Richard Perlmutter,
Beethoven's Wig:
Sing Along Symphonies

(Rounder Kids, 2002)

Beethoven's wig was really big. And quite expensive. And rather unkempt to the point of requiring mowing. OK, so that last part might have been stretching the truth, but it does add an interesting angle from which to ponder one of the bigwigs of classical music.

Richard Perlmutter's Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Symphonies is chock-full of intriguing trivia and entertaining songs about 10 composers and some of their masterpieces. The "can't get that song out of my head" lyrics also introduce children to the classics in a non-threatening -- and I'll admit it -- really fun manner.

The song about Beethoven's headgear aligns perfectly with the famous snippet of his 5th Symphony. We learn that Franz Liszt was a really speedy pianist to the tune of his Hungarian Rhapsody #2. You get the idea: A famous piece of music is reborn with clever words that include a hook based either on the composer's name or something relevant about the composition. Haydn's Surprise Symphony is about ... well, let's just say, it's rather surprising. And Offenbach's Can Can puns delightfully with "Oui, we can Can Can!"

Several of the songs sail beyond the expected to reflect the musical style: Delibes' Pizzicato from Sylvia becomes a plea for saving water called "Drip, Drip, Drip" while Purcell's Trumpet Tune realizes its royal fanfare destiny by actually naming all of the "Kings and Queens of England." Perhaps the most fascinating of the tracks is the final song merging Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture with that rock 'n' roll classic "Leader of the Pack."

In addition to conceiving the concept and writing the lyrics, Perlmutter sings leads on all of the songs. He has a quirky delivery that should appeal to children, but he's surrounded himself with some wonderful vocal talent, especially Elin Carlson who implores Mozart not to play his violin at night in a lovely duet and harmoniously helps to recreate Schumann family life to the strains of "The Merry Peasant."

Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Symphonies also considers young attention spans. The 11 songs play for a mere 17 minutes. Fortunately, they stand up to repeated playing; however, if you tire of the words, there are orchestral versions of all 11 tracks as well, provided by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the British Union Rias Orchestra and several high calliber ensembles. My son enjoyed switching between vocal and instrumental versionsof the same piece.

Educational and delightful, Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Symphonies is a fabulous addition to any children's collection. But, beware! You may not be able to hear certain symphonies without singing along!

[ by Julie Bowerman ]
Rambles: 11 October 2002

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