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30 January 2020, 10:57 | Updated: 30 January 2020, 14:32
Beethoven might be considered one of the greatest composers of all time – but his music wasn’t as original as Rachmaninov’s, researchers claim.
A study of more than 19 composers, published in the open access journal EPJ Data Science, showed that Rachmaninov’s music was the most unlike his predecessors’ across the Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras (c. 1700-1900),
His compositions were also judged the most original, compared to his earlier works.
Beethoven, whose music bridged the gap between the Classical and Romantic eras, was found to be the most influential composer in the later period. However, the study did not consider his music highly original compared to his previous works.
To carry out the research, a team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea studied 900 classical piano compositions written by 19 composers between 1700 and 1900 – widely considered the two defining centuries in classical music history.
They calculated each composition’s influence (how it differed to predecessors’ piano music) and novelty (how it differed from previous piano works by the same composer).
Composers from the Romantic era, such as Brahms and Mendelssohn, scored greater overall for ‘novelty’.
Juyong Park, the corresponding author, 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 period of music we studied is widely credited for having produced many musical styles that are still influential today.”
The authors cautioned the results might have been different if works other than piano compositions had been included in their analysis.
Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 has been voted Britain’s favourite piece of classical music eight times in our annual poll, the Classic FM Hall of Fame, which is now open for 2020.