Old Meets New: in which Beethoven and OneRepublic get acquainted

I wasn’t the first to jump on The Piano Guys band wagon, but I’m so glad I did. Don’t let their name fool you—it’s actually a piano guy and a cello guy (and behind-the-scenes guys). They have done some fine things with combining older and newer music into something unique and refreshing. In some ways, that idea is what inspired the naming of this blog. I think that what they are doing will entice a younger audience back to an interest in art music. That, combined with nice visuals and professional videography, gives them a strong presence on YouTube. (Why aren’t these the sorts of videos that go viral?)

So here is one of their recent uploads, which combines elements from OneRepublic‘s song Secrets with references to Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 5. The YouTube blurb doesn’t mention this, but near the beginning I also hear distinctive connections to the “Prelude” from J. S. Bach‘s Cello Suite No. 1. (There’s also a vocal version of this mash-up.)

The Piano Guys have done other interesting mash-ups of old and new music. They combined Somewhere Over the Rainbow with the Shaker tune Simple Gifts; Adele’s Rollin in the Deep with Holst’s “Jupiter” from The Planets; and used elements inspired by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in a new piece, played on electric cello.

Incidentally, they’ve also put out a re-imagined version of that same “Prelude” from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1—except the cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, clones himself seven times. And here’s the kicker—Nelson combines the “Prelude” with bits of Charles Gounod‘s famous Ave Maria. That Ave Maria was Gounod’s own version of old-meets-new because he composed it to be sung over a different “Prelude” by J. S. Bach, the one in C major from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I.

Did you follow that? Bach composes the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello most likely between 1717–1723; he also composes Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier in 1722. Gounod takes the C major Prelude from Well-Tempered Clavier and writes a melody over the top 137 years later in 1859. Then Steven Sharp Nelson takes Bach’s Cello prelude from 1720-ish and Gounod’s melody from 1859, and combines them with his own ideas in June 2011—152 years after Gounod and at least 288 years after Bach. Talk about using the “old world for the new”!


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