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Let me spell it out. Johann Sebastian Bach was a great composer and a great teacher. He taught his sons music. Leopold taught Wolfgang but Wolfgang was a greater composer than any of Johann Sebastian's sons. So yes, upbringing has a tremendous impact (as was the case with Mendelssohn) but growing up in a highly musical household isn't the factor. Indeed, Wolfgang's children were not outstandingly musical.
Also, most people don't know that; L. Mozart may not have been Bach or Handel, but was still a respectably skilled craftsman. I think the benedictus of his Missa brevis in A is pretty good. It's a pity not much of his stuff has been recorded, but I'm always eager to know more about this composer as well (to get a better insight into the history and stuff).

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"Leopold Mozart was a talented musician who well understood his craft as a composer....many of his church pieces, of which we find masses, litanies, offertories and many others in considerable number are among the best that he wrote."
-Ernst Fritz Schmid


"his liturgical works are of greater worth than his chamber pieces."
-German musicologist Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart


"As a church composer, Leopold stands at the height of his time."
-Wolfgang Plath


"Of the manuscript compositions by Herr Mozart which have become known, numerous contrapuntal and other church pieces are especially noteworthy."
http://conquest.imslp.info/files/im...MLP169311-Litaniæ_de_Venerabili_C.pdf#page=42
 

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I note a rather vociferous faction on this forum who appear invested in a strangely counterexperiential and counterintuitive sort of artistic egalitarianism, which resists or denies that some human beings have natural abilities that others lack, and rejects the concept of genius and the attribution of greatness to the products of genius.

Who are these folks protecting, and from what?
Yes. I also ask Who are these folks who reject the concept of genius? It is clear indeed that there are human prodigies and beings of exceptional ability in many fields of endeavor. One reads routinely of Victorian-era (and earlier) polymaths becoming fluent in a dozen or dozens of languages, ancient and modern and often belonging to entirely different linguistic families. There are those with total recall of every event of every day of their lives. There are those like Rachmaninoff with absolute pitch and a photographic memory of music once seen and heard. Mathematics is full of stories of prodigies. It would be a fool's errand to deny this.

I am pleased that some variant of this discussion is not being dragged into an objectivist/subjectivist discussion of esthetics.
 

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+ Hard Work, don't forget that
Of course. When I said "skill" I included in that word the fact that it takes many hours of work to develop the skills necessary to be a musician or composer. I'm sure you've heard the saying by Edison, "10% inspiration; 90% perspiration." The same applies to being a musician, composer or songwriter.
 

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Prodigies tend to exist mainly in three fields - music, mathematics and chess. There is clearly a link between these subjects that the childish mind can access. Thank goodness. What joys the world has reaped because of these naturally gifted people.
 
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Of course. When I said "skill" I included in that word the fact that it takes many hours of work to develop the skills necessary to be a musician or composer. I'm sure you've heard the saying by Edison, "10% inspiration; 90% perspiration." The same applies to being a musician, composer or songwriter.
One must not also forget that talent is conducive to hard work.

With all else being equal (environment, teachers, upbringing, etc.), who will work harder-an aspiring singer with perfect pitch, or a aspiring singer who is tone deaf?

The answer is that the one who demonstrates talent and the ability to progress quickly will be much more motivated to pursue a career in singing. The one who cannot find an A4 or sing a basic scale will quickly become discouraged and find something that better suits their abilities.

From personal experience, my own perfect pitch and ability to play by ear helped to spark interest and motivation in pursuing piano. I cannot imagine that anybody who shows little talent would have the willpower and interest to try their best at something that they know they are not very good at.

So while "10% inspiration, 90% perspiration" may be true, you must first have that 10% to even be motivated to work hard. No rational person throws their life into an art that they have no talent in.
 

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Prodigies tend to exist mainly in three fields - music, mathematics and chess. There is clearly a link between these subjects that the childish mind can access. Thank goodness. What joys the world has reaped because of these naturally gifted people.
One of the most amazing mathematical prodigies, largely self-taught, was the great Indian phenom Srinivasa Ramanujan. Talk about someone springing from the brow of Zeus! Died way too young, but was recognized as the genius he was.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan
 

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I remember many years ago talking to a fellow chess player about one of our teammates who was international master standard and asking why he hadn’t made the leap to grandmaster. My friend had a succinct and terse comment, ‘It’s called a talent barrier’. This was the realisation that no matter how naturally talented X was, he had reached the limit of his innate talent and no amount of blood, sweat or tears was going to take him any further. I think this applies to most, if not all, fields.
 

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I saw a movie about him, but can't remember the title. Sad story.
The Wikipedia entry lists a whole bunch of films and documentaries about Ramanujan. Also that people still turn up nuggets of mathematical genius from his notebooks and offshoots of his other mathematical investigations. There are also several celebrated examples of other mathematicians of world rank being in awe of Ramanujan's seemingly effortless ability to intuit almost immediately solutions to complex problems; the answers would just pop into his head. Amazing man!
 

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The Wikipedia entry lists a whole bunch of films and documentaries about Ramanujan. Also that people still turn up nuggets of mathematical genius from his notebooks and offshoots of his other mathematical investigations. There are also several celebrated examples of other mathematicians of world rank being in awe of Ramanujan's seemingly effortless ability to intuit almost immediately solutions to complex problems; the answers would just pop into his head. Amazing man!
It was this one, The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015). From looking at the article the film was pretty accurate.
 

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So while "10% inspiration, 90% perspiration" may be true, you must first have that 10% to even be motivated to work hard. No rational person throws their life into an art that they have no talent in.
Perhaps we can agree that a person with natural talent, perfect pitch, genetic predisposition or whatever that 10% is, will find the other 90% of effort to develop her skill less taxing than the rest of us without natural talent. Yes, they practice endlessly (recall the stories of Coltrane practicing scales even without his horn) but for them it's a PLEASURE, not a chore?
 

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Yes. I also ask Who are these folks who reject the concept of genius? It is clear indeed that there are human prodigies and beings of exceptional ability in many fields of endeavor. One reads routinely of Victorian-era (and earlier) polymaths becoming fluent in a dozen or dozens of languages, ancient and modern and often belonging to entirely different linguistic families. There are those with total recall of every event of every day of their lives. There are those like Rachmaninoff with absolute pitch and a photographic memory of music once seen and heard. Mathematics is full of stories of prodigies. It would be a fool's errand to deny this.

I am pleased that some variant of this discussion is not being dragged into an objectivist/subjectivist discussion of esthetics.
Oh, but it has been! It isn't merely genius itself that's denied or dismissed, but "the attribution of greatness to the products of genius" (the part of my statement you've not responded to.) Genius is as genius does; we recognize it by the quality of the work it produces. Our ability and willingness to to recognize it and name it - we call it "greatness" - is precisely what's at issue in those other discussions. A "photographic" memory of a piece of music is a freak of nature; some musicians possess it, others don't, and no one else cares. The genius of Rachmaninoff is in The Isle of the Dead and The Bells.
 

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Oh, but it has been! It isn't merely genius itself that's denied or dismissed, but "the attribution of greatness to the products of genius" (the part of my statement you've not responded to.) Genius is as genius does; we recognize it by the quality of the work it produces. Our ability and willingness to to recognize it and name it - we call it "greatness" - is precisely what's at issue in those other discussions. A "photographic" memory of a piece of music is a freak of nature; some musicians possess it, others don't, and no one else cares. The genius of Rachmaninoff is in The Isle of the Dead and The Bells.
Wrong thread, methinks. And I disagree that Isle of the Dead and The Bells are Rachmaninoff's works of genius. The Isle Is much too long and static (in my view). And The Bells never rang my bell. I like Poe, though. A lot.
 

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The Wikipedia entry lists a whole bunch of films and documentaries about Ramanujan. Also that people still turn up nuggets of mathematical genius from his notebooks and offshoots of his other mathematical investigations. There are also several celebrated examples of other mathematicians of world rank being in awe of Ramanujan's seemingly effortless ability to intuit almost immediately solutions to complex problems; the answers would just pop into his head. Amazing man!
He was mathematically gifted but lacked direction, not through his own fault during his earlier years but because of his social class in India. If only his genius was cultivated much earlier on and without prejudice, then even greater contributions would have been done, just like Mozart. I would say that Mozart was reaching a turning point in his life during the last few years to establish himself in Vienna and elsewhere but rotten illness took his life.
 

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Wrong thread, methinks.
Me thinks the connection is unavoidable, especially given your invitation (or provocation).

In music, we recognize genius by the quality of the work it produces. You're free to evade or rationalize this truth, but I won't let your glib dismissal of my statement bury it.

And I disagree that Isle of the Dead and The Bells are Rachmaninoff's works of genius. The Isle Is much too long and static (in my view). And The Bells never rang my bell. I like Poe, though. A lot.
I cited them as examples only. You may prefer the concertos, or the symphonies, or the songs.

The Bells isn't a direct translation of Poe.
 

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"The Bells (Russian: Колокола, Kolokola), Op. 35, is a choral symphony by Sergei Rachmaninoff, written in 1913. The words are from the poem The Bells by Edgar Allan Poe, very freely translated into Russian by the symbolist poet Konstantin Balmont. The traditional Gregorian melody Dies Irae is used frequently throughout the work. It was one of Rachmaninoff's two favorite compositions, along with his All-Night Vigil, and is considered by some to be his secular choral masterpiece."
 

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Yes. I also ask Who are these folks who reject the concept of genius? It is clear indeed that there are human prodigies and beings of exceptional ability in many fields of endeavor. One reads routinely of Victorian-era (and earlier) polymaths becoming fluent in a dozen or dozens of languages, ancient and modern and often belonging to entirely different linguistic families. There are those with total recall of every event of every day of their lives. There are those like Rachmaninoff with absolute pitch and a photographic memory of music once seen and heard. Mathematics is full of stories of prodigies. It would be a fool's errand to deny this.

I am pleased that some variant of this discussion is not being dragged into an objectivist/subjectivist discussion of esthetics.
I think the more contrary (and it's not even clear that it *is* a contrary opinion) "egalitarian" opinion would be that if we believe that genius is just something random that isn't entirely related to genetic makeup or birth environment, than it stands to reason that the greatest minds of our times likely spent their lives toiling away in poverty with their ideas unheard, and that the masters of our time represent only a tiny fraction of our potential (I think Charles Ives was fond of saying this- that while he believed Beethoven's work to the be pinnacle of human musical art, that there was almost certainly some poor farmworker or miner with even greater talent that would never be realized).
 

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Do you believe in a God that blesses some composers with massive amounts of talent, or is it all in nature/nurture?

I personally don't follow faith based thinking, but leave it open to the possibility of a god. So, my answer to my own question is, perhaps, but I'm not going to live my life believing so without scientific evidence.
Every talent any one has is a gift from God. That talent can be cultivated or neglected.

Scientific evidence for what sorry?
 

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Rare, and lucky, are the few who reach their full potential in life. Most bus drivers have a great novel in them, or a great symphony, and had they had more opportunities growing up they might have achieved those goals.
Had they had more opportunity growing up they might have achieved more, not that there's anything wrong with driving a bus, but to say most have a great novel or symphony in them isn't true
 
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