Redditor NeokratosRed had an idea: depict the hands of great composers and pianists, according to the characteristics of their music. He shared it on the social media site, and also punted for suggestions of more. It has since received over 300,000 images views, and lots of further suggestions from fellow Redditors and piano geeks.
Whisks for Chopin’s elegant pianistic souffles, feather dusters for the gentle impressionism of Debussy, instruments of trade for the composer of the thunderous Hammerklavier sonata.
Piano, and the internet – top marks to the both of you.
The Piano Puzzlers book is available in the O’Connor Music Studio library if you’d like to give any a try. Piano Puzzlers as heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Includes 32 tunes with songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Rodgers, Fats Waller, Lennon & McCartney, and others disguised in the styles of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Janacek, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Copland.
Includes an introduction by Fred Child, host of “Performance Today” as well as background info by Bruce Adolphe. “Bruce Adolphe has taken a common musician’s party game and elevated it to high art and truly funny musical slapsticks. The Piano Puzzlers are a unique combination of extraordinary insight into the styles of many composers subtle, expert workmanship and great, great fun!”
If you’re a music geek (like me), I have a program for you. Now, let me be clear, to fully qualify as a music geek…you must have a fond appreciation for classical music (no, Poison, Quiet Riot, and Zepplin do not count as classical music). So, if you’re a “music geek” without an appreciation for classical music…well, I hate to burst your bubble…but, you’re not truly a music geek. Instead, you’re a music appreciator, but not a geek. So, if you just listen to indie music and scowl at anything on a label larger than Matador…don’t bother following the link I’ll provide…the fun will be lost on you…And, you probably won’t have a chance.
Every Wednesday night, on my way home from WNL, I turn on my local NPR station to listen to Piano Puzzlers on Performance Today. It’s absolutely incredible. A pianist/composer (Bruce Adolphe) takes a familiar folk or pop tune and sets it inside a classical masterpiece (or in the style of a particular composer). Sometimes it’s easy…sometimes it’s ridiculously difficult. There are days when I say, “got it” on the first pass. Then there are days when I say, “what the heck?” And, more often than not, I’m able to get either the popular/folk tune or the composer.
This is sad to admit, but there are nights when I’ll slow down on the drive home or sit in the car in the driveway to finish an episode. In fact, I get a little worked up if someone stops me after WNL…as I might miss the beginning of Piano Puzzlers (it usually hits around 8:20pm on our local station).
Take a listen to some of the archives and see if you can figure it out! It’s really cool…but probably only appreciated by music geeks (the kind of people that listen to NPR for their musical programs and not just the snipets of cool indie rock between segments on All Things Considered…which is a great show too).
Today’s piece is Beethoven’s Rage Over a Lost Penny found in Piano Pronto Movement 4, Songs I Love to Play 2 and Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music. The official title is The “Rondo alla ingharese quasi un capriccio” in G major, Op. 129 (Italian for “Rondo in the Hungarian [i.e. gypsy] style, almost a caprice”).
The story goes –
At one point Beethoven was composing this piece, a booming and boisterous piece that exuded energy and vitality.
One night a neighbor heard a loud dispute.
Beethoven was in a rage, accusing a maid of stealing a gold penny. The maid ran out and was never heard from again.
The neighbor then heard furniture crashing, and he could only conclude that the great Maestro was tipping over furniture, madly looking for the lost gold penny.
The story spread through the neighborhood and became part of the legend of Beethoven’s bad moods and curmudgeonly behavior.
Today, we’ll listen to the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, of Ludwig van Beethoven. It was written between 1804–1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies. As is typical of symphonies in the classical period, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in four movements.
I’m sure you’ve heard the first 8 notes before…
Since it was written for orchestra, each instrument has its own line:
A piano version, transcribed by Liszt
From Disney’s Fantasia 2000:
Pink learns to play the violin, and interrupts a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Pink Panther theme played on various instruments.
Arrangements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can be found in Piano Maestro and lots of books including Piano Pronto’s Movement 2, Movement 5 (Victory Theme) and Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music.
• 1925 ~ Bill Haley, American rock-and-roll singer, songwriter and guitarist with Bill Haley and His Comets
• 1932 ~ Della Reese (Delloreese Patricia Early), Pop Singer
• 1937 ~ Vladimir Ashkenazy, Russian-born Icelandic pianist and conductor
More information about Ashkenazy Grammy winner
• 1937 ~ Gene Chandler (Eugene Dixon), Singer
• 1937 ~ The big band classic, Sing, Sing, Sing was recorded by Benny Goodman and his band. Sitting in on this famous Victor Records session was Gene Krupa, Ziggy Elman and Harry James.
• 1945 ~ Rik Elswit, Musician, guitarist and singer with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
• 1954 ~ Nanci Griffith, Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter
• 1957 ~ John Lennon and Paul McCartney met for the first time at The Woolton Church Parish Fete where The Quarry Men were appearing. As The Quarry Men were setting up for their evening performance, McCartney eager to impress Lennon picked up a guitar and played ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ (Eddie Cochran) and ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ (Gene Vincent). Lennon was impressed, and even more so when McCartney showed Lennon and Eric Griffiths how to tune their guitars, something they’d been paying someone else to do for them.
• 1959 ~ Jon Keeble, Musician, drummer with Spandau Balle
• 1971 ~ Louis Armstrong, Jazz musician, died. His groups, the Hot Five and Hot Seven, from 1925 to 1927, had a revolutionary impact on jazz.
• 1971 ~ Karen and Richard Carpenter hosted the summer series, Make Your Own Kind of Music, on NBC-TV.
• 1973 ~ Otto Klemperer, German conductor particularly known for his interpretations of Beethoven, died.
• 1984 ~ Michael Jackson and his brothers started their Victory Tour in Kansas City, Missouri’s Arrowhead Stadium. The tour turned out to be a victory for the Jacksons when the nationwide concert tour concluded months later.
• 1998 ~ Roy Rogers, U.S. film actor known as “the singing cowboy”, died.
• 2000 ~ Władysław Szpilman, Polish pianist and classical composer, died at the age of 88
• 2020 ~ Country Music legend Charlie Daniels, best known for his monster 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” died at the age of 83.
• 2020 ~ Ennio Morricone wrote the scores for more than 500 movies and TV series, as well as over 100 works for the concert hall. He died following complications from a fall at the age of 91.
Humoresques Op. 101 (B. 187), is a piano cycle by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, written during the summer of 1894. One writer says “the seventh Humoresque is probably the most famous small piano work ever written after Beethoven’s Für Elise.
Yo Yo Ma (cello) and Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Jazz with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet
Zez Confrey gave this a makeover and included Way Down Upon the Swanee River:
Find the original Humoresque on IMSLP. The O’Connor Music Studio Lending Library has versions of Humoresque available at several levels and Confey’s Humorestless played in the video above.
Today we listen to the third movement Mozart’s Piano Sonata No.11 III (Turkish March) with just a bit of the first movement near the end.
The Turkish influence on western music came through the Turkish military band music (Mehter), which was at the time was the only military band in Europe. It was once popular among western composers like Mozart to write Turkish-style (alla Turca) works, Turkish music being known at that time as Turkish band music. That’s why the Turkish-influenced music works by Mozart, Beethoven or Strauss are in march rhythm as they are called march.
A rondo is a piece of music where the musical material stated at the beginning of the piece keeps returning. This opening music can be called either the theme or the refrain; they are the same thing. The form can be A, B, A or A, B, C, A – anything as long as the “A” theme returns
The Turkish March movement:
Find the Turkish march movement of this sonata in these Piano Pronto books: Encore, Mozart: Exploring His Life and Music,
The first movement can be found in Keyboard Kickoff, Movement 2
Today’s piece is one of those that piano students often try to learn on their own – or a friend will teach them the first 9 notes. It’s usually played too fast and, often in the wrong octave, or the first couple notes are repeated too many times.
This is one of two pieces that are so often played incorrectly that they have the distinction of being banned from competition in Northern Virginia Piano Teacher competitions.
Stay tuned for the other one!
Für Elise was not published during Beethoven’s lifetime, having been discovered by Ludwig Nohl 40 years after the composer’s death. The identity of “Elise” is unknown.
The very basic melody:
The actual beginning is a little more involved.
And, there’s more!
If you’d like to learn to play this piece correctly, find the sheet music at IMSLP, Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music, and countless compilations of classical music available at the O’Connor Music Studio.
By Valentina Lisitsa:
The Big Piano at FAO Schwartz in NYC:
The Mystery Behind Für Elise:
Youtube has many, many more versions. Beethoven would probably go nuts!
“Ode to Joy” was written in the summer of 1785 by German poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich Schiller and published the following year in Thalia. A slightly revised version appeared in 1808, changing two lines of the first and omitting the last stanza.
“Ode to Joy” is best known for its use by Ludwig van Beethoven in the final (fourth) movement of his Ninth Symphony, completed in 1824. This was Beethoven’s final symphony and lasts over an hour for the whole thing.
The entire final movement:
Beethoven’s text is not based entirely on Schiller’s poem, and introduces a few new sections. His melody (but not Schiller’s words) was adopted as the Anthem of Europe by the Council of Europe in 1972 and subsequently by the European Union.
It is often called Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (You) in hymnbooks.
Find Ode to Joy in Piano Maestro, Prelude, Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music and several hym books.
By now, you know I love flashmobs:
And Muppets (note the metronome going wild!):
An animated score:
The Piano Guys combined Ode to Joy with Joy to the World for a new Christmas arrangement:
As the European Anthem:
And, finally Joyful, Joyful we Adore Thee by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Do a search on youtube – lots and lots of people have played this famous Beethoven melody.
Happy Birthday is a song that I like to have each of my students learn at various levels appropriate to their level. When a friend or family member has a birthday, it’s great to be able to sit down and play.
It’s only been fairly recently that piano students could have this music in their books.
“Happy Birthday to You”, more commonly known as simply “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
The melody, or part you sing, of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which has traditionally been attributed to American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, although the claim that the sisters composed the tune is disputed.
Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters used “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing. The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.
“Happy Birthday” in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. Find the melody!
Lots of legal stuff below which you can skip…
None of the early appearances of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered a copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R. R. Forman. In 1988, Warner/Chappell Music purchased the company owning the copyright for US$25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at US$5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claimed that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to US$700. By one estimate, the song is the highest-earning single song in history, with estimated earnings since its creation of US$50 million.In the European Union, the copyright for the song expired on January 1, 2017.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.”
In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
Legal stuff is finished and people can now sing and play “Happy Birthday to You” whenever and wherever they want.
One of my all-time versions of Happy Birthday, in duet form – and I have the music if you want to tackle it.