Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Taking the Fifth

Beethoven's 5th symphony in C minor is such a workhorse (or warhorse) that it has become a symbol of Western concert music and it has been been drafted into many uses. Most often it appears musically as a straw man with a sign hanging from it's neck that reads, "Dead White European Music."

But occasionally the genius of the composer calls forth some genius from the adapter. Two treatments come to mind. First is Peter Schickele's "New Horizons in Music Appreciation: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony" to this: Sid Ceasar and Nanette Fabray having an argument to the Fifth Symphony's first movement.

Two points that strike me: They used the entire first movement of nearly six minutes. I don't think a television programmer today would let a skit develop that long. Though the movements seem to be repetitive, they develop the story with the music and let the music dictate the pace of the skit. This would be very daring whenever it was done.

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