Card game from 19th century a window into musical tastes of the time

Posted on: August 25, 2010

Tuesday (8/24) on his Baltimore Sun blog Clef Notes, Tim Smith writes that while going through his closet recently he “came across an item I had long forgotten: ‘The Great Composers, An Entertaining, Educational 68-piece Musical Card Game.’ As the cover of the little box proclaims, this is ‘an exact replica of the antique original.’ … Inside are 17 four-card sets. ‘Each card bears the portrait and name of the composer, the dates of his birth and death, and the titles of four of his most important works.’ How cool is that? The game itself doesn’t sound too thrilling—the object is to collect as many of the same set as possible—but I do find it fascinating that folks once upon a time may have entertained themselves trying to get all four Gluck cards before any other players did. What really intrigues me is the choice of composers and compositions for the game, which says a lot about 19th century tastes and values. … When you think of Beethoven’s creative peaks, you’ll surely think of the Ninth Symphony, but would your other three picks be ‘Fidelio,’ ‘Missa Solemnis’ and ‘Egmont’? Mendelssohn’s beloved Violin Concerto isn’t on his game card, but ‘St. Paul’ and the ‘Hymn of Praise’ Symphony are. None of Haydn’s symphonies make the cut.”

Posted August 25, 2010