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Composer Cagematch!: THE WINNER

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


  1. Prokofiev vs. Stravinsky*
  2. Debussy* vs. Ravel
  3. Dvorak vs. Copland*
  4. Britten* vs. Holst
  5. Rimsky-Korsakov* vs. Mussourgsky
  6. Grieg* vs. Sibelius
  7. Schumann vs. Brahms*
  8. Tchaikovsky* vs. Rachmaninoff
  9. Mahler* vs. Wagner
  10. Monteverdi vs. Verdi*
  11. Schoenberg* vs. Berg
  12. Bernstein vs. Gershwin*
  13. Handel* vs. Haydn
  14. Chopin* vs. Liszt
  15. Bartok* vs. Shostakovich
  16. Saint-Saens* vs. Khachaturian


  1. Stravinsky* vs. Debussy
  2. Copland* vs. Britten
  3. Tchaikovsky* vs. Rimsky-Korsakov
  4. Bartok* vs. Schoenberg
  5. Saint-Saens vs. Grieg*
  6. Brahms* vs. Mahler
  7. Verdi* vs. Handel
  8. Gershwin* vs. Chopin


  1. Stravinsky* vs. Bartok
  2. Copland vs. Tchaikovsky*
  3. Verdi vs. Gershwin*
  4. Grieg vs. Brahms*


  1. Brahms* vs. Stravinsky
  2. Gershwin vs. Tchaikovsky*


  1. Tchaikovsky vs. Mozart*
  2. Beethoven* vs. Brahms


Mozart vs. Beethoven

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…

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Composer Cagematch! Round 4: Gershwin vs. Tchaikovsky

Oh now just what in the hell was that.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Brahms over STRAVINSKY? Whatever happened to Team Igor? I feel like I went in for the trust fall and you didn’t catch me, readership. Harrumph.

Well, fine. I have some devilish plans for Johannes in the future. For now, I must collect myself and announce that in this corner, he turned Verdi Blue! It’s


And in this corner, he serenaded Copland right out of the ring! It’s


Tchaikovsky discovers America, indeed.

Composer Cagematch! Round 3: Copland vs. Tchaikovsky

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


I don’t think anyone’s going to argue over who’s the better composer (although who knows?). But! Who. Do. You. Love?

Composer Cagematch! Round 3: Verdi vs. Gershwin

Well. No one can say that wasn’t definitive.

In a contest that probably surprised precisely no one including those that voted for the other guy, Stravinsky took the first match of round 3 away from Bartok. Not that there wasn’t a lot of love for Bela! There was! Just not… y’know… enough. Whereas practically everyone on earth seems to be doodling “Mrs. Igor Stravinsky” in their notebook during study hall (do the kids still have study hall?), his vague rat-face notwithstanding. (Sorry, Igor, but I’m sure you know what you look like; and anyway, you WON, so chillax.) (Do the kids still say chillax?)

Hopefully this one will give you a bit more pause. Wait for it…

Wait for iiiiiiiiit…*

………….. In this corner, he CAN Handel it! It’s


And in this corner, he gave Chopin the chop! It’s


USA vs Italia, people!

UPDATE! I have exciting news! This CC! just got more interesting, because our own medalist of Violar Mr. Stephen P. Brown (Can Moo. Can You?) is offering one lucky winner 20% off the online viewing fee of the Tapestry Tampa Bay concert on March 23! All you need to do to win is comment on this post with the reasoning behind your vote (those who have already commented are automatically entered). One name will be selected at random as the winner, who will be announced along with the weekly viola joke on March 22. Ready? COMMENT!

* This can be a HIMYM reference OR a Psych reference. Dos deuces!

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Gershwin vs. Chopin

In the immortal words of The Sandlot: You’re KILLING me, Smalls.

I threw Verdi into the ring with a wince, guilt-ridden over the fact that I had no one stronger to defend against the mighty Handel. And what does Giuseppe do? Grinds Georg into a pulp and bakes him into a pie like some kinda classical Titus Andronicus. A late pro-Handel rush narrowed the gap, so that takes away a bit of the sting, but still. Verdi wins. Drat. (Also, I would totally order Handel pie, if only for the pun.)

Let’s move on quickly, because there’s only one match left in round 2. They are an odd match, and I am determined to arrange the battle with no preconceived notions.

And so in this corner, who could ask for anything more? Well, Berstein could. It’s


And in this corner, he’s got a little Liszt! It’s


I don’t know, guys. They’re the only two left. One of them is bound to show up on your iPod more often than the other, and get skipped less. Who is it?

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Verdi vs. Handel

Well. Part of this complete breakfast, indeed.

In yet another decision I simply cannot in good conscience cosign, Raisin Brahms knocked Mahler right out. Guys, you’re killing me.

But at least Mahler put up a decent fight and no one complained about poor matching. I warned you last week, so believe me when I tell you this — I fear for the last two second round fights. I’m staking out potential hiding places as I speak. Tell me, if an angry mob is as intelligent as the stupidest member’s IQ divided by the number of participants, should behind the couch be sufficient? Keep in mind it’s not pushed against the wall.

So, anyway… in this corner, he wiped the Monte right off his name! It’s


And in this corner, he showed Haydn who’s really Papa! It’s


Okay, look. Verdi excelled in opera. Handel was sorta the father of English opera. Okay? Will you accept this logic? Will you at least admit it makes more sense than pitting either against Gershwin?

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Stravinsky vs. Debussy

Let’s just say Saint-Saens beasted my boy Khachaturian and leave it at that, shall we?

And that does it. Sixteen rounds we’ve had. Sixteen winners. I bet they’re feeling pretty proud of themselves. I bit they’re throwing confetti made of bits of discarded sheet music and tossing back the Verdi.

Well, they’d best watch out. IT’S TIME FOR ROUND 2.

And so in this corner, he cracked open the egg containing Prokofiev’s soul!* It’s


And in this corner, he goosed Ravel! It’s


Which do you choose — the innovator or the innovator? Le Sacre du Printemps or Le Mer? The French guy or the guy who liked to hang out in France?

* What do you mean, you don’t get it? Fine. Here.

No wonder so many composers were alcoholics

And so we continue the theme of composers with distilled beverages in their names. Sibelius, however, has eschewed the blatant sponsorship of Chopin and Verdi, and has instead chosen to allude to himself with subtlety.

Composer Cagematch!: Schoenberg vs. Berg

Let it not be said I am not a blogger of the people — last Cagematch! pitted Monteverdi vs. (Just) Verdi against each other at a reader request. I was skeptical, but I really needed some Italians, so I went with it and was pleasantly surprised: although Verdi did, as I predicted, win by a tidy margin, Monteverdi garnered a respectable number of votes. Well done all ’round.

Their names, however, caused a bit of a stir; one Twitter follow asked, what’s next? Schoenberg vs. Berg*? And I said, hold on, that’s just crazy enough to work! And so things just got frosty in the Second Viennese School, because in this corner, adamant that not just anyone can compose because it’s twelve-tone and there are rules, dammit, it’s


And in this corner, getting a late start with music but not with the ladies, it’s


I’ve heard from those who have considered this potential match-up that this will be a really hard decision. So it should be fun! Consider: Transfigured Night. But remember: Wozzeck. Emancipate the dissonance! Without scissors!

* Also suggested: Offenbach vs. Bach. I’m not doing this one because it would be mean.

** Did anyone else just get the urge to scream “ALLLLLBAAAAAAN!” chipmunks-style?

Composer Cagematch!: Monteverdi vs. Just Verdi

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the Composer Cagematch! Seems to me that we can all carry on as before — but do keep in mind that I welcome comments and constructive criticism always, so feel free to let me know what you think, even if I haven’t asked. Maybe especially then.

Additional thanks to Mahler for not wiping the floor too hard with Wagner. You pile on too much Wagner, the floor gets slippery. Guess my dad never voted.

This round of Composer Cagematch! was suggested by the super cool and very hip Chris McGovern. And thank God he did, because I couldn’t settle on an Italian match up for the life of me. I very nearly tossed in every Italian opera composer I could find in together and let them sort it out, but luckily a cooler head prevailed. Plus, all complaints may now be directed to him!

And so in this corner — don’t look back at him or you’ll turn into a pillar of salt!* It’s


And in this corner — do they call it The Scottish Opera? It’s


One practically started opera. One continued opera as hard as he could. Falstaff. Macbeth. Aida. Or — The Coronation of Poppea. L’Orfeo. The Return of Ulysses. Good luck.

* Because of Orpheus, see, and… shut up.