The operative term in all art forms is “universal appeal.” The true creative artist is creating for the future hoping to have his name immortalized.
But the modern composer who is presently having difficulty gaining public acceptance will always “fall back” upon the same line: “The work of J.S. Bach had trouble gaining acceptance when Bach first composed it.” Nonsense! Bach never experienced a failure in his life.
It was the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881) who attempted to blaze new trails in music and was a “modernist” of his time. But the unfortunate Mussorgsky trampled on the rules and crushed the life out of them by the sheer weight of his thought. Consequently, most of his work had to be “repaired,” revamped, and revised by Rimsky-Korsakoff.
The work of Mozart, more so than any other composer, utilizes the “universal appeal” aspect. It would not take an expert to determine that in my own work, Mozart is my prototype. Even a non-musician would get the impression that there appears to be a close “parental tie” between Mozart and myself. I owe my orchestration to Haydn. One can find in my orchestral works the same treatment of winds, brass, and strings based upon the same method Haydn utilized in his own symphonies. But while in a minor key, I can almost approach the styles of Beethoven. In some isolated instances, I can approach the lyricism of Schubert. In my operas, one can detect a marked influence of Rossini —a composer who gave the public what they wanted to hear. But the modernist hardly is. Who attends performances of modern music? A handful of curiosity seekers. The general public are at home and they are listening to Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms (and hopefully Busch).
I have always maintained that music is an imitative art entirely based upon a routined system of harmony. I have often been told, “You’re a hard man to argue music with.” But possibly Mozart himself was on “my side” when he stated, “Passion, whether great or not, must never be expressed in an exaggerated manner; and music —even in the most ardent moment —ought never offend the ear, but should always remain music, whose object it is to give pleasure.”
It appears that Mozart’s statement is the “operative term.”