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#3175151 12/04/21 10:46 PM
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In your opinion, are these guys as great as their more popular counterparts? Generally, I think Bach and Mozart are superior to Handel and Haydn, but Schubert is such different kind of composer than Beethoven, being the author of probably the most angelic music in history, I've never felt comfortable comparing them. What do you think?

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Originally Posted by chopinetto
[... I've never felt comfortable comparing them. [...]

Nor have I.

Why compare them? Each is a master in his own way.

Regards.


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When I was studying Music (as a school subject) at high school, learning about composers in various eras, it always struck me that someone (up in the clouds, or above) must have preordained that Bach, Handel and D.Scarlatti should all be born in the same year (1685), and are therefore brothers, and equal. smirk

Then, when I started singing in the school choir, our choir learnt and sang Vivaldi's Gloria, Bach's Magnificat and Handel's Zadok the Priest, The King shall Rejoice plus selections from the Messiah in rapid succession in school concerts, and I never thought that one composer's music was superior to another. (The Red Priest is of course their older brother.)

They were just different, and you could never mistake one composer for another, certainly not when you were singing in intricate SATB (or SAATBB etc) and in the midst of all the counterpoint (or not) and the harmony. Vive la différence! - as a sage (probably across the Channel - they speak French there, I'm told) once said.

Though as pianist, I never got to play Vivaldi (for obvious reasons which I've forgotten), but Bach and Scarlatti were frequently on the cards, yet, curiously, very little Handel.....though the blacksmith (harmonious or not) was a lot more popular than Herr Goldberg at the time, and I managed to get hold of a score (OK, I borrowed it from the school music library and made a photocopy of it) and learn it by myself. (It did wonders for my scales wink ).



And then, Schubert's Unfinished was our set orchestral work for the Music exam, and studying it made me fall in love with the bespectacled, rotund, soft-spoken but passionate chappie who loved nothing more than sitting in Viennese coffee houses and watching the world go by with amiable companions, as well as accompanying his own songs in, er, his Schubertiade. So much so that I borrowed the volumes of his piano music from the music library and played through the whole lot (even if I couldn't get my fingers around some of them) - all the sonatas as well as the musical moments, impromptus, dances etc. I even managed to rope in a friend to play his duets, especially D940. For a long time, he overtook Beethoven in my affections, though at the time, I was learning quite a lot of Beethoven with my piano teacher, but no Schubert - I had to learn Franz by myself, but I wouldn't have it any other way (because my relationship with him was personal......even more so when I heard his songs like Du bist die Ruh', Nacht und Träume, An die Musik etc, and then sang them myself at the piano).

Through it all, of course Mozart always remained my first love - and he was the first great composer whose original piano music I learnt and played as a beginner, after which I was no longer a beginner....... whistle


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Originally Posted by bennevis
When I was studying Music (as a school subject) at high school, learning about composers in various eras, it always struck me that someone (up in the clouds, or above) must have preordained that Bach, Handel and D.Scarlatti should all be born in the same year (1685), and are therefore brothers, and equal. smirk

Then, when I started singing in the school choir, our choir learnt and sang Vivaldi's Gloria, Bach's Magnificat and Handel's Zadok the Priest, The King shall Rejoice plus selections from the Messiah in rapid succession in school concerts, and I never thought that one composer's music was superior to another. (The Red Priest is of course their older brother.)

They were just different, and you could never mistake one composer for another, certainly not when you were singing in intricate SATB (or SAATBB etc) and in the midst of all the counterpoint (or not) and the harmony. Vive la différence! - as a sage (probably across the Channel - they speak French there, I'm told) once said.

Though as pianist, I never got to play Vivaldi (for obvious reasons which I've forgotten), but Bach and Scarlatti were frequently on the cards, yet, curiously, very little Handel.....though the blacksmith (harmonious or not) was a lot more popular than Herr Goldberg at the time, and I managed to get hold of a score (OK, I borrowed it from the school music library and made a photocopy of it) and learn it by myself. (It did wonders for my scales wink ).



And then, Schubert's Unfinished was our set orchestral work for the Music exam, and studying it made me fall in love with the bespectacled, rotund, soft-spoken but passionate chappie who loved nothing more than sitting in Viennese coffee houses and watching the world go by with amiable companions, as well as accompanying his own songs in, er, his Schubertiade. So much so that I borrowed the volumes of his piano music from the music library and played through the whole lot (even if I couldn't get my fingers around some of them) - all the sonatas as well as the musical moments, impromptus, dances etc. I even managed to rope in a friend to play his duets, especially D940. For a long time, he overtook Beethoven in my affections, though at the time, I was learning quite a lot of Beethoven with my piano teacher, but no Schubert - I had to learn Franz by myself, but I wouldn't have it any other way (because my relationship with him was personal......even more so when I heard his songs like Du bist die Ruh', Nacht und Träume, An die Musik etc, and then sang them myself at the piano).

Through it all, of course Mozart always remained my first love - and he was the first great composer whose original piano music I learnt and played as a beginner, after which I was no longer a beginner....... whistle
Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. thumb thumb


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I much prefer Bach and Mozart to Händel and Haydn. I love Beethoven, just as much as I love Bach and Mozart, and consider his late quartets to be above almost all other music. But I do still definitely prefer Schubert to Beethoven. Yes, I prefer him over Mozart and Bach too, without saying one is greater than the other. Still, when playing some of Schubert’s sonatas I often find the music so inspired and exceptional that it is difficult to go back to Beethoven even.

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Originally Posted by chopinetto
In your opinion, are these guys as great as their more popular counterparts? Generally, I think Bach and Mozart are superior to Handel and Haydn, but Schubert is such different kind of composer than Beethoven, being the author of probably the most angelic music in history, I've never felt comfortable comparing them. What do you think?

The answer is yes - in my opinion, Handel and Haydn are as "great" as Bach and Mozart and Beethoven and Schubert - whatever that may mean.

For Handel, one has to think of his operas and oratorios. Here in London we have been lucky enough to see quite a number of these over the years - many of them are magnificent works which speak to the heart of the human condition. Handel was a great musical dramatist. In 2018 Glyndebourne staged a production of Handel's oratorio "Saul". The final act relates to the war between Saul and David and its aftermath. This was in the year of the centenary of the Armistice; I found that this production of Saul moved me more deeply concerning the tragedy of war than anything else I saw at the time relating to the centenary. This was in large part down to Handel's music.

If anyone needs convincing of Handel's mastery as an opera composer, just watch this aria from "Ariodante", in which he bewails he supposed infidelity of his beloved - sung by the great Joyce DiDonato.



Many of Haydn's late works are absolutely magnificent - "The Creation", the London symphonies, the string quartets, the six Masses for the name day of Princess Maria Esterhazy (and especially the "Nelson" mass), the final piano sonatas written in London and inspired by Haydn's encounter with the pianos of Broadwood. In recent years I have come to appreciate the Haydn sonatas more and more. In my view it is they, rather than the Mozart sonatas, that look forward to Beethoven. I especially love the final piano sonata in E flat, which is quite magnificent. I went to a wonderful performance of it by Leon McCawley at the Wigmore Hall last week. This was streamed; you can hear it on this link - it starts at 20.30. (McCawley also played Mozart and Schubert which were very fine.)



Schubert's music was not just angelic. Masterpiece after masterpiece poured out of him in his final year, much of it deeply felt and indeed painful. "Winterreise" (A Winter's Journey) is a song cycle like no other, bringing to the listener the depths of despair of the protagonist. Listen for instance to the 21st song "Das Wirtshaus" ("The Inn"), in the great recording by Pregardien and Staier. I find it difficult to listen to this without moist eyes. The inn is of course the graveyard. Schubert knew that he was near death when he wrote this. To appreciate the song you need to follow the words and the translation:

https://www.oxfordlieder.co.uk/song/2043

This song starts at 1.00.50. (I can recommend listening to the whole cycle if you have time!)



The piano here is a Fritz of 1825. One of the pedals is undoubtedly in use for this song - probably the lute stop.

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It's not a fair evaluation to stack composers together and measure their compositions against one another.

Bach was a religious man. He wrote many of his famous pieces for church performances including organ fugues, cantatas & oratorios. Many of his pieces can be re-arranged for other instruments. Mozart's pieces is considered popular music for the masses. Haydn wrote many Symphonies for the weekly parties hosted by Prince Esterházy of Austria. Handel was in Italy before he decided to settle in England. He wrote Italian operas for the English audience until they went out of fashion and he continued to write oratorios for the English. He wrote a number of concerto grossos modeled on Italian composers like Corelli. Handel was a popular composer in his day including 2 commissioned work for King George II of England ("Water Music" & "Royal Firework"). Bach was not considered to be a popular composer in his day and his work was rediscovered by later composers like Mendelssohn.

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In order to compare composers, one need to have some specific criteria and a way to assess them. And even then it depends on the weight given for each criteria. In most cases, jugements are at best just personal preferences, or general opinions.

The general ranking of composers like saying that Bach of Mozart or Composer X is the greatest is just a consensual average, but music being so personal and the concepg of beauty so subjective and time dated that the general consensus is not meaningful at the level of a person. I can recognize the technical quality of certain compositions and be completely indifferent to the music. For example, though i like certain specific parts of Bach passions, all in all, i much prefer the sacred music of other composers, including Haendel. The technical sophistication of a composition, though interesting in itself, does not make it necessarily more moving or interesting to listen to than a simplier one. At the level reached by certain composers, it is just a matter of stylistic and personal preferences. For me other composers are just as great like Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Byrd, Purcell, Gabrieli, Josquin, Rameau, .......


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