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Beethoven is no longer the world's greatest composer. He still glowers from the pantheons of our older concert halls, but he hasn't been the greatest for more than a decade.

His place has been taken by the one beloved of God, the supreme artificer of music, the sublime Mozart, who was also a more reliable worker and a nicer guy.If there was still doubt in anyone's mind, researchers at the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine, have determined that listening to Mozart actually makes you smarter.

Last October, in the pages of Nature, they revealed that I.Q. scores of college students rose nine points after exposure to 10 minutes of Mozart. Now they have shown that Mozart assists in the solution of spatial puzzles involving folded cutout shapes. Undergraduates listening to Philip Glass's "Music in Changing Parts" did not perform as well.

These startling results raise many questions. Is Mozart the best possible composer for the enhancement of learning and memory? Would Bach or Hindemith do as well? Is an amorphous, curvilinear composer like Rachmaninoff bad for spatial reasoning? What would 84 undergraduates do with folded cutout shapes if they were listening to Schoenberg's "Erwartung"?

If Mozart makes you smarter, why do Mostly Mozart audiences at Lincoln Center break into applause in the middle of pieces, after slow movements as well as fast?

Much remains unresolved in the new field of neuromusicology. But the choice of Mozart as obvious test case for the study speaks eloquently to his pre-eminence.

The undergraduates were listening not to Beethoven's "Wald-stein" Sonata, Bach's "Goldberg" Variations or Sorabji's "Opus Clavicembalisticum" but to the Sonata in D for Two Pianos (K. 488). Mozart is synonymous with music itself.

Thus, Peter Greenaway has chosen to title a new film "M Is for Man, Music, Mozart," not, say, "M Is for Man, Music, Mompou."

The politics of Composer in Chief are always changing. Around the turn of the century, the man of the hour was Wagner, and no one could get enough of him. Subsequent events, however, caused his stock to drop. For a brief moment, fascinatingly, the mantle seemed to pass to a living composer: Sibelius was voted No. 1 symphonist by New York Philharmonic subscribers in 1935.

In the 1944 murder-mystery film "Laura," Vincent Price claims he attended a concert of Brahms's First and Beethoven's Ninth; Dana Andrews snaps back, "They changed the program at the last minute and played nothing but Sibelius."

Nothing-but-Sibelius did not last long. Arturo Toscanini put his full weight behind Beethoven, whose reputation crested during World War II. Then, in the 60s and 70s, Leonard Bernstein led the great Mahler revival, and it seemed that Mahler might rise to the top. But Mahler's sprawling, neurobiologically tumultuous scores were ill suited to coffee commercials and intermission chimes.

The same difficulty attended on the somewhat oversolemn Bach, who was hot around the time of his tricentennial in 1985.

No, Mozart was the coming man. He carried superb credentials from the musical elite: Tchaikovsky and Richard Strauss worshiped him; Mahler died with the name Mozart on his lips. The taste-mongering Stravinsky pointedly touted him over Beethoven. Mostly Mozart and the film "Amadeus" helped bring in the masses. Now, to clinch the deal, Mozart is the composer who gives you an edge on the SATs.

The neurobiologists speak of a "Mozart effect" in the rise of students' IQs. Unfortunately, Mozart's own IQ falls sharply when he is listened to in this fashion. Mozart has become all-popular only by way of becoming a bland idiot savant, a vehicle for timeless geometric loveliness.

"In place of Mozart as a real man trying to make sense of the world in which he lived," complained the English critic Nicholas Till in a recent article, "we're left with an empty screen, deliberately wiped clean."

The popular Mozart is, indeed, an automatic genius, a happy unit in the social whole. Someone - often a contemporary composer trying to address the masses - is always remarking with approval that Mozart tailored his music for particular occasions, that he was just a working stiff, the Burt Bacharach of his day.

But nothing could be more foolish than to compare 18th-century Viennese culture with our own. If Mozart were alive today, he would be dead.

The neurobiologists also suggest that their work will contribute to the demarginalization of classical music in American arts education. Use Mozart to help students get ahead. Their logic is well-meaning but loathsome.

The whole problem nowadays is that the Great Composers are linked to superficial images of luxury, that they serve as elevator music for the upwardly mobile. Despite himself, despite the profound irregularities beneath his comfortable surfaces, Mozart has become a sort of musical Prozac.

Classical music does not serve a single social purpose, nor can it be represented by any one voice. It is, instead, the musical field in which individual voices are the most distinct, contrasts the most extreme, in which anything can happen.

Mozart, if heard right, proves this as much as Beethoven or Mahler or Messiaen. Could we some day get away from the saturating concentration on one musical superman?

Coming soon from Columbia Pictures: "Immortal Beloved," starring Gary Oldman as one L. van Beethoven. . . .