Beethoven vs. Mozart: Popular Opinion

     By Simon N.
Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are two of the most famous composers in the world of classical music. Mozart was a true prodigy who could craft the perfect composition in the moment he saw fit. Beethoven was an "adult" genius whose works influenced many generations of composers. Three centuries after their deaths, they remain hugely popular. Even people who don't study or follow music would know of their names. But which one of them is more popular? I delved into the data to settle the question once and for all. For this empirical comparison, I use observations from a 9-person focus group and Google Trends data. This work is neither academic nor scientific.


1) Focus Group

I had the privilege of conducting a live discussion with nine participants from five different countries. All of the participants expressed admiration for both composers, but their picks closely aligned with their interpretations of what music should be. People who viewed music as a source of relaxation and entertainment preferred Mozart over Beethoven, since the former's music is fun and engaging. People who were serious music lovers preferred Beethoven over Mozart, because his music is emotional and ground-breaking. There were several music practitioners in our focus group and they overwhelmingly picked Beethoven.

It was a close final tally, but Beethoven edged out Mozart five votes to four. The decisive vote came from a participant who initially backed Mozart but switched to Beethoven at the end; he found the arguments made by Beethoven's backers more persuasive.

2) Google Trends

My analysis of Google Trends data found Mozart to be more popular than Beethoven. Mozart is especially popular in Europe, while Beethoven is popular in the Americas. The fact that Mozart was a child prodigy and his life was adventurous and eventful greatly contributes to his popularity. In fact, information on the circumstances of his death is a popular search topic. The highly debatable claim that listening to Mozart's music makes babies smarter also helps to perpetuate his popularity. Humans are curious creatures after all and many of them use Google Search. Finally, Mozart's music is undeniably entertaining which fits well with the tastes of the general masses. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot more Mozart-related videos on YouTube than Beethoven-related videos.

Verdict: Mozart is clearly more popular than Beethoven among the general masses and in pop culture. Beethoven is more popular with true students of music due to his heavy influence on Western classical music. In term of talent, neither surpasses the other.