Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Somewhere between Beethoven and Strauss

So I turned on classical radio yesterday, something I don't do all that often, and found myself in the middle of a wacky piano concerto thing. At first it seemed to be in a Schumann/Brahms style, but I soon realized it was a bit later than either of them stylistically. Eventually, I decided it must be the Burleske of Richard Strauss - a piece I've known of for years, but have never gotten to know. However, as I was settling on "Strauss; in the Burleske; with the lead pipe," the mostly lively piece settled into a slow-ish, nostalgic bit and suddenly I wondered if I'd wandered into some sort of West Side Story piano concerto (it's been done for violin) as an unmistakable phrase from "Somewhere" floated by.

But, it did turn out to be Strauss, and as I was driving along, it occurred to me that Beethoven had already supplied the first phrase of "Somewhere" in the slow movement of the "Emperor" Concerto. (That's a pretty commonly made observation.) I knew then it was my job to go home and stitch the Beethoven and Strauss together into a little Bernstein. I wasn't surprised to find that others have also cited the "Somewhere" connection in the Strauss, most notably in this YouTube video, which cleverly pairs Glenn Gould's discussion of the Strauss with Barbra Streisand's rendition of the Bernstein. ("Clever" because Gould was a big fan of Streisand.) Still, I wanted a real mashup.

Because I was so eager to get right to it, I went straight to the second half of the Burleske, found the tune, and discovered that the Beethoven and Strauss components were a full tritone apart. Unfazed, I found that by transposing Beethoven down a m3 and Strauss up a m3, I could get them to match without the audio sounding too muddled from the pitch-shifting. Only as I began writing this post did it occur to me that maybe I should listen to the whole Burleske to see when and how else the tune is used. Well, wouldn't you know, the tune appears early on IN THE SAME KEY AS THE BEETHOVEN! (Technically the Beethoven's in B Major and the Strauss is in G-sharp Minor, but same key signature and, most importantly, same notes in the tune.) Quite a "coincidence," Mr. Bernstein! So, if I'd just done my research first, I would've saved some time.

Anyway, here's what they sound like together:

Here's what the Strauss tune sounds like in broader context.

You can listen to the complete Burleske here and here.

And here's how my first mashup came out - the one where I had to transpose the two tunes. I like it because the cellos play along with this second statement of the Strauss tune. So beautiful.


willcwhite said...

INTERESTING - This makes me love Lenny, Beethoven, Strauss, West Side Story, and the whole world just a little more.

Brandt Schneider said...

I'm very impressed.

BYork said...

VERY Cool! Good stuff...

Luke Dahn said...

Fun stuff! It reminds me of the Star Wars theme found in Nielsen's Fifth Symphony.