There’s a fun game that you can play with almost any scenario imaginable, from basketball teams to talk show hosts to movie stars to works of art. In this game, Earth is being invaded by a super-intelligent race of alien life who have journeyed millions of light years across a dozen galaxies to decide the fate of Earth via something of a gentleman’s wager. “Put up your finest ___________ for a one-time showdown between our races. The victor shall rule Earth until the end of time, and let’s be real here, I’m assuming said victor may use that lofty perch to shamelessly demand sexual favors and all manner of hedonistic pleasures and maybe shit like ice cream and the finest cured meats and cave-aged cheeses in the universe at their most casual whim.”
For example, say that ___________ was an Intergalactic Super Bowl between the greatest football teams in the history of both races. Which team would you choose in a one-off match for every conceivable marble in existence? The ’85 Bears? The ’72 Dolphins? The correct answer is ’94 49ers, by the way, and that’s a completely biased and unsubjective take. It’s essentially a riff on a simple “who’s the best”-style countdown, but with a more entertaining backstory.
So what have the aliens challenged us to? A symphony concert dedicated to overtures. But here’s where it gets tricky: it can only feature the work of a single composer. The first half of the concert will highlight the masterworks from the aliens’ finest composer of overtures, Thunyx, Destroyer of Worlds/Composer of Overtures. Who will save us?
First, let’s consider some criteria. We have to have enough music to fill a good 40-50 minutes or so of a concert, so that’s going to eliminate Brahms and Dvorak, each of whom have written some brilliant overtures but simply do not have enough music to fill the program space. We probably shouldn’t risk trying to get by on technicalities, so Tchaikovsky, who would have a good claim to this noble undertaking if we included Overture-Fantasy as an option, is out. We need a good mix of styles, some peppy, some somber, some balls to the wall aggressive, some peaceful. Finally, as we won the coin flip to determine which race’s music would comprise the second half, we want to finish strong to leave a lasting impression with the independent panel of judges selected from all over the solar system. By the way, strictly for informational purposes, this coin flip was held in private at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City and was monitored and the results certified by the accounting firm Crowe, Chizek, and Co. Now then, let’s consider the contenders for the position.
To me, there are a handful of very obvious candidates and a couple sleepers. Let’s take a quick look at their credentials to represent us, human beings, in this most important concert ever.
The obvious ones
Probably the proverbial leader in the clubhouse. Plenty of options to choose from, including three of the most famous overtures known to our race and the single most famous one to boot. We could wow the intergalactic panel with some hidden gems like The Siege of Corinth or Tancredi, or ride an hour’s worth of ultra-popular, catchy, gorgeous music to victory.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Name recognition doesn’t hurt. Wouldn’t be able to be as choosy as with Rossini, likely having to use essentially every overture he’s got to fill out the program, but considering Idomeneo, Figaro, Cosi, Zauberflote, and Don Giovanni would all be featured, Mozart might be the safest bet.
Franz von Suppe
Would present the same problem as Mozart without the name recognition, essentially having to use everything he’s got available to use the time. Arguably has the greatest potential to end the tense proceedings in an unexpected way, such as the entire alien race’s heads exploding at just how much crack it takes to write something as fucking energetic as Pique Dame. In the discussion for the best closer of the bunch.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Also gets style points for name recognition. Could reasonably compete using just the overtures from his opera, which would be an interesting footnote. Arguably the best balance between lightness and brooding pathos. Would almost assuredly intimidate any alien who dare looked at him cross.
It’s Richard Fucking Wagner. Possible concern: there’s a chance (an admittedly microscopic one) that some of the judges or the alien race themselves are Jewish, and uh…
Without question the greatest closer of the bunch. Plenty of opportunity to be choosy. Might be able to get the aliens fucked up on opium, which would increase entertainment value for all parties. Would give us a chance to maybe toss in a Shakespeare reference to possibly influence the judges to let us live.
Carl Maria von Weber
Sort of the middle play between Rossini and Suppe. Has a fairly good claim to having written the single greatest work of the entire bunch (Freischutz). Would allow us an easy way to invite the aliens to the post-concert dance.
Wrote the first concert overture, which has to count for something. Probably has the best collection of evocative titles. If we wanted to get crazy and include the Overture for Winds we’d get to use serpents. A hell of a nice guy, and would probably merit a Bach mention to influence the judges to let us live.
Only has three overtures, but they’re JUST long enough to be acceptable. In the South would probably implode all non-human brains with its sheer bad-assness. The concert is being held in London, so Cockaigne would be delightfully appropriate.
The British version of Suppe – a tad crazy but superbly crafted – with the greatest potential to win the judges over with musical wit. Achieved placement on this list by murdering Eric Coates in his sleep in Composer Heaven, so he’s playing for keeps.
And now I turn to you, the theoretical commenters and possible readers of this blog. Who should we choose to save us from a dystopic future of servitude, starvation, and alien blowjobs? Use the list of contenders, or make a case for someone else. Remember the parameters: single composer, epic closer, good stylistic range, concert’s in London featuring the 1977 Chicago Symphony conducted by 1977 Carlos Kleiber.
I’ll chime in next week with my own take, but here’s the reins y’all!