nor, do I believe, would our world. I might term Mozart the greatest musical genius of all time, but I wonder where he might be had it not been for Haydn. If Haydn is underrated, it is only by someone who discounts any connection of influence from the elder composer to the younger Mozart, because I find it impossible to listen to Mozart without hearing the looming shadow of Franz Joseph Haydn hovering over all.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Well, NY Times music critic Anthony Tommasini gave his list as: 1. JS Bach, 2. Bethoven, 3. Mozart, 4. Shulbert, 5. Debussey, 6. Stravinsky, 7, J. Brahms, 8. Verdi, 9. Wagner, 10. Bartok.

As you can see, Haydn was not on the list. But to put Brahms, Bartok, and even Stravinsky above Haydn would seem to me a little of shortsightedness to say the least.
 

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Well, NY Times music critic Anthony Tommasini gave his list as: 1. JS Bach, 2. Bethoven, 3. Mozart, 4. Shulbert, 5. Debussey, 6. Stravinsky, 7, J. Brahms, 8. Verdi, 9. Wagner, 10. Bartok.

As you can see, Haydn was not on the list. But to put Brahms, Bartok, and even Stravinsky above Haydn would seem to me a little of shortsightedness to say the least.
Is this guy just telling us what he likes, or is this supposed to be some kind of "genius" rating? Anybody who seriously believes he's qualified to rank Bach, Mozart and Beethoven against each other immediately declares himself to be unworthy of consideration. And Debussy at #5? Verdi at #8? Verdi and Stravinsky above Wagner? What can it all mean?

Idiotic.
 

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No Haydn... and no Handel. I'm sorry but if any of the truly greats get shortchanged its Handel.
 
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