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Strange Arrangements: Beethoven With A Salsa Beat

Chris Sharron
'A Fifth of Beethoven' chrissharron.com
Chris Sharron

This salsa-fied Beethoven video has been making the rounds lately — a very spicy arrangement of the opening movement of the Fifth Symphony.

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But Sverre Indris Joner and company certainly aren't the first to put an uncommon twist (an infectious mix of mambo and son rhythms) on Beethoven's famous symphony, or the classical canon in general for that matter.

Back in 1837, Franz Liszt got a hold of the 5th symphony and scaled it down for solo piano. Fast forward about 100 years and you've got a swinging jazz version of the symphony by singer Dolly Dawn and her Dawn Patrol orchestra. And who could forget Beethoven in a lime green leisure suite — Walter Murphy's disco edition, called "A Fifth of Beethoven," was a number one single in 1976.

And Beethoven is just the beginning. From "Bach on Wood" (a marimba, that is) and Vivaldi on the Japanese Koto, to Schubert on a wood-cutting saw and Wagner on power tools, dozens of classical composers have been subjected to strange arrangements.

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Below are a couple more interesting transformations. Have your own favorite wacky take on classical music? Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Strange Arrangements: Beethoven With A Salsa Beat

Margaret Leng Tan

Strange Arrangements: Beethoven With A Salsa Beat

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Beethoven: 'Moonlight Sonata'

  • Song: Sonata in C-Sharp Minor ("Moonlight"), Op. 27, No. 2
  • from The Art of the Toy Piano
  • by Margaret Leng Tan

This is a case of Beethoven defanged. The experimental pianist Margaret Leng Tan takes the "Moonlight Sonata" down a notch by performing it on a toy piano. Yet some of the mystery still remains, as if Beethoven's sonata were coming from a ramshackle music box on it last legs.

Tomita's Greatest Hits

Golliwog's Ca

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Debussy: 'Golliwog's Cakewalk'

  • Song: Golliwog's Ca
  • from Tomita's Greatest Hits CD
  • by Tomita

This is just off-the-charts goofy. I know, the music is part of Debussy's "Children's Corner Suite," and we should give Tomita a pass, but all the sonic curlicues and frog-like blips are enough to curdle your chocolate milk.

Buy Featured Music

Song
Tomita's Greatest Hits CD
Album
Tomita's Greatest Hits CD
Artist
Tomita
Label
RCA Records
Released
1980

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Betty Carter

My Reverie

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Debussy: Reverie

  • Song: My Reverie
  • from I Can't Help It
  • by Betty Carter

In this recording (now sadly out of print), Claude Debussy's "Reverie," a solo piano piece from 1890, gets a sweeping, almost unrecognizable retooling by the great jazz singer. I especially love the syncopated rhythms, and Betty's deep, rich lower register.

Buy Featured Music

Song
I Can't Help It
Album
I Can't Help It
Artist
Betty Carter
Label
GRP Records
Released
1961

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?