Beethoven WASN'T the most innovative composer in history


Beethoven WASN’T the most innovative composer in history because Rachmaninov’s music was more original, researchers reveal

  • Computer analysis looked at more than 19 composers between 1700 and 1900
  • It found the one whose work was most unlike his predecessors was Rachmaninov
  • Team from South Korea created computer model which calculated the scores

Beethoven may be the greatest name in classical music – but computer analysis suggests he may not have been the most original.

A study of more than 19 composers has found the one whose work was most unlike his predecessors was Rachmaninov.

Ludwig van Beethoven was among the least original composers, according to computer comparison of his works with others. 

However, the analysis does show that between 1820 and 1910 he was the most influential.

A computer analysis looking at more than 19 composers has found the one whose work was most unlike his predecessors was Rachmaninov (pictured)

A computer analysis looking at more than 19 composers has found the one whose work was most unlike his predecessors was Rachmaninov (pictured)

Researchers analysed 900 classical piano works written by 19 composers between 1700 and 1900, divided into three periods: Baroque, classical and romantic. 

The team from South Korea created a computer model which was able to calculate scores based on how the works differed from earlier pieces.

They also looked at how they differed from previous works by the same composer – to assess how novel the composition was.

On this basis the composer with the highest combined novelty score was Sergei Rachmaninov. 

Study author Juyong Park of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, said: ‘Our model allows us to calculate the degree of shared melodies and harmonies between past and future works and to observe the evolution of western musical styles by demonstrating how prominent composers may have influenced each other.’

The authors found that compositions from the classical period (1750 to 1820) tended to have the lowest novelty scores. During this period Haydn and Mozart were highly influential but later overtaken by Beethoven.

The authors cautioned the results might have been different if works other than just piano compositions had been considered.

 



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