Beethoven’s Wig - Sing Along Symphonies (Concept, lyrics and lead vocals by Richard Perlmutter) - Rounder Kids Records 11661-8112-2:

This is the first kids’ record I’ve reviewed in my life. It’s not just for kids, but everybody with a sense of humor and the slightest interest in classical music. If you’ve ever heard some of Garrison Keillor’s alternate humorous lyrics to well-known tunes, you’ll have a good idea of what goes on here. Perlmutter has written hilarious lyrics to 11 classical chestnuts such as Fur Elise and the 1812 Overture, and he and a chorus are backed by either the Czech Philharmonic or British Union Rias Orchestras. For example, the opening theme of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony becomes the title tune, all about the immense size and depth of Beethoven’s Wig - It’s grandiose don’t get too close you’ll overdose... A Bouree by Bach becomes Hey Guitar Teacher, and Drip, Drip, Drip (Pizzicato from the Sylvia ballet by Delibes) urges Sylvia to turn off the dripping faucet she left on.

All the words are in the note booklet, and furthermore the humorous songs are followed by straight instrumental performances of all 11 chestnuts in the same order they were just heard. Performances and singing are first rate. There’s also lots of cute illustrations and a little quiz about music on each page. Even I picked up some facts, i.e.: Offenbach was bored playing in an orchestra, so he just played every other note (and got fired). This disc is a delightful way to open the door to concert music to kids in a way that’s a lot of fun for both kids and grownups. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

Selling Classical With Sex
Can Chopin help couples make sweet music?

Clad in a revealing black dress, the blonde temptress crawls up the chiselled chest of her lover as he lies sprawled - topless but for a tie - across a baby grand while two flutes of Bucks Fizz sparkle expectantly by their side. CD sleeves are rarely so seductive, and this one even warrants a "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" sticker and warning of "Sexual Content".

However, it´s not the latest album of violent rap from Eminem, or the umpteenth re-release of curse-littered vintage punk from the Sex Pistols. No, this sleeve holds one of a series of three classical music collections - and they are the first-ever classical releases to receive a parental warning!

Shacking Up To Chopin, Making Out To Mozart and Bedroom Bliss With Beethoven are the three albums in the Love Notes series. Each claims to be "the perfect addition to intimate moments" and boasts a selection of "teasing, tantalising and suggestive melodies with rapturous crescendos". They also promise to provoke "uninhibited passion", "loss of control" and "sleepless nights of the best kind".

It´s all a world away from the usual pomp and circumstance that surrounds classical music, but these new discs from BMG appear to be tapping into a new zeitgeist. Finally, it seems that classical music, the last bastion of cultural stiff-upper-lippedness, is embracing what others have long known: make it sexy and it´s sure to sell.

Richard Dinnadge, vice president of international marketing at RCA Victor, believes so: "All of the composers represented on these releases are known for either their own amorous antics or for writing incredibly passionate music, and all the tracks have been carefully constructed, so to speak, to build to a shattering climax."

-- Jason Victor Serinus
Performing website:


Can you hum a few bars?

Rachmaninoff and Fritz Kreisler were performing Grieg's 3rd Sonata for Violin and Piano. Kreisler lost his place and asked Rachmaninoff, "where are we?" Without looking up or cracking a smile Rachmaninoff said, "Carnegie Hall."

"Arnold Schoenberg is the musical anarchist from Vienna, and his followers are claiming that his is the music of the future. His opponents do not dispute this claim. In fact, they concede its extreme probability, pointing out that the future embraces a certainly locality with a climate of great torridity. The chief of this place is constantly looking for just such novelties as the music of the composer in question wherewith to amuse his guests." -- Cincinnati Enquirer, October 12, 1913

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds." - Mark Twain

Debussy described the first movement of La Mer as "from dawn to midday." Erik Satie said he especially liked the bit at a quarter to eleven.

In 1895 Ravel completed his Pavane pour une infante défunte. He orchestrated it in 1905. The composer intended its graceful melody to be played extremely slowly, more slowly than any performances we hear to today according to Benjamin Ivry in his "Ravel, a Life." Some say the princess was imaginary others that the title was chosen for its euphony rather than any specific meaning; this allowed Ravel to quip when he heard one dispirited, lifeless rendition that it was the princess who was suppose to be defunct, not the pavane.  

Boston Philharmonic Conductor Ben Zander told this story on CBS "60 Minutes." =

It seemed Toscanini was dissatisfied with the orchestra he was rehearsing. He stopped the rehearsal and pointed to a doublebass player and told him, 'you're fired.'

The musician packed up his instrument and walked to the door.

Just before he went through the door he yelled at Toscanini,
'You're a son-of-a-bitch.'

Toscanini, replied, 'It's too late for you to apologize now.'

We interrupt for another commercial message... Look at this ad. This is a real ad from last week's Portland Oregonian! A 300-watt auto subwoofer for $18! So this is why sonic earthquakes are polluting our environment lately! Join L.F.E. and put a stop to this noise! (Let the Fools be Electrocuted)

What's the difference between a dulcimer and a trampoline?
People take their shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

What's the difference between a violin and a cello?
A cello burns longer.

Jazz artist Chet Baker spent time in Italy and in the 1960's toured with Romano Mussolini, jazz pianist. Romano was a son of the Fascist dictator of Italy Benito Mussolini who was killed and hung upside down on display by partisans at the end of World War II in 1945.
In 1959 when the trumpet player was first introduced to Romano he said, "Sorry about your old man."

A tourist in Vienna is going through a graveyard and all of a sudden he hears some music. No one is around, so he starts searching for the source.

He finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827.

Then he realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward! Puzzled, he leaves the graveyard and persuades a friend to return with him. By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backward.

Curious, the men agree to consult a music scholar. When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backward. The expert notices that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed, the 9th,then the 7th, then the 6th and the 5th.

By the next day the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backward.

Just then the graveyard's caretaker ambles up to the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.

"Don't you get it?" the caretaker says incredulously, "He's decomposing!"

Perhaps not outright laughable, but sure to bring a smile to any audiophile's face - this is the giant acoustic horn Nimbus Records used to record their Ambisonic CD reissues of old 78s by historic singers. Just imagine five of these in your home theater system...

Smiling now?

"Beecham Stories" -Atkins & Newman. Robson Books =

There's a Beecham story that goes approximately like this: seems Sir Thomas was rehearsing a well known Haydn symphony with a prominent orchestra and when they had finished a few movements Beecham stopped the rehearsal and said something to the effect, "I don't think we have to go any further. We all know this work, don't we?"

A cellist raised his hand and said he had never heard it before.
Sir Thomas answered, "Well come around tonight for the performance, you'll love it!

There is another Beecham story, about his distaste for the conductor/music director Herbert von Karajan. Beecham had been avoiding Karajan in London for quite a while. But at one point Karajan was entering an elevator that Sir Thomas and his agent were in and Beecham's agent took advantage of the opportunity to introduce him to Karajan, "Sir Thomas I'd like to introduce you to Maestro von Karajan."

Without so much as a blink Beecham walked over to the elevator operator, shook his hand and said, "so nice to meet you!"

- Sir Thomas Beecham (EMI Records Ltd)

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