Monday, October 20, 2008

***Beethoven's Wig***

"Beethoven's wig / Is very big..." So began Richard Perlmutter's series of fun-filled classical music explorations back in 2002. This year's Beethoven's Wig 4: Dance Along Symphonies is all about dances, from waltzes to polkas, from two-steps to habaneras. Even if kids have never heard a graduation march or the theme to Masterpiece Theater, they'll dig the music and parents will get a giggle out of lyrics like "I want my diploma / I want it right now," and "People upstairs, downstairs, all around the house / They never miss tuning in, it's de rigueur."

One of the cool things about Perlmutter's projects is that he goes all out musically: world-class orchestras, singers, ensembles, and musicians from around the globe contribute music to Dance Along Symphonies. So, while Perlmutter is singing goofy lines like "Be a good doggie good doggie now Rover," you still get to experience the lilting melodies of Johann Strauss, Jr.'s "Annen Polka," as performed by a professional orchestra.

A few times on the album Perlmutter's lyrics perfectly match the music being played. During "Oh No!" you can see the steam engine bearing down on the poor damsel tied to the train tracks in a grainy silent film as Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" plays, and Georges Bizet's "Habanera" from Carmen provides the perfect tip toe music during Perlmutter's "Midnight Snack."

And, don't worry, Dance Along Symphonies isn't a complete sillyfest. Instrumental versions of all 12 songs are included so that kids and their families can enjoy the sheer beauty of Emile Waldteufel's "Les Patineurs" and Johann Sebastian Bach's "Minuet in G," and the joyful power of John Philip Sousa's "The Washington Post" (played by every single marching band that has ever existed) and Julius Fucik's "Entry of the Gladiators" (the tune that introduces the clowns at a circus).

This is a fun CD to play loudly and sing along with. "Forever we're marching, marching, marching!"

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