Haydn- more talented than Mozart

Few are more aware of the difficulties of selling Haydn than Franz Patay, an organizer of festivities marking the bicentenary.

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“If you show someone a (Haydn) bust they’ll think it’s Mozart,” says Patay, who was also involved in the all-Austrian hoopla surrounding the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth three years ago. Patay says the Haydn budget of around 40 million euros — around $56 million — was about a quarter of what was allocated to the Amadeus year.

Read the whole thing here.

I’ve said it here before, but I’m not sure everyone heard me.

Haydn was a more creative, more talented and more skilled composer than Mozart.

More interestingly, I think the generally accepted breakdown of their respective gifts is mostly wrong. We hear that Mozart was the most facile and infallible composer who ever lived, a man who never needed to sketch or to revise, and whose works are infinitely fresh and inspired.

On the other hand, we’re taught that Haydn is the model of all that is normal in music. “In a Haydn symphony, you’d expect the development to do this, but Beethoven does something surprising here.”

In fact, I have yet to come across a single join between phrases or a single harmonic event or a single rhetorical corner in mature Haydn that unfolds in a predictable way. For all that he creates the strongest sense of expectation of any composer who ever lived, he never seems to simply give us what we expect. Simple alternations of 4-square antecedent and consequent phrases are rarer than a hungry fox in a hen house.

On the other hand, for all we hear of Mozart’s divine spark, there are huge stretches of his music that are formulaic and four-square, especially in the orchestral music. For all the wonder that unfolds from it, the opening of the Jupiter Symphony is quite boilerplate. And Mozart did need to sketch- his most perfect works, like the “Haydn” quartets and the Requiem were meticulously sketched. For all that we think of him in terms of elegance and infinite facility, there is plenty of Mozart that is clunkier, more predictable and more formulaic than anything Haydn would ever write.

On the other hand, Mozart wrote a good chunk of the most deeply moving, profoundly poetic, ecstatic and often sad music ever. Of course, regular Vftp readers know that I have a special place in my heart for the Requiem, but think also of the Andante from the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola, which towers above the rest of that piece, but is so, so, so moving. The 40th Symphony is simply the greatest tragic symphony ever written- certainly the most tragic tragic symphony ever written. When Mozart broke a sweat, he could unleash an astonishing, un-matchable  facility- think of the Finale of the Jupiter.

Far from being the facile and elegant classicist, Mozart’s genius was really as the first Romantic, experimental composer.

The oft repeated anecdote-

And Mozart’s father, Leopold, cited Haydn as telling him: “Your son is the greatest composer I know.”

Is often quoted to imply that somehow Haydn thought of Mozart as more talented, but Haydn and  Mozart both knew that Haydn’s skill, invention and facility far surpassed those of his beloved young friend. That’s why Mozart struggled more with the “Haydn” quartets than with any other works in his output. Haydn had set the bar so high in the quartet genre that Mozart felt he would never be able to measure up.

But Haydn’s statements on Mozart show that he understood better than most musicologists and performers the nature of Mozart’s genius-

“How inimitable are Mozart’s works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive!” he wrote.

Notice that he stressed profundity and sensitivity. Haydn understood that Mozart was the first Romantic- that his true gift was his ability to take us closer to the absolute centerpoint of the human soul than any other composer.

Haydn was the conductor of the greatest orchestra ever assembled (one has only to look at what he wrote for his principals to know that!), the friend of princes, the master in whose shadow Mozart and Beethoven stood. He also sounds like a hipper and more fun guy than most people think-

A lover of wine, Haydn insisted that a part of his yearly salary be paid in it. He worshipped women — except for his wife, who used to rip up his scores and use the paper as hair curlers. Haydn was a mentor to Mozart, who credited him with teaching him how to write string quartets — and who freely used elements of the elder composer’s music in his works.

And — despite his relative obscurity now compared at least to Mozart — he was BIG in his time.

Mozart died impoverished and with his musical legacy unsecured. Haydn, in contrast, dined at the table of Esterhazy — one of Europe’s most powerful princes — and members of the British royal family bowed to him during his London sojourns.

Beethoven famously refused to defer to royalty, but royalty offered to defer to Haydn. ‘Nuff said.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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44 comments on “Haydn- more talented than Mozart”

  1. Paul H. Muller

    Well I think J.S. Bach has them both beat. But I also think Haydn was a bit more disciplined in his habits and in his writing and that plus his tremendous output are a hard combination to beat. Esterhazy was no doubt a real task-master and we are the richer for it.

  2. Erik K

    Haydn isn’t just better than Mozart. He’s better than damn near everybody.

  3. ComposerBastard

    “Haydn was a more creative, more talented and more skilled composer than Mozart.”

    DAMN!!! Someone finally gets this besides ME!!! Glad to hear it!!!

  4. Elaine Fine

    The thing about Haydn is that he is just so modern and so fresh. I always feel energized hearing or playing anything by Haydn, and I am always surprised and awed by his inventiveness. He did learn a great deal from Mozart though, and without Mozart it is unlikely that Haydn’s later works, like his London Symphonies would have the elegance that they have. Mozart exuded elegance, while Haydn was bursting with craft. Each admired what the other had, and posterity is the ultimate beneficiary.

    Enjoy every measure of your time with Haydn, Ken!


  5. res

    How can you possibly compare the two? Maybe there’s a point in lamenting the fact that currently Mozart is more popular; due to ‘Amadeus’ and the requisite martyrdom of one who died so young. Haydn was the original avant-garde composer. He delighted in finding a new effects. Was he more creative, talented, or skilled? Not important. His music is completely different. I think the important question here is which one worked harder. I’ll bet if you figured out their respective output Mozart might end up on top. I think it was Foss who figured out that a contemporary copyist working full tilt could not have copied, much less composed and copied, all of Mozart’s works in the time allowed by his life-span.

  6. Kenneth Woods

    The Haydn/Bach comparison is one I think about a lot. Of course, Bach stands alone in musical history, but what Bach was to counterpoint, Haydn was to rhetoric….

    Res is essntially right that comparing the two is more or less silly, except that past comparisons have created such a misleading sense of who Haydn was. I can’t really think of a more mis-understood composer than Haydn. This idea of him as a naive, blandly good natured smiling bumpkin is crap. If pointing out that he could work with musical ideas using a degree of fluency and originality Mozart could only dream of starts to get people thinking that he wasn’t just a hard worker, but a towering genius, then I’m going to do it……

    Thanks for all the comments!!!!! I love comments.


  7. res

    I didn’t mean to imply I thought it was silly; everybody does it, human nature I guess. I just think it’s an impulse we should avoid. I don’t think composers (like me) do much of this. We have very strong opinions, after all, composing is at it’s essence making choices. I think most of us (composers) find that other composers who have put their lives on the line (emotionally, if not otherwise), and are able to make their music sound like it, need all the support they can get. It’s not a question of whether I happen to like their music or not.

    Now, where do you get this idea of Haydn as a naive bumkin? I’ve never heard this from anyone. When I was studying music we spent just as much time on Haydn as Mozart. I don’t think Mozart envied Haydn’s fluency; if anything Mozart was able to absorb and inhabit foreign musical styles better than just about anyone. I do think he might have envied Haydn’s inventiveness and originality though. I’ve often wondered what Mozart would have been doing, had he lived, as Beethoven developed; that would have been interesting!

    My favorite quote on the essence of composing is from Mozart (I think, from one of his letters), ‘Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.’ -Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    What did he mean here by ‘love’?; I think it’s simply love of the material, the sounds. This fits with quotes from Stravinsky and Picasso. Not all of his music is excellent, as some have claimed; but you can always tell when he was in love with his material, which was most of the time.

    Your complaints about Mozart’s phrase structure reminds me of similar complaints in Kyle Gann’s blog about the four-square phrase structure in Dvorak’s 9th. (see http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2009/06/procrastinating_with_percy.html), and the key follow-up with quotes of his own music (see http://www.artsjournal.com/postclassic/2009/06/caution_slow_listener.html). This also reminds me of Stravinsky complaining after a performance of Mahler’s 8th about having to spend, what, 2 hrs. or more, to find out that 4 + 4 = 8! I always thought this was so funny! We all have our little personal appetites, and we often listen in order to feed them. I like chocolate, but not all the time.

  8. Pingback: Counterpoint | The Wrong End of a Telescope

  9. Kenneth Woods

    Res- great Mozart quote. I read the Gann post, but can’t say I agree with it, having just done the piece last week. Of course, the rigid sonata form is hardly a weakness, but his very goal. Like many composers, Dvorak become more classical in his old age in terms of his handing of sonata form. What is miraculous is how fresh the piece is. Of course it is easy to follow, but is that bad?

  10. wolfpaw

    I must say that I profoundly disagree with your comment that Haydn ‘could work with musical ideas with a fluency Mozart could only dream of’. If you can direct me towards a symphonic movement by Haydn that rivals the seemingly effortless ingenuity of the opening allegro of Mozart’s symphony in D then I’ll be grateful. There’s nothing in Haydn’s six contemporaneous ‘Paris’ symphonies that even comes close. For me personally it’s the greatest symphonic movement of the 18th century and a staggering technical and artistic achievement. Not only is the first movement exposition densely contrapuntal but it is also developmental, and yet it sounds as light as a feather. And as you know, there are many many instrumental movements by Mozart that are monothematic and which show tremendous skill in the transformation of a basic material. The difference between Haydn’s material and Mozart’s is that Mozart can be both melodic and motivic simultaneously. And we haven’t even mentioned Mozart’s supremacy as an operatic composer. For me it’s safer to compare Haydn with Beethoven, Schubert and Handel and other mortals, and leave Mozart on a quite different plane of achievement 🙂

  11. LL

    These comparisons are largely meaningless.

    The fact that you think the Andante of the Sinfonia Concertante K. 365 stands “far” above the rest of the piece, simply suggests you don’t really get what Mozart’s all about.

    Three examples of how Mozart composed rings around Haydn:

    1) His piano concertos. Haydn was simply incapable of writing this kind of thing, and he knew it. There is plausible speculation that Haydn quit writing piano concertos (except perhaps for a couple on commission) because he heard Mozart’s later Viennese concertos and realized he was left in the dust along with everyone else.

    2) Mozart’s operas. Haydn largely quit writing operas about the time Mozart’s great Viennese operas became better-known. There is better than plausible evidence to suggest Haydn quit writing operas because he knew he simply didn’t have it in him to write a Figaro or a Don Giovanni

    3) Mozart’s string quartets. The Quartets Mozart dedicated to Haydn are simply full of things Haydn not only never thought of, but would never *have* thought of. Seriously, can you imagine Haydn writing anything that sounds like K. 464? And it’s no coincidence that this was one of Beethoven’s favorite pieces of any kind. You could even make a pretty convincing case that Beethoven spent the rest of his life trying to write something he thought was as good at K. 464, culminating in Op. 132, with which Beethoven came as close as he could to eclipsing his model.

    Which brings me to the point: Haydn and Mozart were fundamentally different people, different artists, and to make some faux-objective claim that Haydn was somehow more talented than Mozart is just misguided.

    I love Haydn, and I’m not about to claim Mozart was “better” than Haydn. He was just different. I happen to like the difference enough that I probably value Mozart’s art more than Haydn’s, but at least I’m willing to admit that’s a totally subjective statement.

    This is like the endless argument over whether Bach dusts Telemann. It’s just stupid. Telemann was a completely different kind of person from Bach. Neither man was ever going to write what the other one did, but it’s worth noting both admired the other, and collected and performed their music with pleasure. And whether you value the one over the other–just as with Mozart and Haydn–says a lot more about you than about the art itself.

  12. Kenneth Woods

    Hi LL

    Thank you for your comment. Welcome!

    I’ll stick to my statement- that Haydn was more inventive, more skilled, more creative a composer, and that Mozart’s gifts, which were unparalleled before or since, were in sensitivity, inspiration, depth of expression and melody. If I had to pick one composer’s output to live with, I’d pick Haydn’s which is more varied, more imaginative, more intellectually stimulating. On the other hand, if I had to pick one piece, it would probably be Mozart’s G minor Symphony, or the Requiem or the Jupiter. Mozart didn’t have Haydn’t facility or his structural genius, but boy could he shake the soul.

    And remember, Mozart found the composition of the “Haydn” quartets to be the most daunting challenge of his career. I’ve played them all and I love them all. Could Haydn match them? Mozart thought so- that’s why he struggled so hard to write quartets worthy of the man who invented the genre.


  13. LL

    Just yesterday I was listening to Haydn’s Heiligmesse and thinking once more about the ways Haydn and Mozart are different from each other.

    The Heiligmesse is a brilliant piece from beginning to end, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. But think of what Mozart might have done with a mass-setting in his maturity.

    It’s hardly an original thought, but if there’s one thing that puts Mozart in a class by himself, and especially compared to Haydn, it’s the emotional ambiguity of his music. This has been noted by many people, and I maintain Haydn was simply incapable of that kind of thing. The very thing that places Mozart’s music out of reach of anyone else, before or since. If Brahms were a little more approachable in general, I’d say Brahms had this aspect of the art nailed perfectly, but Mozart manages this deep emotional ambiguity even in pieces that are full of a Haydn-like wittiness. And manages it with ease, unlike Brahms, who seems to labor terribly to achieve something like the same effect–Brahms’ basic melancholy as an artist gets in his way.

    Mozart 19th piano concerto comes to mind as a good example of this (or all of Cosi fan Tutte, for instance). The Concerto comes across as one long witticism, but if you spend a little time with it, you realize that the play of light and shadow in the piece is very subtle and sophisticated, and the more I listen to it–now over many years, a lifetime, really–the more I’m convinced Mozart did this kind of thing very deliberately, that it is not some kind of unconscious expression, but the product of careful calculation–and Mozart’s natural bent as a person, probably.

    You get this emotional ambiguity very early on in Mozart’s work too.

    Haydn was just not that kind of artist, and I would argue that the delicate play of light and dark in Mozart is the one thing every musician after him despaired of achieving. Many tried. Beethoven. Brahms. Tchaikovsky. Mahler. None able to quite achieve this quality the way Mozart did.

    Oddly, I’d almost give Shostakovich credit for nearly pulling off this kind of thing, although I suspect his essentially sardonic character gets in his way.

    I’ll put K. 464 up again as the ideal of this kind of mixed affect. The g-minor string quintet an even more distilled essence of the same thing, and then, of course, there are the Vienna operas, soaked in emotional ambiguity.

    Haydn just did not have this stuff in him. Neither did anyone else.

  14. Roberto Barnard Baca

    I am a big Haydn fan. HIs music is really great, his sense of irony and rhythm, phrasing, and spirit.
    A lot of Mozart is dull (like Haydn’s operas can be dull..in parts). Yet Mozart has fantastic “Middleground” structures that are mind-boggling.
    Then there’s Beethoven…geez…
    All three are great. ¡Salud!

  15. Ross Conlan

    All I say is that there are moments in Haydn that sort of stagger and shatter my soul in way that Mozart’s music does not deliver. But then, there are Mozartian moments of such extraordinary beauty as to be too much to bear.

  16. Kenneth Woods

    Ross, I think you say it very well. I’m encouraged that folks are still commenting on this post, and I’m hoping I can come back to it soon because I think it’s time to expand on the subject pretty soon. Funnily enough, I think the misconception that Mozart’s music was somehow all touched by a divine hand and that every note is a little gem of musical perfection actually diminishes our ability to fully appreciate his huge gifts. Stay tuned

  17. Solomon

    Great article, Kenneth. Haydn did indeed tower above Mozart in inventiveness and unpredictability. I can listen to his music all day without getting the slightest bit bored, and always feel refreshed afterward.

    Most of Mozart’s music, on the other hand, is a cliche-filled snoozefest (for me, at least). That said, he did write a couple of my all-time favorite pieces — the 40th Symphony and the (lesser known) Adagio & Fuge in C min. (K. 546). When Amadeus was inspired, he was incredible.

  18. amrit

    Tansen(INDIA) was thousand time better composer as well as singer compair to all above composers and singers.It’s not fake or partial.Listen indian music and then say without partiality who is best.

  19. amrit

    @Ross Conlan
    Please listen indian classical music and rafi songs and you will found infinity time deepness compairing western music

  20. Mikko Utevsky

    Mozart comes out ahead in opera, decisively. That makes this too close to call for me – everything Mozart wrote was touched by the opera. When we exalt him, we forget that this facet of his work shows him to be beautifully, profoundly human.

  21. Tom Rose

    As a young pianist I was brought up on Bach, Mozart, Beethoven (and aargh, Clementi, Czerny, …). For years I subscribed to the conventional belief that Haydn was the poor relation of the “Big Three”.

    Fortunately, around my 50th birthday, I began to LISTEN for myself. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, ar undeniably great, but in the realm of piano I prefer Haydn’s piano sonatas to the keyboard works of any of them, or of the great Romantics and Moderns that followed.

    I won’t say Haydn was the “Greatest”. But he is far and away my FAVOURITE (and I have heard many times everything that Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, CHopin, Liszt and many others have written for the piano and its predecessors.

  22. Michael Pakaluk

    I think Haydn is the cleverest by far and most inventive. Your claim that Mozart is the first romantic seems right. Thanks for the post.

  23. TheseTruths

    I leave “who is more talented” from a musically technical standpoint to those more knowledgable than I. I only only know that I am drawn to Mozart’s music as to that of no other composer.

    The author says, of this Haydn quote — “How inimitable are Mozart’s works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive!” —
    “Notice that he stressed profundity and sensitivity.”
    Yet, Haydn also equally stressed musical intelligence.

    From a purely subjective standpoint, I think this Mozart quote, posted above, is instructive:
    “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to
    the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
    Haydn might have been more skilled than Mozart, but Mozart seems to inspire passion and loyalty in more people. I don’t think it’s because Haydn is lesser known. I think that is why he is lesser known.

    The first line of this piece is telling: “Few are more aware of the difficulties of selling Haydn than Franz Patay, an organizer of festivities marking the bicentenary.” If people are not “sold” on Haydn, it is not because he is not promoted as much as Mozart (which is, of course, true), but because his works do not inspire people to the degree that Mozart’s do.

    So how does one define greatness? By musical skill and inventiveness? By the degree to which the music moves, inspires, and remains meaningful to the listener? Or by all of this, and more?

  24. TheseTruths

    Mozart lived to be 35 years and about 10 months old. Haydn lived to be 77, more than double Mozart’s years. Perhaps a more honest comparison would be of Mozart’s entire body of music to Haydn’s music from the first 35-36 years of his life, since Mozart had no opportunity to progress past that point.

  25. megan

    One of the stupidest articles I’ve read, the weight of it relying on assumptions, misinterpretation of quotes, and purporting to know exactly what went on in Haydn’s mind. Seems to have succeeded in garnering the attention of a handful of readers, though. ‘Nuff said.

  26. Kenneth Woods

    Hi Megan-

    I don’t normally engage with trolls, but I can’t help but conclude you haven’t read the article, or if you’ve read it, you’ve never read anything else about either composer, or, perhaps, don’t know the music I’m talking about in enough detail to follow the arguments. You’ve fallen into the very obvious trap of getting worked up about a deliberately provocative title (which has done a marvelous job of doing what I wanted it do, which as attract the curiosity of readers) and not actually seemed to get point of the post at all, which is not to say Haydn is superior to Mozart but to clarify the nature of these two great composers’ respective talents and achievements.

    The point of this response, however, is that if you want anyone to take your critiques at all seriously, you’re going to have to learn to sign your full, real name and be prepared to stand behind what you’ve written. Otherwise, you’re just another ill-informed, anonymous grouch spewing bile on the internet.

  27. Z D Hoo

    I have been saying the same thing for years. I once joked that Mozart’s music is the muzak of the 18th century.

  28. Z D Hoo

    And why is comparing musicians silly? It is serious business for me. For the limited storage of my mobile devices, I am constantly comparing musicians in order to decide who/what deserves to occupy my limited space.

  29. Tim

    All I will say is that when playing Haydn piano sonatas to oneself of an evening he will do something that makes you both smiile broadly and in a moment feel tears in your eyes, and you feel like you are sharing a rather special moment with him. You are suddently in a private joke. Damn I’d love to look over my shoulder and give him a nod and just say thank you to his face. I love the Mozart piano sonatas, there are beautiful moments, but not once playing them have I felt quite like that . In opera Mozart can conjour moment of exquisite beauty (pretty much all of Cosi has to been about the finest opera ever written), but to my ears Haydn could do things in some of his masses, oratorios or symphonies that can leave you transcended into a state of happiness, suprise, and exaltation.

    Anyway, I’ve rationalised it to myself that there are many different personality types and not all composers can appeal to all – I’ll happliy take Papa Haydn off to my desert island and leave Wolfie to keep many others thouroughly pleased.

  30. Max H

    Okay, here are a few examples of Mozart’s brilliance…

    Listen to the following…

    Symphony 5, 24, 25, 29, 40, and 41.

    Piano concertos, 21, 22, 25, 26

    The Magic Flute – Queen of Night Aria

    Don Giovanni

    The marriage of Figaro

    Then tell me that Haydn is more talented than Mozart.

    And these are just a few examples…

    Comparing these two arists is silly indeed, but I find Mozart’s melodies and accompaniments much more interesting and beautiful to listen to.

  31. Brain

    It is possible to instill appreciation for a composer without diminishing the achievements of others…but since this article was meant to provoke in the style of Glenn Gould, I would like to add some of my own thoughts. The comment^ about Mozart’s music being ‘muzak’ of the 18th century did make me cringe a little bit at the ignorance, but it is a common misconception that some people have. Mozart intended his music to appeal to the connoisseur and novice alike. There are more elements to his music than pleasing melodies, and this becomes evident to those willing to dig a little deeper than their 100 greatest classical hits CDs.
    . You mention the inferiority of much of Mozart’s symphonies, or “orchestral music,” but the fact is that most of his symphonies, the first 30+, were written by the time he was 18. It doesn’t seem fair to compare Mozart’s juvenalia to a Haydn’s mature work. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Haydn’s late symphonies were in turn influenced by Mozart’s last efforts, in a genre that wasn’t nearly as important to him. Orchestral music does include Mozart’s brilliant piano concertos and a few of his serenades, if I’m not mistaken. Mozart’s struggle with his 6 quartets had more to do with trying something entirely different from what Haydn was doing. The counterpoint, subtle chromaticism , dissonance, combining disparate music elements into a cohesive whole(which Schoenberg admired so much) are unlike the quartets Haydn had composed and just as with the symphonies, Haydn learned from Mozart’s own example.
    Finally, Mozart’s total catalogue at a glance only appears so full of second-rate works because Mozart’s best are not packaged neatly together as with Haydn’s symphonies, quartets, sonatas, etc. which makes them harder to locate for those that are lazy, or turned off by first-impressions of his music and, like many people, unwilling to give up their prejudices. Mozart’s best are spread across a wider range of genres than Haydn’s because of his lack of a secure position/income and his eagerness to exercise his ability in full, the two piano quartets, for example. What worthwhile pieces Mozart DID manage to compose, in my opinion:

    Symphonies: 29,31,33,35,36, and the very best: 38-41
    The 7 mature operas and selections from Zaide
    Piano concertos 9-27 all of which range from great to masterpieces
    6 viola quintets
    Coronation Mass, C minor Mass, Requiem, Missa Solemnis in C K.337, Missa Brevis in B flat k. 275, Exsultate Jubilate, and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore K.339
    The concert arias(especially for soprano)
    The mature violin sonatas
    Fantasias for musical clock/organ
    10 mature string quartets: the Haydns, Hoffmeister, and Prussians
    The quintets for solo instruments: Clarinet, Horn, piano and winds
    The oboe quartet and flute quartets
    Solo concerti for: Clarinet, horn, oboe, flute, bassoon, flute and harp, and the violin concertos.
    The Kegelstatt trio, 3 or 4 of the piano trios
    G minor and E-flat major piano quartets(the first masterpieces of this genre)
    Gran Partita
    Various serenades for winds(k.375, 388)
    The “Lodron” serenade k.287
    Posthorn serenade
    Haffner Serenade
    solo piano works(fantasias, rondos, duets, etc)
    Divertimento/Trio in e flat K.563
    Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola

    And those are just off the top of my head, there are more still; but the point is, Mozart wrote all of them in less than half the amount of years than Haydn was composing. And that simply takes more talent, skill, and creativity.

  32. bill

    haydn lived a lot longer than Mozart so who knows? I agree with the brain’s comments

  33. Latichever

    Someone noted that Beethoven was the first Romantic composer.

    The unanswerable question I like to ask: If Mozart had lived longer would he have been Beethoven before Beethoven?

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  35. Mike

    Good comments, brain and ll. Yes, haydn had more randomness in his later symphonies (which beethoven took by the way), but even beethoven knew Mozart was way more advanced. If mozart lived just 10 more years, this blog post never would’ve happened! Mozart was hands down the most talented musician ever. I’m not afraid to say it as others on here seem to be. Both Bach and haydn had over 20 more years to perfect their craft and Mozart still did things they couldn’t dream of. 35 years old and his body of work speaks for itself.

  36. michael

    Crazy article! How can you say Haydn was the better than Mozart when the man himself didnt think so? Haydn called Mozart the greatest composer he had EVER known and thats including himself.

    Haydn had this unique knack of originality. Ill give you that. But Haydn himself knew he was no match for Mozart. Mozart died at 35..Haydn, Beethoven, Bach, and Handel all lived past their 50s. You have an unfair assessment. But look at what he accomplished in his short life! Mozart was far more talented than anyone in his time. He just didnt live long enough to truely convince you.

  37. Kenneth Woods

    Hi Michael

    Thank you for the comment. Like many of the commenters, you seem to have fallen into the trap of overreacting to a deliberately and playfully provocative title, rather than actually reading and absorbing the whole article, which at no point calls either composer “better.”

    I contended in the article that Haydn was “a more creative, more talented and more skilled composer than Mozart.” I also point out that “Mozart wrote a good chunk of the most deeply moving, profoundly poetic, ecstatic and often sad music ever.” I don’t think that sounds like I’m dissing Mozart! The article points out that by focusing on Mozart’s supposedly unique facility, we miss his great genius “as the first Romantic, experimental composer.” And, yes, there’s simply no question about it- Haydn’s facility, his technical gifts for working with ideas, his facility for working with the musical language, for developing originality of of a highly formalized musical language, were simply greater than Mozart. That doesn’t make him “better,” it makes him Haydn. There’s no question that Mozart was an astoundingly gifted guy, but his real greatness is in his ability to move the heart.

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  39. Kelvin

    It seems funny how only mozart lovers are capable of such ignorance and hateful aggression. (Not only here but EVERYWHERE!!!) Perhaps it tells us more about the difference between mozart’s and haydn’s music.

    I mean this both truthfully (objectively) and sarcastically.

    To add a few words, despite a great fan of Haydn, I admit Mozart’s works can sometimes seduce and move a person in an extraordinarily intimate way. Mozart’s harmonies are more soothing and luring.

  40. P Gillespie

    Interesting article. This:

    “Haydn was a more creative, more talented and more skilled composer than Mozart.”

    Needs lots of provisos. I admit that I find Haydn’s Symphonic output to be a greater achievement than Mozart’s (as well as his keyboard sonatas) but what if Haydn had died at 36? What if Bach had died at 36? Or Beethoven? I’ve always been of the mind that Mozart was only *just* getting going when he died. His greatest music was still ahead of him. The tragedy (and loss to the world and musical art) of Mozart’s early death can’t be overstated. If you compare Haydn’s music (up to the age of 36) to Mozart’s, then it’s an entirely different matter (and maybe that’s the only *fair* comparison). Haydn had a whole, extra lifetime (as compared to Mozart) in which to develop his craft.

    If Mozart had lived into his 60’s or 70’s, your opinion likely wouldn’t be what it is now, but we’ll never know.

    Additionally, using your own criteria, one could provocatively argue that CPE Bach was greater than either Haydn or Mozart. If unpredictability is a valid criteria, for example, then CPE Bach’s music is in a whole different solar system. I happen to love CPE Bach’s music, but I would be very hesitant to draw comparisons between him and Haydn/Mozart. Haydn profoundly admired CPE Bach. He waited too long, for whatever reason, to meet CPE Bach, finding only Bach’s widow when he finally worked up the nerve to knock at his door.

    All that said, I’m somewhat sympathetic to your argument. On the other hand, I think you overplay your quote of Haydn. Don’t forget that Haydn praised Joseph Marin Kraus, a weirdly exact contemporary of Mozart, in much the same terms (calling him a genius and one of the most brilliant musicians he had ever met), and yet I doubt you or anyone else would endorse that opinion these days. In fact, judging solely by Haydn’s comment, he arguably considered Mozart and Kraus to be equals.

    And don’t forget that Mozart admired Pleyel’s music. Pleyel, of all composers…. 🙂

  41. Alejandro Legler

    No one can beat Mozart in Opera and Piano Concerti ! Haydn oratorios and string quartets are magnificent though… I think they both admired each other.

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