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Polite is good.

I don't think SM "over-simplifies" (and certainly not "just because it's easier").

My own current exploration of Schubert's Symphony No 9 inevitably raises comparison with Beethoven's. One of the differences is that, to me, the Schubert sounds more like Haydn than Beethoven, is more readily accessible than Beethoven and easier to get to grips with than the Beethoven. Others may agree with me, but even so, these are all just my opinions. My conclusion might be that not only do I prefer the Beethoven, but it's "better" than the Schubert. I know others agree with me on that last, because we've had a thread dedicated to the Beethoven - but there were some who hear it differently, and don't rate it very highly.

I can't get past the feeling that if a definitive case could be made for the Beethoven's being "the best" in the same way that a case might be made for it's being "better", it would have appeared by now. I guarantee that any posts that follow this one will fail to make that case. The best they might succeed in doing is offer a detailed analysis of the kinds of criteria that might be used and a decent effort at seeing how those criteria might apply. But at the end of the analysis, it will remain an opinion, not a statement of fact, if a conclusion is reached.
I think The current discussion is a little more profound than one symphony can be said to be better than another.
 

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-Groups of people who did not think highly of Mozart's style have existed in the past. Just cause majority of them are dead now, it doesn't mean they were "objectively wrong". If "greatness" changes with time, how can be "absolute"? At certain points in history, they weren't just a "minority", but a dominant group, and it's probably how Una cosa rara eclipsed Le Nozze di Figaro in popularity back then.
-How much of Mozart's traits is a result of "different style" and how much is a result of "superior quality" is, still to this day, largely a matter of subjective opinion and perception. Things can be and have qualities to be popular. "Greatness" is something fans use to frame and attribute to things they love and want to glorify. If something is to be considered unquestionably "great" just cause it has a lot of fans; it would be "tyranny of the majority".

The fact that in a moment of time Una Cosa Rara eclipsed Le Nozze di Figaro in the number of performances has nothing to do with anything. There is a reason that one of the two has remained in the current opera repertoire for over 200 years and the other hasn’t. And if you can’t find one or two objective reasons for that then I am surprised that all your research has led you to this point of perspective.

Furthermore, ‘greatness’ can be used in a superficial way or in a profound way. Do you really believe that Beethoven is considered great just because he has a lot of fans and that implies a ‘tyranny of the majority’. Really? (And I’m talking CP era here.)
 

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My answer to the above question is--wait for it--Yes. And the reason that Le Nozze has remained in the repertoire for over 200 years is that a large cluster of people like it, pure and simple. The "objective" reason for that is the validity of the polling process and its results--cold hard facts.
There‘s something sad about one’s evaluation of what Mozart accomplished in Le Nozze amounting to nothing more than the results of a ‘polling process’.
 

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...The problems come, though, when we consider that some pop music is much more popular and that some works get neglected for long periods of time only to be rediscovered later (i.e. did the work suddenly become great after a long period of being negligible?).
In these discussions I always assume that we are talking about music of the CP era. At least, any position I take is referring to that period and the music and composers thereof.

As far as neglected works being ‘rediscovered’ goes, there are a number of reasons for that other than their suddenly becoming great. One is that prior to the 20th century when there were no recordings, particularly when it came to the larger works, a composer had to have ‘concert time’ to have works heard. Also, composers in some of the smaller countries didn’t get the exposure that those in Germany, Italy and Russia did.

A major reason that neglected works are being resurrected now is because of recordings and the fact that due to advances in technology, it is less expensive to record and distribute them. It’s amazing to see the number of resurrected symphonies alone from 19th century composers from small European countries turning up on YouTube.
 

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I am impressed by the sheer number of rhetorical questions above asked! So many of them. I do admire your enthusiasm for maintaining the reputations of your favorites, as I do mine. But such encomiums are hardly necessary--no one is attacking anybody's favorite anythings--as you know, I scrupulously refrain from knocking anyone else's esthetic choices.
I’ll horn in here just to say that I think you’re missing the point (of the rhetorical questions).
 

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What is that sad thing? I love the works that I love, and likely many that you love also. But I don't need to have some---What? Something?-- exterior to my appreciation to justify or to grant an imprimatur to my enthusiasm. But it is really nothing more than a polling process whereby Mozart has enthralled a cluster of influential people to coalesce around some particular work or works. But we all are free as birds to fully, completely, exhaustively, richly appreciate, admire, be touched by those art objects that our natures find to our taste.
But it’s not all about you. The sad thing is that you are dismissing the objective evidence of skill and accomplishment. There are some people who have been blessed with enormous musical talent and those of us lucky enough to be drawn to classical music have reaped the benefits of their artistic accomplishments. But to you, there is no wonder in the various levels of human genius at work here; it is just a matter of subjective opinion whether they’re great or not, regardless of whether the opinion is educated or not.
 

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Similarly, a clown has his means of attracting attention and interest from people. Depending on how talented or skilled he is from the perspective of the audience, he can be considered a genius in what he does, ie. his profession. Likewise, music is, in the end, an abstract combination of sounds. Whether or not something is superficially appealing, sentimental, or over the top, or whatnot, belongs in the realm of subjectivity.
I continue to wonder how someone who frequently posts about composers with a great amount of detail with examples (and that is not a criticism) can have that perspective. It begs the question as to what those posts are meant to accomplish? I’ve always assumed that you were trying to educate or convince us about the accomplishments and even ‘greatness’ of the composers being discussed. If not, then what’s the point if their output is just a ‘an abstract combination of sounds’ with nothing objectively special about it?
 

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"I find it unfair that an "indecent pot-boiler" like Cosi fan tutte survived, while stuff like the "proto-Schubertian" pastoral poem, Die Hochzeit auf der Alm with its later added supplemental music and its "anthem of fidelity" and Die Ährenleserin did not. I find the dramatic structure of this Dzmj8lRLHh0&t=10m43s Dies irae (which integrates the Lacrimosa) more interesting than the one from Mozart's sketchy requiem. I find that none of Mozart's symphonies before No.31 are as "mature" as watch?v=e8ba5g_jF5M , watch?v=v80s4yjSdQM , watch?v=ppTToo8lrMQ " (and so on..)

Of course, I don't hold these opinions, but in a "parallel world" where Mozart's certain contemporaries get just as much exposure as him; there "could be" people holding them. There's no unversal law of objective value that somehow exempts Mozart from these criticisms; he isn't somehow on a higher plane than them; that's just an illusion we've created in our minds.
Well, unless I’m misunderstanding, you seem to be playing both ends against the middle. You say you ‘don’t hold these opinions’, but your final sentence suggests otherwise.
 

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My point entirely. Your and my views are our own, and we are free to personally hold any view of the tastes of others as we choose. The danger, if there is one, is that one begins to think that one's own evaluation of artwork is better, superior to another's evaluation (perfectly legitimate)--but beyond that, that people whose tastes are different from ours should be reminded of such, that they are lesser beings, numbskulls, etc. This IMO is a corrosive, negative attitude if widely communicated to others when a simple silence or an explanation that one's tastes are different, but not necessarily better. This is why I almost never disparage the tastes of others but merely state that I am not a member of the audience for which that music or art was intended.
Most of us discussing this are enlightened enough to not denigrate the tastes of others. And, contrary to what you infer by perseverating on the subject, no one (that I know of) is denying that individual tastes are totally subjective.

Speaking only of the CP era music, what you choose to ignore is that when a blueprint for what attracts a cross-section of people develops, an individual taste does not necessarily correlate with the quality of the music or the skill that was required to compose it, but collectively, over time, a consensus does. CP era music developed over centuries and, presumably, composers were challenged to innovate with more complex and sophisticated works to attract and enlarge new audiences. If that didn’t/doesn’t suggest the requirement of objective evidence of skill, then I don’t know what does.

Thus, came the Mozart symphonies, concertos and operas, the Beethoven sonatas, concertos and symphonies, the Chopin piano works, the Wagner operas and so forth. This process was an example of the very best of human creativity at work and to ignore the objective evidence of it is to diminish the accomplishment.
 

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Sorry but No Sale. You, like Woodduck and I, have discussed these matters to a point well beyond the time spent by reasonable people on subjects where there is no real chance of agreement, let alone understanding.. As I stressed to Woodduck, we all agree we love art, CM, so many other and varied things so that it is time to shut it down, Yes? As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. How about you?
Well, the fact is I wasn’t trying to sell you on anything. I am well reminded of the saying about dragging a horse to water. I’m only reminding the general audience in as many different ways as possible what the truth is lest it be misled by the rhetoric from certain quarters. :)
 

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Talking about esthetics, Sarah Brightman is/was a singularly beautiful creature--In My Opinion! Though her later performances became a little too theatrical for my taste. Well-chosen video DaveM! (y)
(Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. :))

Interesting you would mention that because much as I like the song and as much as I agree with you on what a beautiful creature she was in her prime, Brightman’s histrionics in the performance were a bit much.
 

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..I do believe greatness is subjective (and obviously so), but I believe there are reasons that certain composers and works are considered to stand above others. There are experts (and other knowledgeable people) who can assess works and give reasons that others can understand and appreciate. Those reasons are worth discussing, and those who argue strenuously that those reasons matter are correct.
I’m confused by the ‘subjective (obviously so)’ as if that’s where it ends, particularly since your follow up would suggest that the evaluation of and statement of ‘greatness’ is not totally subjective.
 

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I'll answer in two ways. First, if there are both subjective and objective components to an evaluation, the overall evaluation must be considered subjective. Only a completely objective analysis can be viewed as objective.

Second, I'll use an argument I made earlier in the subjective/objective thread. It's mathematical but hopefully still useful. There are many metrics or criteria with which people can evaluate music. For simplicity, let's imagine 3 - innovation, melody, and funkiness. Again, there are many more, and some may be considered more important, but my argument would be the same if we included all of them. To compare works and conclude one is better, one must essentially calculate a value we can use for comparison, perhaps called its Greatness, G (one could call it lots of things, but hopefully calling it Greatness will not be problematic). To calculate G we would use the equation (assumed linear for simplicity):

G = a*innovation + b*melody + c*funkiness (or G = a*I + b*M + c*F)

We would then evaluate the works based on innovation, melody, and funkiness. It's possible that someone could create an objective method for assessing innovation, but I doubt everyone would agree on its merit, and subjectivity starts to creep in. I'm pretty certain no one would argue that melody or funkiness could be assessed objectively. So we are left with subjective assessment of the values for I, M, and F. But let's assume that somehow everyone agrees perfectly on assessing those factors, and somehow, they develop what everyone also agrees is an objective valuation. The real problem is the weighting constants a, b, and c. These essentially determine how important are the individual factors in the overall evaluation. Is innovation twice as important as melody? Is funkiness remotely important? If one asks 10 people or even 10 experts, I think it's likely one would get 10 different answers especially if the number of factors were increased to be more inclusive.

Any evaluation of works will include subjectivity on which factors to include, subjectivity on how to evaluate those factors, and subjectivity on how to weight the factors. For example, I have said for a long time that Beethoven's 9th is my favorite work and the "greatest" work of music. But my friend, Monty, thinks Parliament's P-Funk is better. I would assess the innovation and melody (and other factors) for the 9th and Monty would do the same for P-Funk. Monty actually thinks the 9th scores very high on I and M but rather low on F. P-Funk scores modestly on I and M but very, very high on F. The difference is that my weighting factors are all roughly equal; whereas, Monty's are a = .001, b = .001, and c = .998 (i.e. it's all about funkiness). When he evaluates the works, P-Funk easily beats the 9th. It's difficult to say why he's wrong because it's his evaluation based on what matters to him.
While you have clarified some of your position for me at the beginning of the post, the math-based analogy or metaphor lost me a bit. Fwiw, the reason I make it clear that I’m referencing the CP era, is to avoid the introduction of comparisons with other music genres eg. Parliament’s P-Funk or Justin Bieber.

I added the following Edit to my post you referenced above, but I was too late so here it is below:

My position on the subject (re: CP era): The word ‘great’ can be complicated by semantics. An individual can proclaim that Dvorak is in his/her list of top 5 of great composers. Fine, that’s the subjective feeling of that individual based on nothing more than his/her definition of ‘great’ and perspective at the particular moment in time of listening experience.

But the word ‘great’ as applied to composers has a more profound meaning based on the effect on the listeners, composers, musicologists over a long period of time involving comparisons with other composers, parameters of innovation and originality of harmony, counterpoint, use of available instruments etc. In this case, the evaluation of ‘greatness’ goes well beyond individual subjective feelings. Since the CP era resulted, over time, in a general blueprint for what listeners expected or were attracted to, I would posit that a level of objectivity in comparing the greatness of composers is possible. This doesn’t mean that everyone will agree exactly on the order of ‘greatness’, but there is a general consensus that is impressively consistent.

Fwiw, I find it interesting that there were at least two recent concerts in Europe to raise awareness and money related to the Ukraine situation. In both, the main works were Beethoven (not Dvorak :)).
 

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..It is not an objective evaluation but rather a practical evaluation. They are essentially saying, "Composers A, B, and C wrote works that many of us greatly enjoy. Composers D, E, and F wrote many fewer works that many of us greatly enjoy. Anyone spending significant time listening to classical music and learning what others have learned will likely come to enjoy/appreciate the works of composers A, B, and C more than works of composers D, E, and F. Not only that, but we can give specific reasons why that is likely to be true." Personally, I think that's enormously valuable.
(Appreciate the response)

One man’s ‘practical evaluation’ is another man’s ‘objective evaluation’. :) Actually, I believe they are saying, among other measurable things, that Composers A, B and C composed works in a clever way never seen before and which were appreciated in a major way at the time and/or before long and continued to attract a broad cross-section from the target-rich environment over generations to the present. Take Mozart’s final operas starting with Idomeneo, for instance: People had never heard operas on this level before. Can one deny the presence of objective reasons why these operas created such a response/stir at the time and have continued to this day?
 
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