Kansas BasketballMarch is here, and with it comes the madness.  March Madness to be exact.  My version of March Madness is The Tournament of Classical Music.  This post announces the brackets and the play-in game winners.  For an overview and explanation of the rules, you can read this post.  Finally, don’t forget that this list includes only symphonic works (with or without chorus) and opera.  No concertos, chamber music, or strictly choral music.

The Play-In Games

What better way to get the whole thing started than with four “play-in” games?  To be honest, it was difficult for me to choose only 64 teams (classical works), so I cheated a bit by starting with 72 and starting with a four team playoff.  The “winners” will be the 16 seed in each bracket (not much of a reward for winning – playing the top seed).

Beethoven Bracket – Schubert 9th Symphony vs. Mozart 40th Symphony

In addition to picking the best classical pieces, I also have to pick winners.  Not easy.  For this bracket, we have two terrific symphonies going head-to-head.  Mozart 40 is considered one of his best, and it provides a mature composer an opportunity to shine in his favorite key.  The Schubert work is “Great” in both name and execution.  While there is no clear advantage here, I believe the winner has to be Herr Mozart.  The 40th could have easily been higher seed in this tournament, and it is truly his best work in that key.

Winner – Mozart #40

Bach Bracket – Haydn Symphony #93 vs. #49

Haydn is sadly under-represented in this tournament, mainly because a lot of his best music is chamber music.  These two symphonies are his best.  The 49th is a very mature and emotional work for an middle symphony.  The slow introduction reminds me a bit of the funeral march from Beethoven’s “Eroica.”  The 93rd is also a mature work with a beautiful introduction, but this time, the main body of the first movement is more like the first movement of “Eroica.”  I think I need to go with #93.

Winner – Haydn #93

Mozart Bracket – Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor vs. Leoncavallo, Pagliacci

I made a definite effort to include as much opera as I could in the field.  Unfortunately, not everyone could be represented.  These two operas are both excellent.  The Donizetti is in three acts and contains one of the most popular duets in all of opera.  Pagliacci is in one act and contains one of the most popular tenor arias in all of opera (think of Sean Connery’s death scene in The Untouchables).  In a stunning upset, Donizetti takes out the sad clown.

Winner – Lucia di Lammermoor

Stravinsky Bracket – Ravel Bolero vs. Daphnis and Chloe Suite 2

Monsieur Ravel has his share of excellent music, but his best is also chamber music as well as concertos (the Piano Concerto is simply awesome).  Everyone loves listening to Bolero.  Virtually no one likes playing it.  Daphnis and Chloe is one of his most beautiful works with a treacherous 5/4 section that sounds great, but is really tough to play.  Unfortunately for Dudley Moore, this one’s a walkover.  Daphnis is simply a superior work.

Winner – Dahpnis and Chloe Suite #2

The Brackets – The Best Classical Music x 64

So here we go.  Each bracket heading links to a PDF that is printable for your guessing pleasure.  When we get to the final four, the Beethoven bracket winner will play the Stravinsky winner, and the Bach and Mozart winners will play.  Enjoy.

The Beethoven Bracket

  1. Beethoven 9thHerr Ludwig van Beethoven
  2. Gershwin, American in Paris
  3. Brahms 4th
  4. Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique
  5. Mahler 9
  6. Prokoviev Classical Symphony
  7. Bruckner 7th
  8. Strauss Ein Heldenleben
  9. Gounod Faust
  10. Verdi La Traviata
  11. Milhoud, Le Boeuf sur le toit
  12. Rimsky-Korsikov – Scherezade
  13. Bizet Carmen
  14. Faure Requiem
  15. Shostakovich 10th
  16. Mozart 40

The Stravinsky Bracket

  1. Rite of SpringIgor Stravinsky
  2. Berg – Wozzcek
  3. Copeland 3rd
  4. Beethoven Missa Solemnis
  5. Verdi Requiem
  6. Orff – Carmina Burana
  7. Brahms Ein Deutches Requiem
  8. Smetena – Bartered Bride
  9. Schumann 3rd
  10. Mozart Magic Flute
  11. Puccini Tosca
  12. Mathis der Maler
  13. Gershwin, Porgy and Bess
  14. Holst Planets
  15. Mendelssohn 4th
  16. Daphnis and Chloe Suite 2

The Bach Bracket

  1. Mass in b MinorBach Classical Music
  2. Wagner, Tristan und Isolde
  3. Dvorak 7
  4. Sibelius 5
  5. Mozart 41
  6. Puccini, La Boheme
  7. Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet
  8. Janacek Sinfonietta
  9. Tchaikovsky 4
  10. Strauss Salome
  11. Handel Messiah
  12. Beethoven 5th
  13. La Mer
  14. Vaughn Williams 5
  15. Elgar Enigma Variations
  16. Haydn #93

The Mozart Bracket

  1. Don GiovanniW.A. Mozart
  2. Shostakovich 5
  3. Maher 2
  4. Beethoven 3
  5. Bartok Concerto for Orchestra
  6. Verdi – Rigoletto
  7. Rossini – Barber of Seville
  8. Brahms 2nd
  9. Mendelssohn 3rd
  10. Schumann 2nd
  11. Haydn Creation
  12. Stravinsky – Sym. In 3 Movements
  13. Gluck – Orfeo ed Euridice
  14. Tchaikovsky Swan Lake
  15. Bernstein – West Side Story
  16. Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor

The Tournament of Classical Music – Final Thoughts

In addition to the giant task of selecting and seeding these classical works, I have opened myself up to some criticism.  There are surely great works that I’ve missed.  However, no list of great things is complete without snubs and omissions.  Furthermore, this tournament will get people talking and listening to more classical music which is never a bad thing.  If you’ve never heard some of these great pieces, I suggest you get over the YouTube to give them a listen.  Then, you can go to Amazon and put some in your personal collection.

While these brackets are final, the tournament will play on until the NCAA Tournament is wrapping up in a few weeks.  I will be posting a few updates as we go, and then announcing the final four toward the end of March.  Due to my own performing obligations throughout March, updates may not correspond to the actual NCAA tournament, but I’ll do my best.  Thanks for participating!


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