Friday, May 18, 2012: Just for Fun

Opus OsmJust for Fun: If Symphonies Had New Titles

The other day we were browsing the stacks of The Municipal Library of Prague – our favorite literary worthy cause – and we noticed that book titles today are really interesting. Much more interesting than many symphony titles.

Don’t you think the general public might be more curious about classical music if a concert piece had a title like the novel called This Thing of Darkness?

Instead, most concerts feature symphonies with titles something like Symphony No 3 in D Minor – KV 327. We’ve never seen a book called Book No 7, the One Two Novels After Book No 6, Depending on the Numbering System.

Those book publishers know a thing or two about promoting their works.

Other inviting library book titles we like for good symphony titles are 100 Shades of White; The Insult; The Bounce; The Nudist Colony; and Headed for the Blues.

Or how about movie titles? What would a symphony called Psycho or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sound like? Doesn’t an image immediately pop into your mind?

Or even pop music titles – something as ancient as Heartbreak Hotel puts that genre far ahead of Sonata for Violin in the titles game.

It is true that some symphonies also have names: The English; The Emperor. But surely we can do better than that.

It’s also true that contemporary composers are more likely to include descriptive titles. Blue – Innocent and Fragile surely has piqued the interest of many Prague concert-goers. But at a Prague Spring concert May 16 we have to admit Vít Zouhar let us down a little bit in the end, with the title Days for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Harpsichord – although the actual composition was stunning.

We think it’s about time we rename some of the older works for a younger, modern, more connected audience.

For starters, we could rename Bolero something like I Will Not Scratch that Mosquito Bite. And old standards by Beethoven certainly deserve new life. His Symphony No. 5 is just begging for an updated title, maybe Wait – Did I Turn the Oven Off?

There are lots of works that would benefit with a rename like I Did Not – You Did So. Mozart’s Rondo from Piano Sonata No 16 in C Major (click below) comes to mind, to name just one.

What do you think? Can you suggest some more modern and interesting names for symphonies?

The field is wide open. — oo

– Mary Matz

Below: A YouTube clip from Mozart’s I Did Not — You Did So (I’m Going to Tell Mom), formerly known as Piano Sonata No 16 in C Major, Rondo

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