I was recently asked the question: If you could go back in time, which songs would you play to Mozart and Beethoven? I answered it shortly on Quora, but I wanted to engage the question more deeply for my own amusement.
Schoenberg looked up to Beethoven, and only after realizing that he could never be as great as Beethoven did he start writing terrible “music.” I would be fascinated to see Beethoven and Mozart’s reactions to the flirtation with atonality in this beautiful sextet.
Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings
I think the beauty of this piece is timeless. I think they would both appreciate this. It would warm their hearts to know that all music did not devolve into Michael Jackson in the 20th century.
Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten
I think Arvo Pärt is the master of dissonant beauty. I believe both these masters would appreciate him.
John Adams’s Phrygian Gates
John Adams does minimalism right. I would be very interested to see both of these expert pianists engage with this piece. It would present no challenge to either one skill wise, but I do believe they would appreciate the simple beauty of it.
Anything by John Cage
Classical/Vocal (pieces written in the Classical/Romantic/etc. spirit that predominately feature vocalists):
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Bogoroditse Devo
I think both those fellows would greatly appreciate Rachmaninoff’s choral work. I think Mozart especially would’ve liked this.
Denny Elfman’s Serenada Schizophrana“I Forget”
Once again, I think the absolute awesomeness of Mozart and Beethoven could only grow with the incorporation of more atonality and intricate syncopation. Plus, I think Mozart would dig the Latin feel of this. I’m not sure if Ludwig would be a big fan, I can imagine him doing a fair bit of mocking, which would also be entertaining.
Martin Lauridsen’s “O Nata Lux”
If this doesn’t give you goosebumps, you probably don’t have a soul.
Assorted Modern/Pop Music:
I would feel obligated to share the evolution of popular music with them, even though I know they would be greatly disappointed. I would have to play all sorts of people, but I’ll only share a couple that I think deserve being shared for their musical contribution.
Miles Davis and John Coltrane “Kind of Blue”
I’m going to assume that these old German fellows would forgo any prejudice and appreciate these masters of jazz. Don’t even try to argue with me on that, because I will be unreasonable.
Bill Monroe “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
Would they like Bill Monroe? Probably not. Do I feel obligated to share with them the father of bluegrass? Yep.
The Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
I have to introduce them to the Beatles. I also have to introduce them to the electric guitar, and this song has Clapton playing electric. They probably won’t like it, but I’ll at least be entertained.
So, that’s my little stroll down Music History with Mozart and Beethoven. Any objections? Any songs you would add?
Until later friends…