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Composer Cagematch!: Britten vs. Holst

Was it patriotism?

I’m not gonna lie — I’m surprised. Dvorak was in the lead for… almost all of it, really. And then in those last two days Copland came up from behind to battle back and forth before ultimately taking it by one point. I, for one, did not expect to announce Team Aaron the winner, but maybe you did.

Having chalked up a win for the colonies, let’s check in with the motherland, shall we?

In this corner, a modern (natively) English reboot of Handel — it’s


And in this corner, a modern English reboot of Vivaldi — it’s


I always say that if you want proof that God loves gay people, listen to the “Sentimental Sarabande” from Britten’s Simple Symphony. And if you want to get really angry at John Williams, listen to “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Holst’s The Planets, and then listen to the rest of The Planets because OMGTHEPLANETS. I once brought someone over to classical music by the power of “Jupiter” alone. But then one can’t exactly discount Peter Grimes, can one? Toughie…


About Jenn

Despite being the former digital marketing intern at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Jenn German does not like Mozart. Beethoven could've totally beaten him up. Also she has an arts management graduate degree from American University, but this changes nothing.


13 thoughts on “Composer Cagematch!: Britten vs. Holst

  1. I can’t believe this is even up for debate. Britten’s superiority to just about every other English composer ever (maybe Purcell could compete) is so evident, it’s hardly even worth mentioning.

    And speaking of Purcell, I can’t believe you would call Britten a “Handel Reboot”. For one thing, Britten actually knew how the English language works. If anything, he has more to do with Purcell than Handel.

    Posted by Eric | March 16, 2011, 2:17 pm
    • I fear skewing the data too much by revealing my own allegiances, so I can’t speak to the first comment. I will say, though, that I thought Dvorak would take Copland neatly, and that didn’t happen — a clean sweep is not always as obvious as we may think.

      But for the second: dude, Handel brought it for English opera. Britten brought it for English opera. Are they the same person? Of course not. Ditto Vivaldi and Holst — I am referencing their participation in a girls’ school and writing music for the pupils.

      But I love that you’re getting all worked up about it. BRING THE FIRE!

      Posted by Jenn | March 16, 2011, 2:24 pm
      • But Purcell INVENTED English opera! And he, like Britten, could actually set an English text. What could Handel do? “FOOOOOOOOOOOR un-to-us-a-child-is-bo-horn…” lumbering, stumbling, bumbling block-chord behemoths.

        But back to the topic at hand. What other than the Planets and a couple of suites did Holst ever do? You’ve got all of the Britten operas, those gorgeous string quartets, the Canticles, THE WAR REQUIEM, and the freaking Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings! And that epic partnership with Peter Pears. And then there’s the fact that Britten’s Brooklyn entourage included W.H. Auden AND Carson McCullers. And the Britten-Pears Foundation. And the Albeburgh Music Festival! No contest.

        Also, where’s Vaughan Williams in all of this?

        Posted by Eric | March 16, 2011, 3:21 pm
    • I happen to like Handel. 😀 Sheba!

      W.H. Auden? Psh, don’t you W.H. Auden me. He only ever had one really good bit, and we traded over mothereffin’ THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT for him? Uncool, England, you bloody con artist.

      Posted by Jenn | March 16, 2011, 3:27 pm
  2. Fine, so maybe between Eliot and Henry James we did get a bit shafted. But we can pretty much claim Eddie Izzard now, so we’re gettin’ some back.

    Which reminds me, Eliot was one of the few poets Britten could bear to read after his heart surgery in 1973. Not to mention two of the Canticles are Eliot Settings. Yep.

    Posted by Eric | March 16, 2011, 4:46 pm
  3. These are haaaard. /whine

    Seriously, though, I’m loving the match-ups.

    Posted by Autumn | March 25, 2011, 11:15 am


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