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Beethoven's Wig

The Maestro

ROLL OVER, BEETHOVEN!

November 08, 2003

ROLL OVER BEETHOVEN
Beethoven's wig is very big
Beethoven's wig is long and curly and it's white
Beethoven takes his wig off when he sleeps at night
Because it's big
It's very big...


In case you didn't recognize it, that's the beginning of "Beethoven's Wig." Set to the great composer's Fifth Symphony, it won a Grammy nomination for Richard Perlmutter, who wrote the nutty words for it.

Hear Perlmutter sing it tomorrow - along with other silly spins on Bach, Liszt, Mozart and Tchaikovsky - at the Jewish Museum.

And yes, he says, Beethoven really did wear a wig. For a while.

"When he first moved to Vienna to try and make it big as a composer, the style then was to wear wigs," Perlmutter says. "So he brought a wig and the whole traditional costume he was supposed to have, because he thought that he had to fit in."

But Beethoven was a rebel - "a kind of a punk rock rebel," he adds.

"He realized he didn't want to fit in and abandoned the wig, and sort of single-handedly changed fashion styles."

Perlmutter went through his own changes. As a kid in New Jersey, he built himself a guitar out of cardboard and rubber bands before his parents bought him the real thing.

He studied classical guitar, played rock in high school and wrote country songs all through college.

He even moved to Nashville, where, he admits, "I was a failure after three months."

He started writing jingles for ads when he moved to Los Angeles. But the 54-year-old father of three continued to love classical music - and hopes his "Beethoven's Wig" will bring it to new audiences.

At tomorrow's shows, he'll encourage families to sing and dance along, challenge them to trivia contests and basically just have fun with the classics.

What would Beethoven think?

"I think he'd get a kick out of it," says Perlmutter. "He wasn't stuffy - and classical music was not made to be museum pieces."

"Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Symphonies," with Richard Perlmutter, at the Jewish Museum, Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street; tomorrow, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets, $10. Call (212) 423-3337.

by Billy Heller, New York Post

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updated: 4 years ago