- 1a. ...but its slow movement drags, it's by Mozart.
- 1b. ...but it takes unexpectedly daring harmonic risks that totally pay off, it's early Beethoven.
- 1c. ...but it takes unexpectedly daring harmonic risks that don't entirely pay off, it's early Schubert.
- 1d. ...but it's scored entirely for strings, it's early Mendelssohn.
- 1e. ...but nothing, it's Haydn.
Exception: Max Bruch.
Rule 3. If it sounds like Berlioz, it's Berlioz. Nobody else wrote music that sounded like Berlioz's.
Rule 4. If it sounds like Bruckner, it's Bruckner. Nobody else wrote music that sounded like Bruckner's.
Rule 5. If it sounds like Sibelius, it's Sibelius. Nobody else wrote music that sounded like Sibelius.
Exceptions: Early Lars-Erik Larsson and Luís de Freitas Branco.
Rule 6. If it drips with Central Asian exoticism, it is probably by one of a handful of Russian romantic composers. But no matter who is credited with writing it, Rimsky-Korsakov most likely meddled with it.
Rule 7. If it turns out to be an early symphony or orchestral suite by Bizet, Gounod, Massenet, or Holst, your classical radio station sucks. Someone should tell its programming director to play significant music.
Rule 8. If it fills you with an urge to dance,
- 8a. ...with satyrs and unicorns, it's Beethoven's Sixth (Pastoral) Symphony.
- 8b. ...with hobnailed boots on, it's Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.
- 8c. ...while wearing lederhosen, it's the scherzo of Schubert's Great C Major Symphony.
- 8d. ...with tutu-clad hippos, elephants, crocodiles, and ostriches, it's a ballet by Ponchielli.
- 8e. ...with anthropomorphic flowers, sugarplum fairies, nutcrackers, or fairy-tale characters, it's a ballet by Tchaikovsky.
- 8f. ...with a fur coat on, because at the same time the music chills you like a wind off the Siberian steppe, it's a ballet by Stravinsky.
- 8g. ...because the moment you stop dancing, a Red Army firing squad will open fire on you, it's either Prokofiev (if you feel like you learned your steps at the dacha of your wealthy, upper-class family) or Shostakovich (if you feel like your vodka-merchant father sent you to a dancing school).
- 9a. ...in a stuffy, British way, it's Elgar.
- 9b. ...in a blue-collar, British way, it's Vaughan Williams.
- 9c. ...in an bourgeois, German way, it's Richard Straus.
- 9d. ...in a proletarian, German way, it's Hindemith.
- 9e. ...in a lush, French way, it's Saint-Saëns.
- 9f. ...in an austere, French way, it's Milhaud or possibly Honegger.
- 9g. ...in a next-to-banal, French way, it's Poulenc.
- 9h. ...in the manner of a prosperous Russian émigré, it's Rachmaninoff.
- 9i. ...in the manner of a starving Russian nobleman, it's Medtner.*
- 9j. ...in the manner of an obedient member of the Soviet Composers' Union, it's Kabalevsky.
- 10a. ...but with a touch of English folk melody, it's Delius.
- 10b. ...but with a certain Slavic twinge, it's Scriabin.
- 10c. ...but with a French or Spanish warmth, it's Debussy.
- 10d. ...but with French or Spanish coldness, it's Ravel.
*...although, I suppose, he didn't write much that sounds like a symphony - unless you count Piano Concertos.