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#1
Old 03-03-2006, 07:24 PM
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Recommend Witty/Funny Classical Music

I'm not talking about operas with comedic librettos, but instrumental music that is, in and of itself, "funny" in some way. I think there's a tendancy for people to take classical music very seriously -- the deeper, more profound composers seem to get most of the attention. And while that's all well and good, I'm looking for the lighter end of things. Haydn is one of my favorite composers for this reason: he's the most consistently funny composer I've run across -- it's hard to explain how music can be funny, but many Haydn pieces (particularly, of course, the fast movements of his symphonies and sonatas) invariably make me smile if not laugh out loud.

Mozart is occassionally funny, but for the most part I think he's too elegant and lyrical to really bust a gut.

Based on my limited exposure, Russian composers seem to have a sense of humor: Rimsky-Korsakov and Khachaturian and Prokofiev come to mind.

So who else should I listen to?
#2
Old 03-03-2006, 07:55 PM
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So you wouldn't count PDQ Bach here?
#3
Old 03-03-2006, 08:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeghead
So you wouldn't count PDQ Bach here?
Oh, maybe, I dunno -- I've heard of him, but never listened to any of his stuff. Is he funny?
#4
Old 03-03-2006, 08:03 PM
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Second PDQ Bach. Peter Schickele is brilliantly funny, and he's also a superb musician.
#5
Old 03-03-2006, 08:07 PM
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To me, Mozart is (as you yourself pointed out) the funny guy among the great. But if asking about laughter and having fun, Vivaldi surely fits the bill. He's more of the Yngwe Malmsteen kinda character.

(No, really, Vivaldi is much better than his reputation -- makes me happy kind of guy. More of Richie Blackmore...)

(No, seriously... Vivaldi is one of the great, but don't mention it to anyone who believes s/he knows anything about "classical music".)
#6
Old 03-03-2006, 08:24 PM
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Haydn is known for his sense of humor. Such works as the Surprise Symphony (in which very quiet passages end in GREAT BIG MULTI-SECTIONAL CHORDS because he was tired of his patron's court nodding off during quiet movements) and the Farewell Symphony (which ends by the players getting up and walking off, one by one at various intervals, throughout the final movement).
#7
Old 03-03-2006, 08:40 PM
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Beethoven's 8th symphony: The ending is just nutty.

Mozart's "Ein Musikalischer Spass"

Saint-Saens's "Carnival of the Animals"

And yes, definitely check out P.D.Q. Bach.

And if you can track it down, listen to the version of "Peter and the Wolf" done by Wendy Carlos and Weird Al Yankovic.
#8
Old 03-03-2006, 08:42 PM
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Spike Jones' take on The William Tell Overture, Dance of the Hours, Holiday for Strings, and The Nutcracker Suite. Especially The William Tell Overture.
#9
Old 03-03-2006, 08:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lute Skywatcher
Spike Jones' take on The William Tell Overture, Dance of the Hours, Holiday for Strings, and The Nutcracker Suite. Especially The William Tell Overture.
BEETLEBAAAAUUUMMMM
#10
Old 03-03-2006, 09:38 PM
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Le Boeuf sur le Toit by Darius Milhaud, written as though it were accompanying a Charlie Chaplin movie. I've seen it used that way, and it worked wonderfully. It's also pretty funny on it's own.
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#11
Old 03-03-2006, 09:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodgers01
Oh, maybe, I dunno -- I've heard of him, but never listened to any of his stuff. Is he funny?
PDQ Bach is the creation of Peter Schickele, who's sort of the classical music version of Weird Al Yankovic. He's not a real classical composer, which is why I didn't think he'd be included. He's still alive, for one thing. He claims to have discovered the music of JS Bach youngest and least talented son, PDQ. Anyway, typical of his stuff is the 1712 overture, which changes the tune from the Marsellies (spelled wrong, I'm sure) to "Pop Goes the Weasel," and features popping balloons instead of cannons. He also did an opera called "Oedipus Tex," where Oedipus (call me Ed) lives in Thebes Gulch, Texas.

He's quite funny, I just don't know if that's what you're looking for.
#12
Old 03-03-2006, 10:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayjay
Haydn is known for his sense of humor. Such works as the Surprise Symphony (in which very quiet passages end in GREAT BIG MULTI-SECTIONAL CHORDS because he was tired of his patron's court nodding off during quiet movements) and the Farewell Symphony (which ends by the players getting up and walking off, one by one at various intervals, throughout the final movement).
I was going to mention Haydn, too. Not so much because of obviously funny stuff like you mention, but just because his music is just fun to listen to.

And I think Beethoven is the most rock'n'roll classical composer.
#13
Old 03-03-2006, 11:40 PM
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One of the funniest intros was on a P.D.Q.Bach record

Quote:
Hi, I'm Doctor Peter Schickele.
<slighty pause for effect>
Yes, the Doctor Peter Schickele.
and, while it's not "classical", I still get a great laugh when I hear The Intro And The Outro by the Bonzo Dog Band
#14
Old 03-04-2006, 12:11 AM
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Two humorous suites commonly programmed together:

Kodály: Háry János
Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kijé
#15
Old 03-04-2006, 12:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink
Beethoven's 8th symphony: The ending is just nutty.
The whole thing; written largely as a musical joke. My favorite Beethoven. He described his mood while writing it as "unbuttoned."
#16
Old 03-04-2006, 12:43 AM
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Lieutenant Kijé, definately.

And Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique has it's moments—including some string work during the March to the Scaffold movement that represents the fall of a guillotine blade, and the bounce of a severed head!
#17
Old 03-04-2006, 03:10 AM
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The early 20th C. German composer Paul Hindemith could have quite a musical sense of humor. Try some of the various "Kammermusik" by him.
#18
Old 03-04-2006, 03:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeghead
PDQ Bach is the creation of Peter Schickele, who's sort of the classical music version of Weird Al Yankovic. He's not a real classical composer, which is why I didn't think he'd be included.
I beg to differ. Schickele has a number of works under his own name which, although admittedly tougher to find, are interesting and fun to listen to. He also scored the soundtrack to the film "Silent Running" under his own name.
#19
Old 03-04-2006, 03:24 AM
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I can't hear The Dance of the Hours without thinking of the Hippos and the Crocs from Fantasia.


And Flight of the Valkyries always makes me think of helicoptors.
#20
Old 03-04-2006, 03:26 AM
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I find Haydn and Prokofiev tiresome, as if they're trying too hard to be funny.

Shostakovich certainly had a lighter side...the ninth symphony, and any of his film music, is a good place to start. Charles Ives can also be funny (laugh-out-loud funny, to me) on occassions.
#21
Old 03-04-2006, 04:02 AM
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I think Boccherini's "La Musica Notturna", with the way it jumps from melodrama to playfulness and back, is enormously witty.
#22
Old 03-04-2006, 04:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eutychus
I beg to differ. Schickele has a number of works under his own name which, although admittedly tougher to find, are interesting and fun to listen to. He also scored the soundtrack to the film "Silent Running" under his own name.
I was aware of his other, serious work. When I said he's not really a classical composer, I was referring to the fact that he lives now, rather than during the typical classical music time period. That's all. I understood the OP to mean he was looking for actual, old classical music that was funny.
#23
Old 03-04-2006, 04:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeghead
I understood the OP to mean he was looking for actual, old classical music that was funny.
Yeah, that's what I originally intended, though modern recommendations are welcome as well.

Many good suggestions -- I had completely forgotten about Le Boeuf sur le Toit, but that is a very funny piece indeed.
#24
Old 03-04-2006, 07:08 AM
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Back when I was in high school, the band and choir would occasionally perform a piece or two by PDQ Bach. I was the instigator in the case of the choir, suggesting to the director that we perform "Throw the Yule Log On, Uncle John" (AKA "Throw the Yule Log...ON Uncle John"). It became a tradition to do so until the director retired. (I'm so...proud.)

I don't remember what the band performed, but I do remember a couple of instructions in the score. At one point, the clarinet players had to play only using mouthpiece and barrel. At another point, the percussionists were instructed to pick up every loose piece of metal or other un-attached solid object they could find...and then drop them. There was another piece where the french horns were half-full of water.

And then there was the opera, "The Abduction of Figaro." It starts with Figaro on his deathbed, followed by the entry of a pirate who hijacks the bed to Cuba. (Really!) At one point, the female lead ("Doña Donna") begins an aria thusly:

"You make me so mad!
You make me SO MAD!"

To which the male lead ("Donald Giovanni"?) responds:

"How mad do I make you, Doña Donna?"

"You make me so mad that I'm not gonna sing this damned aria!" -- and she storms off.

After a moment of confusion, Prof. Schickele shouts, "Okay, skip to letter X!"

I saw this on a videotape borrowed from the library, something like 20 years ago, so I have no idea if you'll be able to find a copy. But it's worth a look.

Also, if you can find a video of a performance by Victor Borge, that's also a winner. (I seem to recall PBS stations giving them out during pledge drives...)
#25
Old 03-04-2006, 09:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobuSensei
I don't remember what the band performed, but I do remember a couple of instructions in the score. At one point, the clarinet players had to play only using mouthpiece and barrel. At another point, the percussionists were instructed to pick up every loose piece of metal or other un-attached solid object they could find...and then drop them. There was another piece where the french horns were half-full of water.
The standard PDQ Bach piece for high school concert band is "The Grand Serenade for an Awful Lot of Winds and Percussion", and those directions sound familiar. I would think that's it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wakinyan
(No, really, Vivaldi is much better than his reputation -- makes me happy kind of guy. More of Richie Blackmore...)

(No, seriously... Vivaldi is one of the great, but don't mention it to anyone who believes s/he knows anything about "classical music".)
JS Bach thought Vivaldi was a genius. I'd say he was more of an expert than any schlub around today who disses Vivaldi.



Oh, and another vote for Haydn. But he didn't start trying to be funny until the latter part of his career. Start at the end and work backward until you stop smiling.
#26
Old 03-04-2006, 10:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotandrsn
JS Bach thought Vivaldi was a genius. I'd say he was more of an expert than any schlub around today who disses Vivaldi.
Nobody's said anything about Vivaldi. Defensive much?

I associate the Saber Dance with humorous car chases. So I guess that's kind of funny.
#27
Old 03-04-2006, 01:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyingRamenMonster
Nobody's said anything about Vivaldi. Defensive much?
Automatic reflex defense against those who automatic reflex diss because of all the hoopla around the Four Seasons.
#28
Old 03-04-2006, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyingRamenMonster
Nobody's said anything about Vivaldi. Defensive much?
As implied by Wakinyan's post (and backed up for me by my own experience with a great many self-styled classical music "experts"), there is a strong strain in the world of classical music appreciation that more or less opines "if you want Baroque, why bother with Vivaldi when you have Bach?" I personally would not do without either of them.

I was responding to Wakinyan's obvious appreciation of this state of affairs, rather than to any comment made in the thread.
#29
Old 03-04-2006, 02:50 PM
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The polka from "The Golden Age" by Shostakovich is the first thing that comes to mind.

Some of Poulenc's stuff uses humor. For example, "Valse" from "5 piano pieces" and the Christmas motet "Hodie Christus Natus Est".

As long as Schickele's been mentioned, I'll mention the Hoffnung Festivals. Donald Swann's wonderful send-up of the second movement of Haydn's "Surprise" symphony, "Let's Fake an Opera" (or "The Tales of Hoffnung"), "Horrortorio" and other good stuff.
#30
Old 03-04-2006, 02:58 PM
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I laugh every time I listen to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. That could be because I picture Danny Kaye singing to them, though.

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#31
Old 03-04-2006, 03:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodgers01
Automatic reflex defense against those who automatic reflex diss because of all the hoopla around the Four Seasons.


Ooh! That's a great hotel.


I always thought Fucik's Enter the Gladiators was pretty silly. You know, the clown song, circus song, whatever.
#32
Old 03-04-2006, 03:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GorillaMan
Charles Ives can also be funny (laugh-out-loud funny, to me) on occassions.
Wasn't Ives the one who did "Variations on America"? I think the purpose was to come up with something so outlandish that it would end the proliferation of composers doing variations. The "variations to end all variations" as it were. At least that is what I remember Virgil Fox saying on one of his albums I had.
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