Hi! I know we’re due for a match this week, but I’ve pushed it to next week; let’s talk shop, shall we?
Let’s talk Composer Cagematch! Philosophy. What is a Composer Cagematch!, exactly? Is it a fight between equals in popularity? In style? In country and time period? Is it a fight between equals at all?
I ask — and hope to elicit some healthy discussion and maybe even dig up a shred of clarity — because of this excellent comment from Classical Music Broadcast on the most recent match:
Jenn, I know you think all I do is whine about bad matchmaking…
This is like putting a middleweight in a super heavyweight match, where Gustav is wearing 4 oz, and Rick-ard is wearing eights.
Wagner wrote operas, so that automatically gives him a weight and reach advantage.
RW wrote the Ring cycle – so Mahler loses points on his ground game, but gains on his standup (6th Symphony and a BIG freaking hammer, anyone?)
Cara Fleck – great point regarding the harps – Wagner buried his and Gustav let his shimmer elegantly.
From round one, this match will go to the cards. Gustav got my vote, because I think Wagner should go mano-a-mano against another opera composer.
I would have liked to see a Mahler/Beethoven matchup.
Jenn, I don’t think Beethoven/Wolfie is a solid, because early Beethoven *is* a lot of Mozart recycled. The 1st & 2nd are flat-out tributes. Even the 4th has a lot of Mozart in it.
and I love both of those guys, so thats no insult to Ludwig.
Points well taken (except of course that Beethoven is clearly > Mozart, natch). Perhaps I have not always been the finest matchmaker. My own mother was horrified by my Dvorak-Copland fight — and even more dismayed when Copland took it by a point. But isn’t that interesting? That Copland bested Dvorak? They aren’t from the same time period or even the same country. So why did I match them? Because Dvorak tried to tell Americans how to compose, and Copland was an American who composed. To me it was a good hook. How did the voters choose between them, then?
Well, what sort of contest are we running here? Is it a question of popularity? Is Copland more popular than Dvorak? Is Mahler more popular than Wagner? Have you all been choosing based on artistic merit? One person commented that he had voted for Prokofiev over Stravinsky ultimately because the former appeared more often on his iPod. The reason I think Beethoven/Mozart is a valid match has less to do with music and more to do with musicology — as a general rule, the top 3 composers on virtually every ranking list ever come down to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart — but the order changes. I want to know less “Who’s the better composer?” and more “Who do you love?” I don’t believe the one necessarily implies the other.
So that’s how I’ve been approaching it. Now I want to open the forum up to you, the voters. Tell me about your voting philosophies. What works for you about the Cagematch!es? What doesn’t? Who should fight next? And can someone please start Claymationing these for me?
To be perfectly honest, if these matches are not taken in jest then I am even more sincerely concerned about the future of classical music. We have diluted and disseminated music so deeply and created performers that are so technically perfect that we are completely – permit me to repeat – completely missing the point why the vast majority of composers composed: (I wish there were one word for it, but the closest go like…) passion, feelings, emotion, affectation. As Jay Walker said at a TED conference, “English is the world’s second language in the same way that mathematics is the language of science and music is the language of emotion.” Bravo!
We’ve lost most of our emotion in music these days (in some parts of the world, but particularly in the repeated-performances USA) and are more focused on hype and musicology. Sad, sad, sad! The study of any language is vital, but its purpose remains ‘expression’. You may not agree, Jenn, because many of your posts are full of your opinion/ preferences/ heart-felt-inquisitiveness (tis why I read them) and you’ve been spoiled by the BSO having a passionate leader these past four years.
So, how do I vote? On reflecting how the two composers have made me feel in the live environment. Wagner’s noise hasn’t affected me much to date, (although The Flying Dutchman did a good job of making me cringe), whereas Mahler’s works do encompass the world (his words). Dvorak makes me laugh (Carnival Ov) and cry (Symph 9:2), whereas the fun Copland makes me yawn a lot. (I’m sure Wagner will increasingly affect me as I get older/mature-er). (I also can’t stand warbling singers whose lyrics are unintelligible, so that hasn’t helped Wagner’s case either). Your own approach to the matches (better is out, love is in) is valid, full-blown personal, and a terrific way to remind people what music is about in the first place.
Who should be next? Let’s go for Delibes and Hopkins – as in Sir Anthony!!! Check out his upcoming concert in Wales http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/English/Sir-Anthony-Hopkins-in-Concert-24/7/2011/
For some, perhaps better suited might be Joseph Haydn and Philip Glass… they have both produced a huge quantity of diverse material, upon commission, using formulaic methods.
Jenn, here’s one that might be good: Monteverdi vs. Verdi! Both Italian operatic composers, one was probably one of the first if not THE first one ever, and the other came centuries later with bigger classics, but which one would win the cagematch?? 🙂