The gold of Beethoven’s day, of which he was himself the purest nugget, comes down to us bright and untarnished, so that we forget all the dross that has been thrown on the scrap-heap of time. Our own gold is almost hidden from us by the glitter of the tinsel.
The world of music, says Sir Charles Stanford [“Pages from an Unwritten Diary”], is not substantially different from what it has been. It has always exalted those of its contemporary composers who dealt in frills and furbelows above those who considered the body more important than its clothes. Only a few wise heads knew of the existence of Bach. Rossini was rated by the mass of the public far higher than Weber, Spohr than Beethoven, Meyerbeer than Wagner. Simrock said that he made Böhm pay for Brahms.
It is always necessary to wait for the winnowing process of time before we can see the true proportions of an age. Hence we can never see our own age in its true proportions, and since the second- and third-rate elements in it are ever more acclaimed by the majority than the first-rate, we always see it worse than it is. We live, so to speak, in the glare of noon-day, and cannot see the true coloring of our world, which will appear only at evening. Hence in every age the tragi-comedy is repeated of acclaiming the mediocre and the meretricious, and ignoring worth. The Gounods always patronize the Francks.
– Daniel Gregory Mason, Contemporary Composers, 1918; pp. 36-37