Edison was on to something…

What does it take to produce a creative masterpiece?

Like this:

Or this:

The first image is of course the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci.  The second is an extract from W A Mozart’s Requiem.

Genius?  Raw talent?  Passion, skill, training…?

Consider then Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No 4 in E Flat Major (WAB 104).  There are not one, but six versions of this work.  The ‘Bruckner Problem’ is quite a story, set out nicely in this Wiki piece.  And this essay on the same issue is as passionate as Bruckner’s own music – the extracts from the score in this document show how very different the versions are.  Even if you cannot read music, the changes between the same extracts are plain to see.  They have been curated, worked on, helped, or worse (according to Mr Hurwitz at least) by various scholars.  Views seem to be mixed as to which version is now the definitive one, and indeed the ‘Bruckner one’.

It was common for Da Vinci and other famous artists to work with apprentices in their studios.  When Mr Tracks and I went to see the seminal Da Vinci exhibition at London’s National Gallery last winter, there were plenty of works by the great master himself of course, but others on which his students had worked too.  Could one tell the difference?  Not necessarily.

And Mozart’s Requiem was finished after his death by Franz Süssmayr.  There is controversy as to the exact nature of the completion of the work.  But I believe it is fair to say that when one listens to this wonderful piece, one cannot, ahem, see the join.

So perhaps genius is not a pre-requisite for the production of great masterpieces after all.  Thomas Edison famously said “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”  This suggests that there is hope for us all.

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