Classical music not always a serious affair

Posted on: April 2, 2010

An un-bylined story Thursday (4/1) on National Public Radio’s website states, “It’s that time of year again, when practical jokers have a field day. Good-humored horseplay seems prevalent in cultures everywhere, even—according to Morning Edition commentator Miles Hoffman—within the hallowed halls of classical music. ‘People think classical music is supposed to be taken terribly, terribly seriously, but in fact there has been quite a lot of funny classical music over the years. Musical jokes that make you smile, or laugh out loud,’ Hoffman says. … Mozart was well-known as a practical joker, and so it’s no surprise that he wrote an entire multi-movement piece titled, simply, A Musical Joke. … Joseph Haydn, too, was known for his sense of humor. Like the ‘Farewell’ Symphony he wrote, where one by one the musicians walk out at the end. His String Quartet No. 30, from 1781, is nicknamed ‘The Joke,’ and it’s easy to tell why. At the very end of the quartet, just when you expect the music to end, it suddenly starts up again; then abrupt silence, another few bars, then more silence—leaving the listener wondering if it will ever finally stop. It’s almost a musical equivalent of tickling.”

Posted April 2, 2010