Humor in Classical Music

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smitty1931
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Humor in Classical Music

Post by smitty1931 » Sat Jun 05, 2010 3:33 pm

What piece makes you smile or break out laughing?

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Jun 05, 2010 4:08 pm

Papa Haydn... :wink:
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Jared » Sat Jun 05, 2010 4:57 pm

I have an obvious first choice, which I find side-splittingly funny:

'The Wasps' Complete
R. Vaughan-Williams
Mark Elder/ Halle Orch


do yourself a favour, and buy a copy as an amusing diversion... :D

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:18 am

Nothing at all. This thread is offensive.

Classical music must be listened to with an utterly serious mien, head cocked at an intelligent and thoughtful angle. Rodin's thinker is far too louche - after all, he could even be asleep!

You must indicate by the gentle interplay of expressions on your face how deeply serious and spiritual it all is.

That said, it is permissible to smile in a patronising way at Mozart's musical joke, at the Flight of the Bumblebee, and at the sheer bad taste of much ultra modern art music.

(I can give helpful advice on other subjects too. Marriage guidance anyone?)

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by absinthe » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:48 am

Chalkperson wrote:Papa Haydn... :wink:
He was presented to me in secondary school as "the father of the symphony".
This is obviously contrary to the usual situation: no one knows who the mother was.

;)

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:13 pm

barney wrote:That said, it is permissible to smile in a patronising way at Mozart's musical joke, at the Flight of the Bumblebee, and at the sheer bad taste of much ultra modern art music.
I cringe when I hear the Musical Joke, I don't find it in the least bit funny...
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by slofstra » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:36 pm

Liszt is a lot of fun. Even more so when he becomes Fliszt (see Victor Borge).

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Beckmesser » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:57 pm

I've often wondered . . .

Why aren't comic operas funny?

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by THEHORN » Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:40 pm

Haydn's symphony No 60 in C major,with the nickname "il Distratto" (The absent-minded man),is a blast. It's written in a deliberately incoherent manner ,with all manner of
musical non-sequiturs,and even one passage where the violins are instructed to start tuning up again in the middle the finale.
The symphony contains music originally written for a comedy by the same name.
Till Eulenspiegel is nothing if not humorous, and there a many other works which contain humorous elements.
What about comic operas by Rossini,such as the Barber,L'Italiana in Algeri,
Il Viaggio a Reims, etc,and Donizetti's Don Pasquale, or Nielsen's Maskarade, a comic masterpiece. I just got the Da Capo DVD from the Royal Danish Opera.
The bizarre second movement of Nielsen's 6th is a hilarious parody of the atonal music of Schoenberg and his school, as well as the finale, perhaps the wackiest theme and variations ever written.
The second movement of Beethoven 8 pokes fun at Maelzel's metronome.
I know there a lots of other humorous works;this is just a small sample.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by John F » Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:48 pm

Beckmesser wrote:I've often wondered . . .

Why aren't comic operas funny?
If not, then why do audiences always laugh at "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"?
John Francis

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by THEHORN » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:09 pm

The end of Mozart's A Musical joke is amazing; it contains a wildly dissonant chord, and sounds almost like Charles Ives ! Ives disliked Mozart, considering his music too full of Rococo preciosity, but it's amazing how Mozart anticipated the American maverick two centuries before him !

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by living_stradivarius » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:24 pm

The Magic Flute should do the trick. Even Mozart's Jupiter Symphony should make you feel a little gay :mrgreen:
Image

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:18 pm

Bizet's Patrie overture is a sidesplitter. Many just comment how bad it is, but I never focus on that.

Bartok's "Slightly tipsy" (from his piano suite Three Burlesques, and his orchestral suite Hungarian Sketches) is wonderfully graphic, allowing one to see both the comedy and the pathos of the main character.

Strauss' Don Quixote is full of fine, humorous moments.

Ravel's one-act opera L'heure espganol has many great effects of orchestration and parodies of musical form.

Then there are those raunchy rounds of Henry Purcell. We college guys loved singing these in glee class; too bad they're considered un-PC these last 20 years. (Hey c'mon, only one half the population accepting it as appropriate isn't a bad prospect.....)
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Heck148 » Sun Jun 06, 2010 10:19 pm

Haydn always must get special mention -
the loud, raucous bassoon flatulence in Sym #93/II is hilarious, when done right [Szell/Cleve]
same with the big dinosaur blat in "The Creation"...
wonderful stuff. :lol: :lol: :mrgreen:

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Mon Jun 07, 2010 12:24 am

On the subject of bassoons: Deems Taylor gave the contrabassoon lots of humorous grotesquery in his Lewis Carroll tribute, Through The Looking Glass--particularly the "Jabberwocky" movement where the monster goes through that melodramatic death scene.
If I could tell my mom and dad
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Never mattered we were always ok
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by HoustonDavid » Mon Jun 07, 2010 1:35 am

Johannes Brahms "Academic Festival Overture, for orchestra in c minor" ("Akademische
Festouvertüre"), Op. 80, composed in 1879 as a raucous compilation of student drinking
songs, many very baudy and quite explicit for his day; it was intended to make even
academics of his day laugh at typically pompous academic occasions. It was composed
as a musical "thank you" to the University of Breslau, in Poland, which had awarded him
an honorary doctorate the previous year. Perhaps the only surviving song is the immortal
"Gaudeamus igitur", which I actually sang as a student chorister at the University of
British Columbia around 1956. :lol: :lol:
"May You be born in interesting (maybe confusing?) times" - Chinese Proverb (or Curse)

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:15 pm

....and speaking of contrabassoons and the Academic Festival Overture, periodically I like to put on this one live Toscanini performance from '39. The NBC Symphony had the buzziest of contrabassoons, which its player never could play softer than mf: it's hilarious to hear it at the very beginning, oompahing and easily dominating the pianissimo strings & other bassoons, even though it's not supposed to.
Last edited by Wallingford on Mon Jun 07, 2010 7:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:27 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
barney wrote:That said, it is permissible to smile in a patronising way at Mozart's musical joke, at the Flight of the Bumblebee, and at the sheer bad taste of much ultra modern art music.
I cringe when I hear the Musical Joke, I don't find it in the least bit funny...
If it really is a send-up of inept composing of the time, then it is hard to believe anyone was ever that inept. Even I wouldn't make mistakes like that composing the A part of a thoroughly undistinguished minuet, which BTW would exhaust my creative talent. Of course it's possible that there were composers that dreadful and their music simply doesn't survive. More effective as a parody of kuntry kumposers is the "overture" to Bach's Peasant Cantata, which brings me to the topic: I remember laughing hysterically the first time I heard this in a college class. I have not done so since. For me, LOL funny doesn't survive the first hearing for any musical humor. Much of what we laugh at in well-known operas is slapstick or stage business that can be particular to a production and is designed precisely to make a comic opera feel "funny" to audiences--and I include myself--that would otherwise sit in reverent silence through every note.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Heck148 » Mon Jun 07, 2010 3:27 pm

Wallingford wrote:On the subject of bassoons: Deems Taylor gave the contrabassoon lots of humorous grotesquery in his Lewis Carroll tribute, Through The Looking Glass--particularly the "Jabberwocky" movement where the monster goes through that melodramatic death scene.
I don't know that piece - I guess I must look it up.

another great humorous work is Malcom Arnold - Scottish Dances - mvt II- Vivace -
the totally drunk sounding bassoons state the main theme with all sorts of inebriated slurps, slides, slobbers, pitch-bendings, etc - really a hoot - alot like Bartok's Slightly tipsy - from "Hungarian Sketches"
another wonderfully funny piece by Arnold is his 3 Shanteys for WW 5tet - this is loaded with jokes, "wrong" entrances, belches, burps, farts, whoops, yelps, "raspberries" and every other kind of musical mayhem one can imagine...always a great crowd pleaser. :D

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Ted Quanrud » Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:20 pm

Every time I have attended Wagner's Siegfried, the moment when the hero (one of the great dunderheads in all opera), having passed through Wotan's circle of flames to find Brunnhelde, removes her armor and exclaims, "This is no man!", a titter (old pun fully intended) runs through the audience.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:43 pm

A few of Beethoven's not-so-famous works can be a scream. Many are in the "WoO" category, ones whose publication he perhaps rightly felt would've marred his reputation. He wrote a whole set of piano variations on his own famed "Turkish March" (from Ruins Of Athens); and there are those who find his music for flute and piano howlingly (i.e., unintentionally) funny.....pick up a copy of Rampal's own complete set, you'll find it a worthier investment than "open-mike night."
Last edited by Wallingford on Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by StephenSutton » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:49 pm

As you mentioned Malcolm Arnold then you have to include the comic 'oratorio' The Return of Odysseus. Both the text with its colloquialisms and definitely un-arty style and the music which includes a parody of a simple blues. Written originally for a high school chorus and certainly full of teenage humor.
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by John F » Wed Jun 09, 2010 2:01 am

jbuck919 wrote:If it really is a send-up of inept composing of the time, then it is hard to believe anyone was ever that inept. Even I wouldn't make mistakes like that composing the A part of a thoroughly undistinguished minuet, which BTW would exhaust my creative talent. Of course it's possible that there were composers that dreadful and their music simply doesn't survive. More effective as a parody of kuntry kumposers is the "overture" to Bach's Peasant Cantata, which brings me to the topic: I remember laughing hysterically the first time I heard this in a college class. I have not done so since. For me, LOL funny doesn't survive the first hearing for any musical humor. Much of what we laugh at in well-known operas is slapstick or stage business that can be particular to a production and is designed precisely to make a comic opera feel "funny" to audiences--and I include myself--that would otherwise sit in reverent silence through every note.
Mozart had composition pupils, such as Thomas Attwood, and their exercises could have been a fertile source for "Ein musikalischer Spass." After all, English teachers today collect and sometimes publish the gaffes of their pupils, as for example that Hemingway won a pullet surprise. I've read somewhere the suggestion that some of the "Spass" may have been taken, or "enhanced," from Atwood's harmony and counterpoint lessons. Otherwise I haven't seen any analysis of the "Spass" to tie it to any particular pieces or composers.

Nor would Mozart have needed such sources; he had an inventive and sharp sense of humor of his own. The author and composer of "Difficile lectu mihi Mars" (pun definitely intended) was capable of anything. As when he wrote this canon just to break up his friend, the baritone Johann Nepomuk Peyerl, when he got to it in a canon-singing party and had to sing it:

O du eselhafter Peierl!
o du peierlhafter Esel!
du bist so faul als wie ein Gaul,
der weder Kopf noch Haxen hat.
Mit dir ist gar nichts anzufangen;
ich seh dich noch am Galgen hangen.
O lieber Freund, ich bitte dich,
o leck mich doch geschwind im Arsch!
Ach, lieber Freund, verzeihe mir,
den Arsch, den Arsch petschier ich dir
Peierl! Nepomuk! Peierl! verzeihe mir!

Translation here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_du_eselh ... 8Mozart%29

The joke came off well enough that Mozart reused it again and again, substituting other names for Peyerl's. We may not be as amused as Mozart and his circle, but then, that was over 200 years ago.
John Francis

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Jun 09, 2010 3:28 am

Probably the most humorous work I've ever heard is Jacques Ibert's "Divertissement" for orchestra. It's a real parody on life's issues and all we hold dear. The takes on Mendelssohn's "Wedding March", the French military and Strauss' waltzes is hilarious. I have two recordings of it and both are excellent!

Many of Haydn's finales have witty turns of rhythm, as does the finale of Beethoven's Second.

The 2nd mvt (scherzo) of Raff's Sixth is a tour-de-force for the bass viols---and succeeds in its semi-serious wit.

Prokofiev and Schostakowitsch wrote many works based on parody.

Of course humor belongs to music just as drama, melancholy, pomp, joy and other emotions. It doesn't have to be in a comic opera to fit in. There are many beautifully humorous arias in the brilliant (light) operas of Albert Lortzing.

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:05 am

Says nothing. Sighs and shakes his head at the irredeemable frivolity of modern music listeners.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Jun 09, 2010 4:17 am

barney wrote:Says nothing. Sighs and shakes his head at the irredeemable frivolity of modern music listeners.
Gee, Barney. There's humor and frivolity in great literature, painting, drama (think Shakespeare, Shaw, etc.), political satire, etc., etc.

Whether or not one appreciates humorous sections in serious works is taste; however, there's no denying that the great composers INTENDED for the listener at least to smile during certain pieces. Haydn especially relished an occasional chuckle from many of his admirers.

And watch the facial expressions of conductors, pianists and singers when they enter a passage of mirth!

One can really take anything tooooo seriously.....

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:59 pm

Another raunchy round I'm amazed I didn't mention before is Mozart's Bona nox,bist a rechta Ox, K.561.

There are two YouTube performances of it, but they're by children's choirs & with the two dirty lines changed entirely. Anyway, google it to find the real text.

I attended two Netherland Wind Ensemble concerts 30 years ago, when they'd put their insturments away and come back onstage to sing it as an encore.
Last edited by Wallingford on Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by piston » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:10 pm

Every silent cartoon has some humorous classical music in the background. The mynah bird's musical ID was from the Fingal Cave Overture. As for Inky, he was anything but politically correct!!!
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jun 09, 2010 6:19 pm

This thread has drifted (including my post) in the direction of music of no serious intent. More subtle are passages in great works that would have been perceived as funny by their original audiences and might still be today. I don't have scores in front of me, but if I say "last movement of the Eroica" and "last movement of Beethoven's C Major concerto" I think everyone will know the passages I mean. I presume that an alla turca was always perceived as humorous, and why on Earth is there a brass band marching in from the distance in something as sublime as the finale of Beethoven's Ninth?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by John F » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:57 am

Sure, there are any number of such passages, and Beethoven provides lots of them. Like the introduction to the finale of his first symphony, a musical joke that really digs you in the ribs Haydn-style.

For me this isn't the same thing as wit, of which Beethoven (and Haydn) gives plenty of examples too. The very opening of Beethoven's 1st is a tonic cadence that might have come at the end, but immediately he heads away from the home key, and by bar 4 has gotten to the dominant. (But doesn't stay there long.) This is certainly humorous but not an actual joke, or if so then it's an in-joke for knowing listeners with a sense of functional harmony as conventionally used in the symphony at a certain period in its history. While anybody can get the joke in the finale's introduction, or the surprise in Haydn's Surprise Symphony.

Speaking of which, Donald Swann took Haydn's joke and ran with it in his version of the Haydn movement "with additional surprises," premiered at the first Hoffnung Music Festival.



This and its successors were a riotous celebration of humor in classical music, and I'm a little surprised that they weren't mentioned earlier.
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by maestrob » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:28 am

Surprised that no one has mentioned the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra here, with its raucous riffs poking fun at the main theme from the first movement of Shostakovich VII.... :lol:

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:40 am

maestrob wrote:Surprised that no one has mentioned the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra here, with its raucous riffs poking fun at the main theme from the first movement of Shostakovich VII.... :lol:
Absolutely! That 3rd movement is fabulously sarcastic. I should have thought of it myself!

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:23 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:
maestrob wrote:Surprised that no one has mentioned the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra here, with its raucous riffs poking fun at the main theme from the first movement of Shostakovich VII.... :lol:
Absolutely! That 3rd movement is fabulously sarcastic. I should have thought of it myself!

Tschüß,
Jack
Ahem........ehh, fourth movement?
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Sun Jun 13, 2010 9:19 pm

The Hoffnung festivals were sheer genius, really irreverent. PDQ Bach is excellent also.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Chosen Barley » Sun Jun 13, 2010 11:43 pm

In reply to smitty's question, the quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations doesn't make me laugh, but when I found out (from my little music dictionary)that it's based on a folk song that translated from German means "turnips & cabbage have driven me away", well, I cracked a bit of a smile. I am told that musically educated people will get the meaning of this and possibly laugh boisterously. :roll:
STRESSED? Spell it backwards for the cure.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:34 am

Chosen Barley wrote:In reply to smitty's question, the quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations doesn't make me laugh, but when I found out (from my little music dictionary)that it's based on a folk song that translated from German means "turnips & cabbage have driven me away", well, I cracked a bit of a smile. I am told that musically educated people will get the meaning of this and possibly laugh boisterously. :roll:
I believe everyone is educated in that kind of "music," Chosen.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by karlhenning » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:13 am

The pianist with whom I will be playing the piece a week from today, enjoys the whimsical element in the title Night of the Weeping Crocodiles.

(Strictly speaking, the piece itself is not humorous.)

Cheers,
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:14 am

Ted Quanrud wrote:Every time I have attended Wagner's Siegfried, the moment when the hero (one of the great dunderheads in all opera), having passed through Wotan's circle of flames to find Brunnhelde, removes her armor and exclaims, "This is no man!", a titter (old pun fully intended) runs through the audience.
Very good point, Ted. You could include most Wagner, actually for its hysterically funny unreflective self-importance (even if I furtively quite like a lot of it). Megalomania can be quite diverting.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:02 am

Debussy's piano music has some quotations and quodlibets:

The delicious quotation from Tristan in "Golliwog's Cakewalk";

The opening of "Hommage a S.Pickwick, Esq., PPMPC," with "God Save The King";

The ending of "Feux d'artifice," with a smattering of the French national anthem;

and the dubious use of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in his two-piano suite En blanc et noir.
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Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Ted Quanrud » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:55 pm

barney wrote:
Ted Quanrud wrote:Every time I have attended Wagner's Siegfried, the moment when the hero (one of the great dunderheads in all opera), having passed through Wotan's circle of flames to find Brunnhelde, removes her armor and exclaims, "This is no man!", a titter (old pun fully intended) runs through the audience.
Very good point, Ted. You could include most Wagner, actually for its hysterically funny unreflective self-importance (even if I furtively quite like a lot of it). Megalomania can be quite diverting.
How right you are, Barney. People who love Wagner's music (and I am certainly one of them) must not only accept the fact that it is full of "hysterically funny unreflective self-importance," but that it is also the work of one of the nastiest, most vile human beings imaginable, who had he not be one of the greatest composers of all time could safely be consigned to the cesspool of history.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Heck148 » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:19 pm

Ted Quanrud wrote: How right you are, Barney. People who love Wagner's music (and I am certainly one of them) must not only accept the fact that it is full of "hysterically funny unreflective self-importance,"
isn't it amazing how the Germans love their mythological "heroes"??

Siegfried?? without doubt one of the greatest dolts of all mythology. gawd, what a clod!! a real dumb-bell - he's too stupid to be afraid, and is so easily bamboozled by just about everybody that it's no wonder he ends up a mess...compare this knucklehead with somebody like Apollo, or Odysseus, heroes in Greek mythology....

Siegmund?? - gawd, what a whiner!! "ah woeful me, oh unhappy me....my life is so rough..."

Wotan?? an egotistical schemer and meddler, who totally blows his power thru his own sleazy wheelings-and-dealings

Brunnhilde, the chick, seems to be the only one with a brain

The Ring is sort of like the "Godfather" Saga - a great story about basically insufferable characters!! :lol: :lol:

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Jun 16, 2010 1:37 am

Wallingford wrote:Debussy's piano music has some quotations and quodlibets:

The delicious quotation from Tristan in "Golliwog's Cakewalk";

The opening of "Hommage a S.Pickwick, Esq., PPMPC," with "God Save The King";

The ending of "Feux d'artifice," with a smattering of the French national anthem;

and the dubious use of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in his two-piano suite En blanc et noir.
And don't forget how he quotes "Clair de lune" in "Suite bergamasque."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Chosen Barley » Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:47 pm

Ted Quanrud wrote:... but that it is also the work of one of the nastiest, most vile human beings imaginable, who had he not be one of the greatest composers of all time could safely be consigned to the cesspool of history.
What in godsname are you talking about? You have something against R. Wagner? Whatever he did wrong, is he any worse than that little pervert W.A. Mozart? I guess we get back to the old issue of separating the artist from his work. Also, I never heard of a "nice" person being a truly great artist. Feh on nice.
STRESSED? Spell it backwards for the cure.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by Wallingford » Wed Jun 16, 2010 1:40 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Wallingford wrote:Debussy's piano music has some quotations and quodlibets:

The delicious quotation from Tristan in "Golliwog's Cakewalk";

The opening of "Hommage a S.Pickwick, Esq., PPMPC," with "God Save The King";

The ending of "Feux d'artifice," with a smattering of the French national anthem;

and the dubious use of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in his two-piano suite En blanc et noir.
And don't forget how he quotes "Clair de lune" in "Suite bergamasque."
You sure you're not thinking of "La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune" from the second book of Preludes? You know, where he starts with the rhythm of the opening line of the folksong "Au clair de la lune"?
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by THEHORN » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:02 pm

Actually, Siegfried isn't a dolt at all. He's without a doubt one of the most misunderstood characters in opera.
He's not so much stupid as extremely naive,though he does mature considerably in Gotterdammerung(I still don't know how to get those darned umlauts on the screen).
He's an orphan who has been brought up in the middle of the forest by the crafty and scheming Mime,who plans to kill the kid after he slays Fafner, for the Ring and the power and treasures it guarantees. He's never met a female, and he's basically just a boisterous and headstrong kid.
He's surrounded by treachery throughout the entire second half of the Ring cycle. I suppose the stereotype of the fat and ridiculous-looking Wagner singer adds to the notion that Siegfried is so stupid.
Wotan is a very interesting and complex character, and not an insufferable bore. If you make the effort to follow a recording with the libretto and an English translation ,or see a DVD with subtitles etc, you'll come to see that Wotan is as interesting a character as any of Shakespeare's most famous ones,such as Hamlet,King Lear, etc.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by dulcinea » Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:20 pm

Ted Quanrud wrote:Every time I have attended Wagner's Siegfried, the moment when the hero (one of the great dunderheads in all opera), having passed through Wotan's circle of flames to find Brunnhelde, removes her armor and exclaims, "This is no man!", a titter (old pun fully intended) runs through the audience.
Creating dramatis personae that came across as intelligent and sensible was quite beyond RW's skill as a librettist.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:34 am

Ted Quanrud wrote:
barney wrote:
Ted Quanrud wrote:Every time I have attended Wagner's Siegfried, the moment when the hero (one of the great dunderheads in all opera), having passed through Wotan's circle of flames to find Brunnhelde, removes her armor and exclaims, "This is no man!", a titter (old pun fully intended) runs through the audience.
Very good point, Ted. You could include most Wagner, actually for its hysterically funny unreflective self-importance (even if I furtively quite like a lot of it). Megalomania can be quite diverting.
How right you are, Barney. People who love Wagner's music (and I am certainly one of them) must not only accept the fact that it is full of "hysterically funny unreflective self-importance," but that it is also the work of one of the nastiest, most vile human beings imaginable, who had he not be one of the greatest composers of all time could safely be consigned to the cesspool of history.
We're in furious agreement here. :D

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:39 am

Chosen Barley wrote:
Ted Quanrud wrote:... but that it is also the work of one of the nastiest, most vile human beings imaginable, who had he not be one of the greatest composers of all time could safely be consigned to the cesspool of history.
What in godsname are you talking about? You have something against R. Wagner? Whatever he did wrong, is he any worse than that little pervert W.A. Mozart? I guess we get back to the old issue of separating the artist from his work. Also, I never heard of a "nice" person being a truly great artist. Feh on nice.
Infinitely, despicably, loathsomely, exploitatively, self-aggrandisingly worse than Mozart. That claim strikes me as bizarre, unless you know a lot about Mozart that I don't. Or a lot less about Wagner. Yes, he had a juvenile contemporary sense of humour, yes he borrowed lots of money, yes he recognised his own worth, but I don't find Mozart an unsympathetic character.

Normally I have no trouble with the argument that we should separate the artist from his work, but in Wagner's case his person infests - or should that be infects - his work, so that I often feel like a good shower after an extended period of listening (which I nevertheless do have, extended periods of listening).

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by barney » Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:40 am

Heck148 wrote:
Ted Quanrud wrote: How right you are, Barney. People who love Wagner's music (and I am certainly one of them) must not only accept the fact that it is full of "hysterically funny unreflective self-importance,"
isn't it amazing how the Germans love their mythological "heroes"??

Siegfried?? without doubt one of the greatest dolts of all mythology. gawd, what a clod!! a real dumb-bell - he's too stupid to be afraid, and is so easily bamboozled by just about everybody that it's no wonder he ends up a mess...compare this knucklehead with somebody like Apollo, or Odysseus, heroes in Greek mythology....

Siegmund?? - gawd, what a whiner!! "ah woeful me, oh unhappy me....my life is so rough..."

Wotan?? an egotistical schemer and meddler, who totally blows his power thru his own sleazy wheelings-and-dealings

Brunnhilde, the chick, seems to be the only one with a brain

The Ring is sort of like the "Godfather" Saga - a great story about basically insufferable characters!! :lol: :lol:
Entirely agree. And it says a lot about Wagner that we are expected to find any of these characters admirable or sympathetic. Still, I have the same trouble with Hollywood today sometimes. Nasty films about nasty people whom we are supposed to embrace.

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Re: Humor in Classical Music

Post by John F » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:51 am

Does anybody here actually understand what "Der Ring des Nibelungen" is about? Its theme, brom beginning to end, is that power and the lust for it corrupt and destroy, and that if there is a redeeming force in the world, it is love. Like most of the best opera composers, Wagner depicts his characters from their own point of view, and I suppose the unaware might mistake Wotan's air of nobility for the real thing, if they listen only to his music and aren't paying adequate attention to his words and to the story. But if we in the audience use our brains - admittedly not what many do in the opera house - we won't be taken in by the characters' self-deceptions and will understand what they really are.

Speaking of brains, it's Wotan and Loge, not Brünnhilde, who have them, which doesn't save Wotan and the gods from their predestined fiery end.

Of course this is way off the topic of this thread, but I'm not the one who dragged it here. :)
John Francis

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