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What Makes Great Music So Great: Part I

Whether you're a Classical Music aficionado, a fledgling enthusiast, or blissfully unaware of the amazing potential of this art form, there are a few names that transcend categorization: Mozart; Beethoven; maybe Bach and Brahms, too. Heck, even if classical music makes your skin crawl and break out in hives, you can probably still bang out the opening rhythm of Beethoven's Fifth.

An image of Beethoven giving a thumbs-up.
This is Beethoven. He approves of this message.

So what is it about these composers and their music that makes them so famous, timeless, almost immortal? Let's break it down...

Huge Creativity

Any composer that has been remembered for over two or three centuries wrote some pretty awesome music, and they didn't do that by being average. From catchy melodies that were instantly recognizable to attention-grabbing openings, these people were able to stand out at a time when everyone and their pets were composers-in-training.

Woofgang Amadeus Mozart was a famous canine composer, as was the later Giacomo Poochini, but many of their manuscripts, also known as doodles, were lost. Ironically, many of their scores were used to line their own crates, a tragic twist of fate that has cost modern audiences dearly.

So what does a big, bold, attention-grabbing tune sound like? How about this:

Boom. This is the start of Beethoven's third symphony, the longest and most complicated symphony ever composed (as of 1804). Beethoven didn't just enter the room, wave, and say "Hi, I'm Beethoven." Nope. He came in, kicked the audience in the (probably metaphorical) jewels, and stole their (also probably metaphorical) lunch money.

"This is going to end well." said no one ever after hearing the start of the overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni. This moody music sets the scene for all the drama that follows, including (spoiler alert) the title character being taken to Hell. Alive.

This exercise in hardcore attention-grabbing has been blowing people's minds for over 300 years. Was it originally for organ or violin? Did J.S. Bach even write it? Who cares. There are only two pieces that are recognizable in three seconds: this one, and...

...This one.


Stay tuned for RDSO's next blog post, What Makes Great Music So Great: Part II, where we get emotional, share our feelings, and consider how the recipe for Mozart's success was two parts genius, one part daddy issues.

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