• Ian Passmore

Passmore's Picks: April Fool's Day!

I hope you’ve learned by now that classical music is not always the stuffy, high-brow music of the past. I mean, sometimes it definitely is that…but not always—we do have some sense of humor :) Here are some of my favorite funny moments in classical music…

Haydn, Symphony No. 94 in G major, “Surprise”

  • Haydn is always the go-to guy for humor in classical music, and the most obvious example of that is his Symphony No. 94, commonly referred to as the “Surprise” Symphony. The nickname comes from the second movement, in which Haydn shocks the audience awake with a short, thunderous chord in the midst of an otherwise quiet passage.

Mozart, A Musical Joke, K. 522

  • This humor in this one is less obvious to the non-musician, except for the very end of the piece. (It makes me think of the finale from Charles Ives’s Second Symphony….) Rather than trying to explain everything in the simplest possible terms, I’ll just leave a link to its Wikipedia page here: It’s definitely worth a read, if you’re feeling nerdy :)

Beethoven, Symphony No. 1 in C major

  • The finale from Beethoven’s First Symphony has always cracked me up. He could have just started at the fast part, but instead chooses to include a slow, scalar, fragmented introduction, which featuring only the first violins.

Ives, Country Band March

  • This is a reworking of “Putnam’s Camp,” which is the second movement of Ive’s Three Places in New England. The idea is that bands from multiple towns are converging, playing different tunes, in different keys and meters, all at the same time! At the end, though, a single saxophonist becomes “lost,” and winds up playing after the rest of the band has already reached the end of the piece.

Gershwin, An American in Paris

  • Gershwin himself stated, "my purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere.” And by “street noises,” he must’ve meant the taxi horns!

Walters, Instant Concert

  • Thirty instantly recognizable tunes, frequently played at pops concerts around the world, condensed into just three minutes!

Bonus video: the North State Symphony and Scott Seaton scare the living bejesus out of an unsuspecting audience member at the top of Stravinsky’s “Infernal Dance” from The Firebird.

Happy April Fool’s Day, friends! :)

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