Beethoven's nine symphonies in three minutes



The Cambridge Buskers DG Eloquence 482 1785 (4 CDs)/5 stars

Remember the Cambridge Buskers?

Formed by Michael Copley and Dag Ingram, the duo met while they were students at Cambridge University and became a worldwide performing sensation between the late 1970s and 1980s, decades before the age of YouTube.

Their brand of “reduced classics” – abridged but not dumbed down arrangements of popular classical tunes – was accomplished on an assortment of blown instruments (recorders, flutes, crumhorns, whistles, among others) by Copley (the dorky-looking one), accompanied on accordion by Ingram (the good-looking one).

This four-disc collection crams in five albums worth of music, including favourites heard during their Victoria Concert Hall concert at the 1988 Singapore Arts Festival.

Who could forget the ingenuity of fitting Beethoven’s nine symphonies in a three-minute romp or J.S. Bach’s Six Brandenburg Concertos in three movements, including an in-joke involving the second movement of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3.

The farce of Pachelbel’s Cannon (not a spelling mistake) wears thin after two listens, while the 32 seconds that make up the fourth movement of the Fourth Symphony of Mahler (known for his very long symphonies) is a parody on the gift of brevity or lack of.

There are 131 tracks (some 4 hours 55 minutes) in total, spanning the baroque to the Beatles, which make for a fun “guess that tune” game for children and adults alike.

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