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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've been listening to 104 of his symphonies for the past few months, and as a general habit when listening to music, I give each movement a score. To keep it simple, I basically mark if:
1) the movement is skippable
2) the movement has some interesting parts, I may choose to not skip on a good day
3) the movement has enough interesting parts for me to not skip, and as a subcategory: if the movement is a favorite

Out of 404 movements (from 104 symphonies),
172 movements are in the 3rd category, included are 36 movements considered favorites
91 movements are in the 2nd category
141 movements in the 1st category

I consider category 3 a "hit", and those below a "miss", so in general, Haydn's symphonies have a ~42.6% "success rate", which is fairly high. When I listened to the works of capital-C Classical period composers, I often did not find a single movement interesting (though to be fair, the sample for listening was small since they don't have as many available recordings as Haydn does).

It's not a definitive personal ranking, more of a description of what my tastes are at the moment. If I go through another cycle, some scores may change.

For the symphonies I found most consistently engaging (i.e. I liked all movements): Symphonies 45, 46, 48, 52, 58, 61, 82, 92. (obviously biased towards the of the Sturm und Drang period)

addendum:
after some calculating, (got the average "score" of each symphony, then added/subtracted half of the average to determine the thresholds for the upper & lower tiers) here are the symphonies in my "upper tier": 15, 18, 26, 38, 39, 45, 46, 48, 52, 53, 54, 59, 61, 63, 73, 77, 80, 82, 86, 89, 92, 100. (I don't necessarily consider the eight symphonies mentioned above as the best in this set, it's just that they're more consistent)
and the symphonies in my "lower tier": 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 25, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 47, 68, 69, 75

If the goal here is providing a guide for people looking to listen to the symphonies, I think having less tiers is better, since people would have less expectations. I've felt disappointed many times after listening to something someone said was the "best", and finding out that it's just okay or not too interesting.

Just for fun, here's how my ranking compares with the Classic FM Haydn ranking. I checked if my upper/lower tier symphonies are in the upper, middle, or lower third of the Classic FM ranking.

Upper third of the Classic FM list (1-34):
my favorites: 26, 39, 46, 59, 61, 82
least favorites: 25, 28, 31

Middle third (35-69):
my favorites: 45, 53, 54, 63, 73, 80, 86, 89, 92, 100
least favorites: 8, 10, 13, 14, 30, 34, 75

Lower third (70-104):
my favorites: 15, 18, 38, 48, 52, 77
least favorites: 5, 9, 32, 33, 47, 68, 69

There is more variation than I thought.
 

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Thanks that's interesting. Thanks for taking your time to share it.

There are many people who know so much about the Symphonies in here. This will give them a new method. As a pianist, I've said to myself I would eventually get around to them, but I haven't yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks that's interesting. Thanks for taking your time to share it.

There are many people who know so much about the Symphonies in here. This will give them a new method. As a pianist, I've said to myself I would eventually get around to them, but I haven't yet.
Thanks. If anyone is interested, I can make a tier list of the symphonies that shows the specific "scores" for each symphony. (I don't believe in ranking by place since some works I really don't consider better or worse than another)

The reason I did all of this is I'm trying identify specific characteristics in music that I like, & how they can be described using music theory. I can be picky about the music I like, so I thought, if there's so little out there that you like, why not try composing for yourself? I am an amateur however, and I hardly know any theory, so there's a long way to go.
 

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I don't know where you are in experiencing different notes over chords, but you could compose a simple nursery song, at the level of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

If you're beyond that, then you can learn so much from pop song sheets. A song like More (from the movie Mondo Cane) is so predictable (sugary sweet). Look at how the melody notes with the underlying chord changes 'move' from beginning to end. Change a chord and see how wrong it sounds.

If you're beyond that, then Chopin Prelude in Em is fairly simple to understand, but it's far more sophisticated than a pop song (and impressive). What a jewel!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'll take note of that.
From my limited experience in composition with no musical background, it's like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded. It can take a while experimenting with random notes until you find one that "feels right".

Kind of makes you respect the great composers more
 

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I'll take note of that.
From my limited experience in composition with no musical background, it's like throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded. It can take a while experimenting with random notes until you find one that "feels right".

Kind of makes you respect the great composers more
Yes. I think CM enthusiasts should be continually aware of the harsh conditions under which some of the greatest music has been imagined and crafted. The cold winters and the damp and the harsh summer heat, and the diseases all around, many child deaths, poor nutrition, candle light..
 

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In so many ways, Haydn is the most important composer in Lil Ludi’s withdrawn, moribund, insular life.

He is my comfort food, he is my Linus blanket. When darkness encroaches, he lifts a muslin gauze veil to beauteous vistas of bucolic life.

I find similar sustenance in the poetry of Goethe, Holderlin and Mörike.

Perhaps, it’s my lack of musical sophistication, but I find the piano trios, string quartets and symphonies merge into one… and yet in spite of almost a week’s worth of material - were you to listen to every Haydn work back-to-back continuously - there is no great paradigm shift, no Hegelian Geist… The wonderful Le Matin (6th Symphony) could happily have been Hayden’s 106th…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Joyful Joe was a Goddam Genius… Chapeau! 🎩
 

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^^^^
Inspiring post to me. Thanks. I'm realizing that when I went through his piano sonatas, there was a 'leap', that paradigm shift, starting in the last 6 sonatas. Not as large as LvB's, but whose is?...
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
After calculating a little bit , I came up with three tiers. (got the average "score" of each symphony, then added/subtracted half of the average to determine the thresholds for the upper & lower tiers)

If the goal is providing a guide for people looking to listen to the symphonies, I think having less tiers is better, since people would have less expectations. I've felt disappointed many times after listening to something someone said was the "best", and finding out that it's just okay or not too interesting.

That said, these are symphonies in my "upper tier": 15, 18, 26, 38, 39, 45, 46, 48, 52, 53, 54, 59, 61, 63, 73, 77, 80, 82, 86, 89, 92, 100
and the symphonies in my "lower tier": 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 25, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 47, 68, 69, 75

Everything else is in the middle.

Just for fun, here's how my ranking compares with the Classic FM Haydn ranking. I checked if my upper/lower tier symphonies are in the upper, middle, or lower third of the Classic FM ranking.

Upper third of the Classic FM list (1-34):
my favorites: 26, 39, 46, 59, 61, 82
least favorites: 25, 28, 31

Middle third (35-69):
my favorites: 45, 53, 54, 63, 73, 80, 86, 89, 92, 100
least favorites: 8, 10, 13, 14, 30, 34, 75

Lower third (70-104):
my favorites: 15, 18, 38, 48, 52, 77
least favorites: 5, 9, 32, 33, 47, 68, 69
 

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As this is apparently quite personal and mostly orthogonal to the average popularity of the Haydn symphonies, e.g. all but 3 of the Paris+London are in the undistinguished middle,
I'd suggest to other listeners either to go with received wisdom or generate a random number between 1 and 104 to decide what to listen to ;)
 

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I think this is so helpful as guidance and for saving time, for getting a perspective (and perhaps for avoiding some mistaken first impressions).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
As this is apparently quite personal and mostly orthogonal to the average popularity of the Haydn symphonies, e.g. all but 3 of the Paris+London are in the undistinguished middle,
I'd suggest to other listeners either to go with received wisdom or generate a random number between 1 and 104 to decide what to listen to ;)
I figured that, so I added a comparison with that Classic FM list.

I think the Paris & London symphonies are well-crafted, but they generally seem too "happy" for me.
 

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I was pretty sure there had been a similar thread as understandably people feel a bit overwhelmed in facing 100+ works. I also doubt that many people can keep so many works in their mind, i.e. as soon as one ends a listening project the pieces that didn't have such an impact will fade (or not even have been in memory at all). I have known some of these works for over 30 years and around 2008-09 I listened to all of them somewhat systematically. But even consulting notes, I'd have to lie that I remembered anything about #15 or #16 or 66. For others, like your favs 58 and 61 I have very vague recollections but I'd also have to relisten for anything close to a ranking. So I ranking by me would name several degrees of favorites but the unremembered would be left out, together with the remembered but not that well-liked.

Favorites:
31, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 54, 59, 63, 70, 73, 76, 77, 80, 82-95, 97-99, 101-104

very good/interesting/remembered and recommended:
6-8, 21, 22, 26, 30, 34, 39, 41, 43, 50-53, 56, 57, 60, 64, 69, 78, 79, 81, 96, 100, 105

there are probably at least 15 of the remaining ca. 40 pieces I'd rate as good and worthwhile listening (but do not remember well enough, e.g. 61 or 71). The "name pieces" I like less than many listeners are probably 22, 43, 55, 100.
 

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You say you're biased toward the Sturm und Drang but 44 isn't on your list? And you underrate 47? I think those two are the best of that bunch.
 

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I really think 82 is always one of the highest rated Haydn symphonies and with good reason but I think 83 is even better. Every single movement of 83 is more memorable than 82 with the arguable exception of the first movement.
 

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Tier 1: 44, 45, 92, 103, 104
Tier 2: 6-8, 31, 39. 42, 43, 48-50, 53, 54, 60, 61, 71, 76, 80, 81, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93-102
Tier 3: 4, 11, 12, 13, 20, 24, 26, 27, 29, 32-34, 38, 40, 41, 47, 51, 52, 55-57, 59, 62-70, 77-79, 82-85, 87
Tier 4: 1, 3, 5, 9, 10, 14-18, 21-23, 25, 28, 35, 36, 37, 46, 58, 73-75
Tier 5: 2, 19, 30, 72
 

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My favorites of the Paris set are 86 and 82. I think of 83 only the first movement is up with them and its movements 3+4 are slightly disappointing (partly because the minor mode is not taken up again); it's still a favorite, just not a top favorite.
I realized that 37 or so top favorites I named above are still a lot for someone dipping into this body of work.
So cutting down to 18 favorites that also cover at least some of the earlier works, I'd probably get to

31,44,45,48,49,70,82,83,86,88,90,92,94,99,101,102,103,104

This doesn't mean I think 31 or 49 are better than e.g. 84 or 98 (I don't), but they increase the breadth; I'd even consider swapping a fav like 99 for 100 or 105 to include works, I am not that fond of but they have specific characteristics not as clearly shown in others.
 

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I remain a long-time Haydn fan, since my teen years when I first heard a recording of Haydn's Surprise Symphony backed by the Clock Symphony. Both fascinated me at first hearing. I was especially intrigued by the slow introductions to the first movements. The second movements, of course, supplied the "cause" for the nickname, and that was fascinating, too. Plus, they were what I esteemed as "perfect symphonic form" at that time in my life. And overall, I came to admire Haydn mainly on the strength of his symphonies, so many of which I enjoy often from my various recordings.

I have a long on-going habit of celebrating Haydn's birthday by listening to the symphony number of my own age on that day, a practice I've maintained for half a century at least.

I've done the Haydn marathon. I listened to (with score in hand for the most part) the entire symphony line up, in numerical order, one symphony per day. I've done this twice, now, first with the Dorati/Philharmonia Hungarica box set on Decca (478 1221) and later (during the pandemic "quarantine shut down") with the Dennis Russell Davies/Stuttgarter Kammerorchester set on Sony Classical (88697443312). I have at least one more Haydn full symphony set and probably a full set or two of loose Haydn symphonies from an assortment of conductors and orchestras, so I'll likely do this again.

Your own experiment strikes me as interesting.

Here is your summation:
Out of 404 movements (from 104 symphonies),
172 movements are in the 3rd category, included are 36 movements considered favorites
91 movements are in the 2nd category"
141 movements in the 1st category


I do wonder how the correlation holds up over a number of relative comparisons. For instance, how many of the 172 movements of your category 3 belong to a full symphony? Those would certainly be "favorite" Haydn symphonies. Likewise, does any complete symphony fall into the 1st category listing? Are there symphonies where one movement is from the 1st category, the remainder from the 3rd (or one movement from the 3rd, the remainder from the 1st), and what might we make of this peculiarity?

On the positive side, of course, is that you generally favor (categories 2 and 3) 65% of Haydn's symphony movements, a percentage that would prove encouraging to any political candidate seeking election. With a disfavor of only 35% you will likely tend to enjoy a randomly selected Haydn symphony. And since concerts and radio play tends to select out the more "popular" of the Haydn symphonies, these are likely included in your "like" listing.

Can you do a list of those symphonies which came up solidly in categories 1 and 3, "baddies" and "goodies"? Too, I wonder, does any one (or more) symphony(ies) fall completely into the "36 movements considered favorites"? It might prove intriguing to see which symphonies you really like and which you could pass on completely.

In any case, keep up the listening. Haydn is rich with musical riches, and one of these days I plan to take on marathon listening sessions of the String Quartets and the Piano Sonatas. It seems that we're likely not going to run out of pandemics any time soon. (What is it now? Monkey pox? ) And I certainly have enough Haydn discs to fill several pandemic quarantine eras of listening time. (Of course, it might be more appropriate to do a "monkey pox" marathon to the music of The Monkees, but according to my Discogs listing I have only one Monkees album in my collection, the Rhino Records "Greatest Hits" album on orange vinyl -- RCV1 574476. That's the one the grandkids reach for when they come over for a visit and want to hear a record on Grandpap's strange, old-fashioned "record player thingee". Alas ....)

Maybe I'll have a "Surprise" for the grandkids on their next visit? Maybe I'll even slip the Haydn disc into the Monkees jacket. Of course, they've probably already noticed the color of the vinyl. Oh well ....
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
You say you're biased toward the Sturm und Drang but 44 isn't on your list? And you underrate 47? I think those two are the best of that bunch.
I like the first two movements of 44, and the last movement of 47. The other movements don't strike a chord with me that much.

Can you do a list of those symphonies which came up solidly in categories 1 and 3, "baddies" and "goodies"? Too, I wonder, does any one (or more) symphony(ies) fall completely into the "36 movements considered favorites"? It might prove intriguing to see which symphonies you really like and which you could pass on completely.

In any case, keep up the listening. Haydn is rich with musical riches, and one of these days I plan to take on marathon listening sessions of the String Quartets and the Piano Sonatas. It seems that we're likely not going to run out of pandemics any time soon. (What is it now? Monkey pox? ) And I certainly have enough Haydn discs to fill several pandemic quarantine eras of listening time. (Of course, it might be more appropriate to do a "monkey pox" marathon to the music of The Monkees, but according to my Discogs listing I have only one Monkees album in my collection, the Rhino Records "Greatest Hits" album on orange vinyl -- RCV1 574476. That's the one the grandkids reach for when they come over for a visit and want to hear a record on Grandpap's strange, old-fashioned "record player thingee". Alas ....)
Thank you. It's actually changed a little bit since I made the post. It's actually 176 out of 404 now. + I'll get back to you on the list of symphonies in category 1 & 3.
 
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