All The Right Notes - Not Necessarily In The Right Order

Rainer Hersch profiles the great humorists in classical music.


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The Danish comedian's musicianship and wit endeared him to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

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whose symphonic caricatures remain among the funniest recordings ever produced.

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Featured performers include Anna Russell, Peter Schickele, Spike Jones, and Andre Previn with Morecambe and Wise.

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Rainer meets and talks to American satirist Peter Schickele about his unique brand of classical music humour.

As well as being an internationally recognised composer, Schickele's alter ego - a professor of musicology - has been unearthing and performing the lost works of one PDQ Bach for over 40 years.

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Rainer looks at the life and work of Anna Russell.

Now 95 years old, she is famous for her analytical send up of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

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Rainer recounts the story of The Comedian Harmonists, the German comedy singing sensation of the 1920s and 30s.

An elegant sextet, five vocalists and a pianist all dressed in tails, the Comedian Harmonists had a repertoire that encompassed many vocal styles, ranging from folk songs to sentimental hits accompanied by banter and silliness on stage.

A national phenomenon in their day, The Harmonists were best known for their close harmony delivered with humour and style.

Then Hitler came to power and the three Jewish members were banned.

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Rainer profiles the life and work of American big band musical comedian Spike Jones - one of the biggest stars of the 1940s and '50s whose career was launched in 1941 with a song that mocked Adolf Hitler - Der Furher's Face.

With his band The City Slickers, Spike was never averse to wearing wigs, playing toilet seats, or tuning gunshots to C-sharp.

He mixed the high and the lowbrow, the serious and the comic, instrumental virtuosity and sonic hi-jinks into a blend that startled and delighted audiences in a much more innocent time.

Rainer also talks to Spike Jones Jr about the life and work of his father.