Fantasy classic-ball

Well, I’ve never attempted to start a meme or launch a blog poll, mostly because I fear I’m not actually popular enough to get anyone to take up the challenge…..

Nonetheless, with my beloved Packers possibly only a few days away from earning the privilege of serving as cannon fodder for the New England Patriots, I’ve been thinking about the recent comparisons of the 2007 Patriots and the 72 Dolphins. (For the “real” classical musicians out there, the Patriots and Dolphins are American football teams from Boston and Miami respectively. Both share the distinction of being the only professional football teams to finish a season undefeated, although the Patriots have not yet won this year’s championship).

Far be it from me to settle the burning question of Fish vs Pats, although the 72-zers had much cooler uniforms.

Instead, I thought it might be an interesting exercise in assessing the relative health of the classical music world to try our own version of fantasy football.

So- here’s your challenge (all two of you who are going to take this on- come on, at least let me get two….). Pick the most dominant possible team of musicians or music personalities in 1972 and the most dominant possible team of musicians in 2007. Each team should be either 11 strong (one team gets offense and one defense) or 22 (each team has one offensive lineup and one defensive  lineup).

You can put your top 11 composers of each year on offense and your top 11 conductors on defense (although it is usually the poor composers who have to defend themselves from the offenses of conductors), or you can mix in instrumentalists, singers. Perhaps you feel your wide receivers ought to be tenors and your safeties violists…. You can certainly include musicologists, critics and even bloggers. If Bernstein is your starting QB for the 72 fish, who’s your Tom Brady maestro in 07?  Maybe Messiaen is your head coach in 72 and now Rautavaara is the Bill Belichick of classical music?

The only rule is that your participants must be/have-been alive and working in either 72 or 07.

Once you’ve assembled your fantasy classical team, explain who kicks who’s butt and why.

If you don’t have your own blog, be bold and post in the comments below.Let’s hope at least some Boston-based bloggers like Matthew and Michael will weigh in. Bassists tend to be more aware of sports and popular culture than other strings players, so maybe Jason (who must be busy with two blogs) will take it up? Speaking of bassists, Matt Heller also plays the bass and worked in Miami. Of course, Lisa Hirsch is in the Bay area- they used to have a football team there in the ’80’s, didn’t they? Crack- you can’t resist a good 49ers dig, can you


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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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9 comments on “Fantasy classic-ball”

  1. Rebecca

    Sorry, Ken, no go for me. Try as I might, I just don’t “get” football. And since the Patriots are currently the team everyone hates to love, I’m having a hard time getting into the spirit of things. Great meme though…I certainly hope Matthew takes up the challenge.

  2. Michael Monroe

    Jeremy Denk recently rhapsodized about the perfection of the Goldberg Variations. Maybe they’re the ’72 Dolphins, and the Patriots could be “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” After all, a set of variations is sort of like a seaon: note that whereas the Fins played a 14-game season and the Pats a 16-game season, Bach wrote 30 variations and Rzewski 36 variations.

    However, as a Pats fan, I don’t really want to give Bach to those low-life Dolphins. I don’t like the image of a Don Shula-like Bach popping a bottle of champagne every year the last composer fails to write a perfect set of variations. Actually, Bach had a sort of Shula-esque personality, so maybe it works…

    By the way, Marshall Goldberg was just named as a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for 2008… Oh, and in the interest of avoiding any jinxes, let’s all remember that the Patriots still have two variations, er, games to go before these comparisons should be make. In fact, forget I said anything.

  3. Erik K

    I got you, Ken.

    Head Coach–Dmitri Shostakovich
    QB–Leonard Bernstein
    RB–Herbert von Karajan
    FB–Benjamin Britten
    WR–Georg Solti, Murray Perahia
    TE–Lucia Popp (how sexist of me)
    OL–David Oistrakh (there has to be one grizzled vet), Nathan Milstein, Zino Francescatti, Henryk Szeryng, Christian Ferras
    DE–Gyorgy Ligeti, Mstislav Rostropovich
    DT–Luciano Pavarotti (space eater!)
    OLB–Maureen Forrester (leaping ability!), Kiril Kondrashin
    ILB–Otmar Suitner (no glory!), Leopold Stokowski
    CB–Philip Glass, John Adams (minimal contact with WRs allowed)
    S–Bud Herseth, Yevgeny Mravinsky
    K–Itzhak Perlman (I went there)
    P–Itzhak Perlman (I went there again)
    KR–Sviatoslav Richter

    Head Coach–Einojuhani Rautavaara (even though his best work, Vigilia, was written in 1972)
    QB–Pierre Boulez
    RB–Bernard Haitink
    FB–Esa-Pekka Salonen
    WR–Valery Gergiev, Martha Argerich
    TE–Anna Netrebko (oh yeah!)
    OL–Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Leila Josefowicz, Sarah Chang, Leonidas Kavakos
    DE–John Corigliano, Ken Woods (conductor/cellist showdown!)
    DT–Juan Diego Florez/Rolando Villazon (they should almost equal Pavarotti in ability and weight if they team up)
    OLB–Gennady Rozhdestvensky
    ILB–Riccardo Chailly, Michael Tilson Thomas
    CB–Philip Glass, John Adams (they just keep plugging away regardless of the circumstances)
    S–Gerd Seifert, Claudio Abbado
    K–Mikko Franck (I won’t stop going there)
    P–Mikko Franck (see?)
    KR–Daniel Barenboim

    You know, I just assumed that the 1972 team would crush all in its path, but that 2007 team isn’t too bad. But it’s still not nearly good enough. And so, I will make two bold predictions:

    1972 Dolphins vs. 2007 Patriots in actual football–Patriots 55, Dolphins 3
    1972 Musicians vs. 2007 Musicians in greatness–1972 Squad 55, 2007 Squad 24

  4. Matthew

    I was always more impressed by old-time football, where the players would be on the field for both offense and defense—versatility and endurance (I think the Yale Ironmen of the 1930s are probably the best-known example of this). So here’s my teams, just off the top of my head: composer-conductors, working both sides of the ball. In alphabetical order:

    1972: Malcolm Arnold, Luciano Berio, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Duke Ellington, Lukas Foss, Gunther Schuller, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Michael Tippett

    2007: John Adams, Thomas Adés, Pierre Boulez, John Harbison, Oliver Knussen, Lorin Maazel, James MacMillan, André Previn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Maria Schneider, John Williams

    More than one 2007 player could have been on the ’72 team, and vice-versa—I just went with what seemed to make more sense. Boulez is my only repeat, the George Blanda of composer-conductors.

    It’s a close game, but I think the ’72 squad prevails, forcing a ball-control, field-position game that the ’07 squad, for all their mobility, can’t adjust to. Think about it: on the ’72 team, Boulez anchors a modernist front-line that stubbornly holds its ground; on the ’07s, Boulez picks up his man (himself, probably), but Adams stands around sniffing that nobody blocks like that anymore, and Maazel is noting that the 4-3 defense was always more elegant anyways, and Previn is flirting with the cheerleaders—in the meantime, Schuller comes around the left side and sacks Williams for a loss. Ellington and Berio, of course, have any potential receivers wrapped up—while Britten and Tippett disrupt the underneath routes. (Actually, with Morton Gould on the bench, that ’72 squad is a lot more stylistically versatile than I would have expected.)

  5. Kenneth Woods


    Possibly the funniest comment I have ever read….

    Amazingly, DE was my position when I played organized ball. I can stil hear the old bastard yelling “contain! ends! contain!”



  6. Kenneth Woods


    Great list and analysis. Not only does nobody block like that anymore, but the 72 team would have been allowed headslaps by pass rushers and stickum for the receivers and DBs….. I can just see Gunther head slapping his man on the way to sack Williams…



  7. David Preiser

    A little late, but…..

    Leonard Bernstein, Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, Evgeny Mravinsky
    Dmitri Shostakovich, Georgi Ligeti, Pierre Boulez
    Mstislav Rostropovich, Nathan Milstein, Janos Starker, Itzhak Perlman
    Sviatoslav Richter, Arthur Rubinstein, Alfred Brendel
    Lucia Popp, Janet Baker, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Birgit Nilssen
    Nicolai Ghiaurov, Robert Merrill, Hans Hotter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

    It’s a different ball game these days.

    Simon Rattle, James Levine, John Eliot Gardiner, Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Kaija Saariaho, Elliot Carter, Henri Dutilleux
    Pieter Wispelwey, Joshua Bell, Truls Mørk, Hillary Hahn
    Marc André-Hamelin, Leif Ove Andsnes, Evgeny Kissin,
    Anna Netrebko, Debra Voigt, Anne-Sofie von Otter, Dawn Upshaw,
    Thomas Hampson, Thomas Quasthoff, Matthias Gorne, Ian Bostridge

  8. Jason Heath

    Thanks for the link, Ken! I’m definitely a fan of your blog… and life is certainly busy with two blogs!

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