George Butterworth
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“I am the very model of modern major-general, I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral...”

Who hasn’t heard this before? The text is from the Major General’s patter song in Gilbert and Sullivan’s *The Pirates of Penzance” and it was the opening move by Arthur Sullivan in his match against Benjamin Britten.

Arthur Sullivan

Arthur Sullivan

Britten responded by marshaling his Peter Grimes chorus and having them sing "Who Holds Himself Apart." When the chorus repeats “Peter Grimes” at the end of the scene it is one of the most hair raising moments, not just in opera but in any form of theater, ever.

We love Mr. Sullivan but Britten is moving on to the second round.

Butterworth and Handel is the next match on today’s ticket.

Butterworth apologetically brought out his setting of A Shropshire Lad and his wistful "On the Banks of Green Willow." Butterworth's music is worthy of Tolkien’s Shire even though his personal manners were gruff and abrupt according to his great friend Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Handel politely acknowledged Butterworth, cocked an eyebrow, and said,

“Hallelujah”.

Game set and match to Handel, he’s through to the next round.

To those who would claim Handel for the Germans, shove off. Handel lived in England for 42 years and most of his best known music was written there. The Germans get to keep Mendelssohn--I think that’s fair.

World Cup of Composers: Rule Brittania

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