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Product Review: Playing Cards – Alfred’s Music Playing Cards: Classical Composers

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As the noted philosopher Larry the Cable Guy once put it, “America is the place that makes things you never even knew you needed.” Such is the case with the new Alfred’s Music Playing Cards: Classical Composers deck of cards. This is a standard 52-card deck, with each card devoted to a different composer. Finally, I can play Texas Hold ‘Em, and learn more about classical music at the same time.

What Alfred have done with the cards is to associate the four suits with four musical eras, with each card assigned to a specific composer. The Renaissance is represented by spades, Classical by diamonds, Baroque by clubs, and Romantic by hearts. So the cards retain their original suits, with the additional distinction of a musical epoch. There are also four jokers, which contain a brief outline of the corresponding period.

Each card features a portrait of a composer, all male except for the queens. It also contains such information as the composer’s birth and death dates, nationality, cities of birth and death, and a paragraph about the composer’s life, major compositions, and musical style.

Sure, it is all very basic, but what a fun idea. My first question was, who got the ace of spades? It is the most notorious card in the deck, so they must have given it to a similarly notorious composer, right? I was thinking Paganini (1782-1840). But I was wrong. The spades are affiliated with the Renaissance, and the ace is represented by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). This is where the real intent of the cards becomes apparent, because I was previously unfamiliar with this composer, and soon found out that he “had a lasting impact on sacred and church music composition.” How’s that for the “Devil’s card?”

As for Paganini, he did not make the cut (sorry, couldn’t resist). His lifetime coincided with the Classical age (1750-1830), which would have made him a diamond, but no go. The position of ace of diamonds went to a pretty big name, however: Beethoven (1770-1872). Then I saw that the king of diamonds is Mozart (1756-1791), and I started to wonder if there was a pecking order going on. I don’t know, how could anyone decide who is “better,” Beethoven or Mozart? It is kind of funny that Salieri (1750-1825) only rated the eight of diamonds though.

Whoever designed this deck clearly enjoyed themselves, and this is reflected in the packaging as well. The box features quotes from some of the composers, including Chopin’s “I don’t want anyone to admire my pants in a museum.” The funniest thing of all has to be the picture on the cover, with a poker-faced Beethoven holding five cards, as if he is on the Championship Poker show or something. These cards are great, so good that I bet even Larry the Cable Guy would approve.

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