Franz Josef Haydn, arguably Austria’s greatest composer (if not its best) died 200 years ago today. He was the biggest composer of his time, and he basically invented the symphony — and the symphony orchestra — as we know it today. And yet, as the newspaper article above mentions, he’s still an also-ran in his native land, where Mozart is still the number one tourist attraction.
If Mozart had never lived, the world would certainly be poorer, and the “M” section of the Classical bins in the record store would be a lot smaller. But if Haydn had never lived, classical music as we know it would be radically different.
I’m a huge Mozart fan, and I have no problem stating categorically that he had a genius that Haydn simply didn’t match (Haydn himself had no problem saying so either). But Mozart wasn’t an innovator, let alone a revolutionary. He was, simply, the very best at composing within the established style — the style largely established by Haydn.