Oh, guys. It’s been such a fun journey. Thirty-two composers (edited to add: +2 play-ins) stepped into the ring, and over the year we have slowly whittled it down to two. Before we crown our winner, let’s take a look back over composers past, shall we?
* denotes the winner of the match
ROUND FIVE (PLAY-IN ROUND)
And so we arrive here, at the end. I think we all know whose t-shirt I was wearing, but it wasn’t a question of my sartorial decisions; it all came down to the best man taking the Composer Cagematch! crown. Are you ready? And the winner is…
Triumph of the American spirit!
I’m not going to beat around the bush, so to speak — it was a tough fight, with both parties taking the lead at times, but ultimately Gershwin eeked it out over Verdi. People, THIS is what the Composer Cagematch! series is all about. I have seen Verdi listed on a number of top 10 great composer lists, and Gershwin none. If pressed, I bet even a lot of the Gershwin voters would admit that, technically, Verdi is the better composer. But Gershwin! Gershwin, it seems, is the composer you love. And that’s why he proceeds to the next round.
Well done, George, you scrappy little American, you. You’ve done your country proud. Can you brother in citizenship do the same? It’s time to find out, because in this corner, he pushed Britten over a cliff! It’s
And in this corner, he stabbed Rimsky-Korsakov with a spindle and sent him to bed! It’s
PIOTR! ILYICH! TCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIKOOOOOOOOOOOOOVSKYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!
I don’t think anyone’s going to argue over who’s the better composer (although who knows?). But! Who. Do. You. Love?
Hey, remember how in The Trumpet of the Swan there’s the swan Louis who can’t make any noise, so his dad steals him a trumpet so that he can communicate? Well, here’s a dress covered in brass instruments, so that your favorite dress-wearer can properly communicate the fact that she likes a handful of brass and she’s not afraid to get down to brass tacks and she’s certainly not afraid of bad puns.
Okay, those two are only tangentially related. Mostly I wanted to know if you remember The Trumpet of the Swan. WAY better than Stuart Little. If you don’t like the dress, buy a copy instead.
But why wouldn’t you like a dress covered in brass instruments? It’s freakin’ adorable. It’s also just under $400 at Modcloth, but you know, whatevs.
Looking for something a little cheaper but just as punny? Why not consider this delightful Rimsky-Korsakow mug, one of a multitude of delightful music items in the AB store? Strike your music teacher off your shopping list today!
Well, that was scarcely a contest.
Which is not to say Rimsky-Korsakov should feel bad; at least he wasn’t a one-vote wonder. But PIOTR! ILYICH! Tchaikovsky took that round pretty handily. He may now dance himself back to the locker room and await his next opponent.
Now, please welcome some of the twentieth century’s finest, because in this corner, his scathing review was too much for Shostakovich! It’s
And in this corner, he invented the game, and Berg never stood a chance! It’s
Well, what’ll it be? Ethnomusicology FTW again? Or will Schoenberg be transfigured once more?
I promised this for a rainy day (and as a bonus, fogging like nobody’s business), and as it’s raining over here, enjoy your “Bumble Boogie.” Try not let the piano get you!
Also, this reminds me of the time I decided I was going to swing a Vivaldi violin concerto. My teacher was not amused, but then I never liked that jerk anyway. Swing it, R-K!
Speed of lightning, roar of thunder, fighting all who rob or plunder; not bird nor plane nor even frog — it’s Aaron Copland, everybody!
Yes, the scrappy American took down Dvorak when all said it couldn’t be done, and then, once again the dark horse in his round 2 fight against ol’ Benny Britten, he bested the English and beat him by one. Fly your flag, patriots all! (By the way, that low grinding sound you hear is my mother gnashing her teeth in disgust.)
Now it’s time to paint the town red, because in this corner, he went all Black Swan on Rachmaninoff’s ass! It’s
PIOTR! ILYICH! TCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIKOOOOOOOOOOVSKYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY
And in this corner, he orchestrated Mussourgsky’s demise! It’s
I know. I know. It’s hard. I like them both too. Now suck it up and pick one.
Let’s talk about v, ff, and w.
Specifically, let’s talk about the Russians. So they’ve got their Cyrillic alphabet, and when we translate their names there’s a bit of room for interpretation. In English you’ve got your vuh sound, your ffuh sound, and your wuh sound. If translators are to be believed, the Russians somehow have a sound that combines all three.
Which is why you sometimes see Prokofiev but other times you see Prokofieff. However, I, for one, almost always see Prokofiev (spell check won’t even accept Prokofieff, if you need a further argument). By contrast, I almost always see Rachmaninoff, rarely Rachmaninov. But I do see some swappage. Between v and ff I accept some mixing.
This story, however, is about w.
The scene: eleventh grade. That all-county orchestra with the conductor who was essentially a blonde manifestation of evil. Her favorite piece was Scheherazade. Okay, fair enough. One night at the beginning of the second semester she gave us the Kalendar Prince movement. I looked at the top of the first page and there it was: Rimsky-Korsakow.
Korsakow? Who you callin’ fat, Mr. Sheet Music Publisher?
I pointed this out to my friend Paul, who was for some unfathomable reason my stand partner in the second violins even though he’s like 12,000 times better on his worst day than I am on my best.
“That is weird,” he said, all deceptive innocence, although Paul speaks Russian and might have known. “You should ask Mrs. C.”
“You think so?” I said, doubtful, because conductor C was without a doubt the devil incarnate (someday I’ll tell you about the Mozart Incident. It is not what you think).
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “She’ll love it.”
I am an idiot. I know this because I raised my hand and asked why Rimsky-Korsakov was spelled with a w.
She looked at me. There was enough of a lengthy pause to make the whole orchestra start to giggle.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Why would you ask?”
“I — ”
“Don’t worry about it. We need to get started.”
Later on, at the concert, the whole movement almost dissolved into chaos, prompting one audience member to turn to his friend and say, “It sounds like it’s falling apart, but I think it’s supposed to be that way.” Coincidence? I don’t think so.
What have we learned here? Well, we learned that you should never ask questions because teachers secretly hate the spirit of inquiry. We learned that it is really hard to tell if Paul is actually trying to mess with you. What we did not learn is who decides how to spell the names of Russian composers and why. Where are my Russian scholars?
Oh, this is interesting. Got an email from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra:
Make a gift of $75 or more to get access for two people to the Donor Appreciation Concert on June 18th. Donors of $250 or more receive four complimentary seats.
Join us at this year’s Donor Appreciation Concert as the BSO shares the stage with members of the BSO Academy Orchestra. As one of our valued Members, you will have the exclusive opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the BSO’s groundbreaking initiatives. Be one of the few who will have the chance to experience Maestra Marin Alsop leading the Academy’s culminating concert featuring symphonic favorites by Bernstein, Ravel, Mahler, Rimsky-Korsakov and Hindemith. For more information on the concert, click here.
Become a Beethoven level Member ($150) and enhance your concert-going experience with two complimentary drink vouchers.
Ticket sales cover only 40% of our annual operating costs. Your gift will help us balance our budget and reach our remaining Annual Fund goal of $150,000 by August 31st!
To discover more ways your support will enhance lives in local communities, please visit our “Case for Music.”
I checked out the concert, and they’re offering some Ravel, some Hindemith, a Mahler symphony, AND: Berstein’s Overture to Candide AND: Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol! And if you give them $150 they’ll also give you alcohol? What a deal! Man, I wish I had that kind of money to drop. Does anyone wanna go splitsies with me?
Hey! Remember when I said I wanted to talk about Fantasia periodically? Like, a year and a half ago or something? Let’s do it! Take it away, David Koenig, in your awesome, I-once-read-this-instead-of-playing-in-an-arcade book, Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks.
As his excitement for the project grew, Walt [Disney] wanted to issue a partially new Fantasia each year, every few months replacing an old number with a newly animated one. That way, people would look at it not so much as music frozen on film, but as live and constantly changing, like a concert or ballet. They would have to ask not only where and when Fantasia was playing, but what Fantasia was playing.
Disney got as far as animating one whole sequence for inclusion in a future Fantasia, set to the tranquil “Clair de Lune.” Six years later, the animation was set to “Blue Bayou” and inserted in Make Mine Music, along with another previously scrapped idea, “Peter and the Wolf.” “Flight of the Bumble Bee” was finally used as a swing version, “Bumble Boogie,” in Melody Time.
I already gave you Peter, and I’m saving “Bumble Boogie” for a rainy day. Here’s “Clair de Lune.” Enjoy your Memorial Day!