A. C. Douglas writes that he had a hopeful dream in which Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man (brass and percussion, 1942) preceded the palying of "Hail to the Chief" at President Obama's inauguration. (I like "Ruffles and Flourishes" so I was happy; the less said about John Williams' contribution to the proceedings, the better.)
ACD mentions in passing that the Fanfare is the "best thing [Copland] ever wrote". This comment made me think about the idea of a composer (or any other artist) having a "best" best work. How do you determine what is best? What are the criteria?
Is a composer's most perfectly-realized work the same as his or her best? I consider Igor Stravinsky's In Memoriam Dylan Thomas (tenor, string quartet, four trombones, 1954, lasting about 7 minutes) as close to a perfect work of art as I've ever encountered, but it's not my favorite Stravinsky, nor would I consider it his "best" piece (I don't think I would, anyway). Maybe scale or ambition plays into it--a piece has to have a certain "heft" to it to be a composer's "best". I don't know.