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Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Ill Wind.
Today I want to introduce you to a wonderful short piece of classical music ... and then "ruin" it for you.

Among Mozart's most delightful melodies -- and here I'll pause to let you ponder the magnitude of that claim -- is the third movement Rondo of his Horn Concerto in E-flat major, K. 495, written when he was 30 years old.

Here it is, in what many believe is its finest recording ever: A performance by Dennis Brain (at age 32, only four years before his death) with Herbert von Karajan and the Philharmonia Orchestra. It's from 1953, and it's in mono, but the performance is worth it. (I found some concert videos where you could also watch it being played by others, but the performances just aren't as good.) It's only about three-and-a-half minutes long, so sit back and enjoy.

Lovely, isn't it? All of Mozart's horn concertos are good, but this piece is just so delightfully catchy. Sometimes it gets stuck in my head. I don't mind.

Many years ago -- back when Detroit had a full-time classical music radio station -- I heard a recording of two British performers named Flanders and Swann singing a humorous song set to this melody. I was never able to identify what it was called, so I couldn't find the recording. But I never forgot it.

"Did you try Google?" I hear you saying. Like I said, this was many years ago. As in pre-Google. You know, the Pleistocene era.

Anyway, while listening to a recording of the original Mozart piece today, it occurred to me that, indeed, I had never used Google to look for their comedic version. So on a whim I typed what I thought was a phrase from the chorus into it. It wasn't correct, but it was close enough.

And so now, from a gentler era of comedy, I bring you Flanders and Swann performing Ill Wind in their final stage performance (for U.S. television) in April 1967. I've pasted the lyrics below to make it easier to follow. Thanks to the YouTube poster I copied them from.

As a commenter on the YouTube page wrote: "Can never listen to the Rondo without recalling this whimsical performance. I'm a horn is very hard to play the horn while laughing." Given his well-documented sense of humor, I think Mozart would approve.

Note: This will start on cue at 23:48. Let it play until 28:56 ... and at the end you'll hear how the Dennis Brain recording above figures in! Or let it play a little longer and enjoy "Have Some Medeira, M'Dear" (which I first heard performed by Tony Randall on the Tonight Show years later) ... and then "A Song of Patriotic Prejudice" (Calculated to offend practically everybody, this song, Flanders observes).

Ill Wind

I once had a whim and I had to obey it,
To buy a French horn in a second-hand shop.
I polished it up and I started to play it,
In spite of the neighbours who begged me to stop.

To sound my horn,

I had to develop my embouchure.
I found my horn,
Was a bit of a devil to play.
So artfully wound,
To give you a sound,
A beautiful sound,
So rich and round.
Oh the hours I had to spend,
Before I mastered it in the end.

But that was yesterday.

And just today,
I looked in the usual place.
There was the case,
But the horn itself was missing!

Oh where can it have gone?

Haven't you, hasn't anyone seen my horn?
Oh where can it have gone?
What a blow, now I know,
I'm unable to play my Allegro.
Who swiped my horn?
I bet you a quid somebody did.

Knowing I found a concerto,
And wanted to play it,
Afraid of my talent at playing the horn.
For early today to my utter dismay,
It had vanished away like the dew in the morn.

I've lost that horn!

I know I was using it yesterday.
I've lost that horn, lost that horn,
Found that horn gone.
There's not much hope of getting it back,
Though I'd willingly pay a reward.

I know some hearty folk,

Whose party joke's pretending to hunt with the Quorn.
Gone away, gone away.
Was it one of them took it away?
Will you kindly return that horn?
Oh where is the devil who pinched my horn?
I shall tell the police!
I want that French horn back.

I miss its music more and more and more.

Without that horn I'm feeling sad and so forlorn.

I found a concerto and wanted to play it,

Displaying my talent at playing the horn.
But early today to my utter dismay,
It had totally vanished away.

I'd practised the horn and I wanted to play it,

But somebody took it away!
I practised the horn and was longing to play it,
But somebody took it away!

My neighbour's asleep in his bed,

I'll soon make him wish he were dead,
I'll take up the tuba instead - WAA WAA!

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