Top Five Terrible Puns in Classical Music

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Puns. They’re irresistible to headline writers and pops concert producers, but their usage usually evokes groans rather than giggles. The classical music lexicon is rich with names (Handel, Haydn, and Bach) and terms (beat, treble, and baroque) that lend themselves to witty or not so witty wordplay. We’ve made our Top Five Liszt – er, list – of puns. Please add your own zingers in the comments section.

1. “If it’s not baroque don’t fix it”

We’re not sure who said this first, but the enchanted Cogsworth immortalized this in Disney’s "Beauty and the Beast." We can see Lumiere rolling his eyes at his corny friend’s attempt at a joke.

2. “Too Hot to Handel"

The interchangeability of Handel with handle has launched thousands of puns, and this one was used for the title of Marin Alsop’s Jazz-Messiah, as description for a steamy production of the composer’s Acis and Galatea, an exercise program to classical favorites, and the writing on a potholder.

3. "Bach to Basics”

Perhaps the only composer who compares to Handel with his vast number of puns is Bach. This phrase has been alternatively used for concerts, a program for at-risk students, a comedy routine, and even we fell into its trap.

4. "Messiaen Around”

Yes, Messiaen sounds a bit like messing, but that doesn’t mean that invoking the 20th century composer’s name will give more depth to musical compositions.

5. "Chopin Liszt"

This truly awful pun graces the tops of several notepads. We hope that it never appear anywhere else.


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Comments [63]

Israel A Cohen from Jacksonville, FL

Old Moze, the Israeli tour guide, was well-past retirement age but he continued to take tourists to locations that were not too hard to get to. His customers always enjoyed these tours. You could ask any of them and they would literally sing his praises:

Moze's tour ya sure oughtta see
G. .\ D.. / G../ C. \ B... \ A........ \ G
(where \ means the next note is lower and / means it is higher)

Best regards,

Nov. 30 2016 09:21 PM
Marcelo from Boston

Bach: Hey Mozart, why are you Haydn from the sun?
Mozart: It's too hot to Handel.

Aug. 05 2016 12:46 PM
Phil Barnett from Riverdale

My two favorite composers are both coincidentally baseball players, Pitcherturian and Khachaturian.

Apr. 26 2016 09:49 AM
Phil Barnett from Riverdale

How do you Telemann that his musical instrument is baroquen?

Sep. 30 2015 12:08 PM
Jess Paulson from Australia, VIC

Guys, when commenting with musical puns; just a note, some of these jokes fall a little flat, the key to this is to make them sound all natural, so only the sharp people get it. I mean, play it low key, there’s no need to jazz it up TOO much. Some people can’t keep up with the tempo of all these jokes, after all music jokes aren’t everyone’s forte. Harping on and on about it can get people frustrated. Only use the fifth of all the jokes you can come up with, at all times. :)

Aug. 09 2014 10:14 AM
Michael Dennis from Cincinnati, OH

Why did Johann Sebastian Bach have so many children?

His organ didn't have any stops on it.

Apr. 14 2014 03:43 PM
Michael Dennis from Cincinnati, OH

Got my Chopin Liszt Bach in a Minuet.

Apr. 14 2014 03:16 PM

Thanks for the plug! :)
-Crabfeather Duo ("Messiaen' Around")

May. 25 2013 11:59 PM
Nick Jackson from Denver

Jefferson and others composed the Declaration of Independence, but John Hancock provided the key signature.

Feb. 15 2013 03:26 PM
Paul Murphy from Cape Cod

I thought it was; Why couldn't Mozart find his teacher? Because he was Hadyn

Feb. 11 2013 01:31 PM
Tilo from NYC

It was the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony being performed in Central Park on a mild spring evening. Two trumpet players decided to leave early because in the finale they wouldn't be missed. Three bass players decided to visit a nearby bar before having to return to the orchestra to play their part. A mild breeze stirred, threatening to blow away part of the score under the conductor's baton. He swiftly tied it with a silk ribbon that he carried for this occasion. The bass players returned having imbibed too much.
In summary, it was the bottom of the ninth, two men were out, the bassists were loaded, and the score was tied.

Feb. 10 2013 11:00 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

@Andrew B from Lower Merion, PA. On the contrary - your pun was a grave undertaking and deep, not a letdown as others may think!

Feb. 10 2013 03:27 PM
daniel from mexico city

Reminds me of an old Flintstones episode with a fine piece by Rockmaninoff

Feb. 10 2013 02:56 PM
Andrew B. from Lower Merion, PA

What are Beethoven and his contemporaries doing as we listen to their music in the 21st century?


Hope that's not too morbid for you folks.

Feb. 10 2013 02:08 PM

{{channeling Arte Johnson}}
Verdi-verdi interrrr-esting -- but punny!

Feb. 10 2013 02:30 AM
Claire from NJ

Bach to Bach funny!

Feb. 10 2013 01:43 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

It has been announced that The Fulton Street Fish Market will sponsor the upcoming production of Gershwin's Porgy & Bass.

Feb. 09 2013 10:07 PM
Phil B. from Riverdale

Question: What do you shout out just before you through a piano down a mineshaft?
Answer: C Sharp or B Flat Minor.

Feb. 09 2013 07:05 PM
Phil B. from Riverdale

Question: What do you get when you drop a piano out of an airplane over an air force base?
Answer: A flat major.

Feb. 09 2013 06:59 PM

As one of the "operavores", never can "Aida" little too much of a good thing!
(also enjoying the real "Lulu"(s) posted here,too!)

Feb. 09 2013 05:44 PM
Mark from Midtown Manhattan

One that I made up: No matter how Boris Godunov is performed, it's always Godunov.

Feb. 09 2013 02:08 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

@Phil B. from Riverdale - Guess your fish pun was no fluke and said just for the halibut? Before I tackle another one and begin to flounder, I hope others won't follow and swallow these hook, line, and sinker. Remember, like old fish and two-thirds of a pun - P U ! Carp Diem!

Feb. 09 2013 11:23 AM
Phil B. from Riverdale

The fisherman's piano plays good scales and has a built in electronic piano tuna.

Feb. 09 2013 10:33 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

@Nick Jackson from Denver - no doubt a dynamic fellow and a lieder at staff meetings, must try to compose himself while sticking to the manuscript.

Feb. 08 2013 08:28 PM

take it Bach-I can't Handel it!

Feb. 08 2013 07:10 PM

the soul of my life is un-RAVELing

Feb. 08 2013 07:07 PM
Henry from Seattle

Decades ago there was a Classics professor on the faculty at Gettysburg College who had a reputation for being quite a punster. One evening during an orchestra concert the lights suddenly went out. The orchestra ground to a halt, and in the confused silence that followed, the professor's voice boomed out: "How delightful, but disconcerting!"

Feb. 08 2013 06:11 PM
Ron Owens/ Humor Resources from Mountain Lakes, NJ

If WQXR ever started a softball team, they might be called "Bach's Office Hits."

Feb. 08 2013 12:27 PM
NP from New York

Since as I write this you're playing Rachmaninoff, I think it's worth nothing that I've heard classical musicians refer to his Fifth Piano Concerto as the Rocky 5.

Feb. 08 2013 12:25 PM
Steve from White Plains

Then there's this bit I saw on facebook. Someone photoshopped Arnold Swarzenegger's face onto a portrait of J.S. Bach; the caption, of course from one of th "Terminator" movies; "I'll be Bach". Too, too droll.....

Feb. 08 2013 11:52 AM
Jim Schaeffer

Faust or slow, I can play it any way you like!

Feb. 08 2013 11:47 AM
Nick Jackson from Denver

Quiz: Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, but John Hancock provided the (blank) (blank).

Feb. 08 2013 11:26 AM
Nick Jackson from Denver

Though Bumblus called time, Barry, Phil and Becky were andante(d). They struck three sforzato runs in the fifth to tie the score!

Feb. 08 2013 10:24 AM

IMO the best ever was penned right here..." Obey Thoven".

Feb. 08 2013 10:16 AM
Becky from Chatham, NJ

Organists are great! (And swell, and positif!)

Feb. 08 2013 09:41 AM
Phil B. from Riverdale

The music of Irving is Fine for me.

Feb. 08 2013 09:12 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

@BUMBLUS from NYC - your comment makes me realize the gigue is up and even if you posted from DC, I would have been al fine with that.

Feb. 08 2013 06:04 AM
Bumblus from NYC

10,000 comedians out of work and you guys are auditioning in the comments section...

Feb. 08 2013 01:50 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

The 49er's loss was a major set Bach and while they should have gone for baroque and made some forward movement, could not Handel the pressure of the opposing team's fans shouting "bourree for our side!"

Feb. 07 2013 11:17 PM
Peter Ferdico from College Point

Where there's smoke, there's Falla!

Feb. 07 2013 09:45 PM
Phil B. from Riverdale

Meanwhile Bach at the choral.

Feb. 07 2013 08:46 PM
Phil B. from Riverdale

My local music store has good Delius on CDs, especially CDs on French music, selling them Faure dollar a piece.

Feb. 07 2013 08:39 PM
GR from California

Ligeti split

Feb. 07 2013 06:03 PM
Morty from NJ

I'd rather just sit home and listen to Rap City in Blue

Feb. 07 2013 04:05 PM
Susan from Demarest, NJ

I've always been taught to "go for baroque".

Feb. 07 2013 12:54 PM
Annette from North Bergen, NJ

Went Chopin. Be Bach in a Minuet.

Feb. 07 2013 12:34 PM
TJ Harvey from Huntington, NY

This may seem Kurt, but some of these puns are really Weill.

Feb. 07 2013 11:50 AM

My staff took note of all these.

Feb. 07 2013 11:10 AM
Brooke Collins from Baltimore Ravens

Club can't Handel me.,d.dmg

Feb. 07 2013 11:09 AM
Anne from NYC

The choral singer's motto: "I can Handel the Messiah"

Feb. 07 2013 10:58 AM
M. Jacob from Brooklyn

who's Haydn in there?!!

Feb. 07 2013 10:24 AM

Enough with the kid stuff! Time to build some muscle!
Switch from CheeriOs to BurlyOs

Feb. 06 2013 10:54 PM

You don't know your brass from your oboe.

Feb. 06 2013 10:42 PM
brutus from Berkeley, NJ

Rachmanin Na Na.

Feb. 06 2013 10:34 PM

I can't get no Satiesfaction

Feb. 06 2013 10:31 PM

Keep your Wurms happy in a Beethoven

Feb. 06 2013 10:28 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

The electrician who was a part-time musician - a semi-conductor.

Feb. 06 2013 09:03 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

Be like Napoleon and take your 'bone apart.

Feb. 06 2013 08:55 PM
Andrew B from Lower Merion, PA

What's the joke about why Beethoven couldn't find his teacher?

And, in these days when the Second Amendment is all over the news, maybe we could stop the problem by stopping the violins.

Feb. 06 2013 08:52 PM

Saw this great T shirt once: Bach soon (Offenbach sooner)

Feb. 06 2013 07:41 PM
TJ Harvey from Huntington, NY

Aw come on, Milton. You l'Arlesienne around.

Feb. 06 2013 06:30 PM
Milton Cohen from Richardson, TX

I'd leave a pun, but I'm too Bizet.

Feb. 06 2013 05:38 PM
TJ Harvey from Huntington, NY

I de Falla to come up with a better one than this.

Feb. 06 2013 05:03 PM

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