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What are some musical characteristics that can be analyzed to tell if a piece of music was written by Ludwig van Beethoven or Frédéric Chopin?

Both are unmistakably present in the concert repertoire of the piano, and there is a lot of material by each composer. What characteristics can be most easily heard to distinguish between the two?

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Welcome to Music SE! It would be better to phrase this question generally. Asking about a specific piece is likely to be closed as too localized. –  American Luke Sep 29 '12 at 13:09
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Neither--it's a transcription of the aria "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi, wherein Lauretta pleads with her father to let her marry Rinuccio. As Luke mentioned, song identification questions are too localized; I will edit to bring this on-topic. –  NReilingh Sep 30 '12 at 5:15
    
Did you know that off the top of your head?!! –  American Luke Sep 30 '12 at 13:26
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@Luke All of it except Rinuccio's name :) It's a pretty popular aria. –  NReilingh Sep 30 '12 at 18:00

1 Answer 1

It's easier to identify Chopin, since he developed a very personal style. For example, if there is strong chromaticism, it's probably Chopin. But it should be noted that, toward the end of his life, Beethoven too started composing in a more chromatic manner. Listen to the Adagio of op. 106 or the Arioso in op. 110. It doesn't seem like Beethoven at all: it's Chopin!

Other characteristics of Chopin are a strong emphasis on the melodic line, a rich musical texture, a tendency toward virtuosism and a very fast harmonic rhythm (but there are many exceptions to this one).

It's harder to identify a composition by Beethoven, mainly because he approached composing in a totally different manner than Chopin. Musicologists talk about the infamous "three periods", and such a categorization may work at times, but the truth is that Beethoven tried something new with every composition. He composed the 5th and 6th symphonies at the same time, and these two works are largely different for content and form. Before 1813 circa, he rarely used contrapuntal devices. After that year, more than half of his compositions contains a fugue.

I think the only constant characteristic he always had was his obsession with motivic development. If the theme gets constantly developed in new and different ways, it may be Beethoven.

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