In classical music listening, program announcements both on radio and in concerts will usually introduce the performance of a symphony with the same minimal articles of information, such as the composer, the order of composition, the key, and the name, if any. But how much can a listener infer about the musical attributes of the work from these basic facts? Examination of 99 symphonies by 13 symphonists between Beethoven and Shostakovich showed that such rudimentary programmatic data can predict several subjective and objective features, including aesthetic significance, listener accessibility, repertoire popularity, melodic originality, originality variation, and playing time. Discussion follows about what these empirical relationships may imply about how composers create their symphonies and how appreciators perceive those musical products.

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