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Austria honors its other musical genius

JOSEPH Haydn died 200 years ago yesterday, and Austria has been marking the occasion with hundreds of concerts, exhibitions and other events dedicated to the music and memory of one of the country's greatest sons.

There is no doubt that Haydn was a giant. The "Father of the Symphony" was also key in developing genres such as the string quartet, the sonata and the concerto. His two oratorios are the gold standard. And he was unusually prolific, leaving behind more than 100 major works, and hundreds of shorter pieces.

But Haydn has it hard in a country that also gave birth to Amadeus.

Mozart was a wunderkind, a creator of more than 600 works, whose death at 35 perpetuated his fame. His genius propelled him to superstar status. He loved scatological jokes; he was impertinent, flamboyant, endearingly human.

Haydn himself also idolized his younger friend's genius. "How inimitable are Mozart's works, how profound, how musically intelligent, how extraordinarily sensitive!" he wrote. And Mozart's father, Leopold, cited Haydn as telling him: "Your son is the greatest composer I know."

Haydn is loved by those who know him. But the majority does not.

So it's tough to drum up Mozart-like enthusiasm for the man who was staidly known as "Papa Haydn," who died at 77 after an ordered life, most of it in the countryside; whose instrumental works are unjustly considered rigid and mannered by some when compared to Mozart's.

But those who know the man and his music are paying homage, in less obtrusive ways.

Bronx-born Lanny Louis says his CD shop is selling "at least five times as much" Haydn this year, compared to previous years. "People are starting to realize that there is another great Austrian composer outside of Mozart."


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