Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Great Dane Pt II




In 1967, the New York Times called Victor Borge the funniest man in the world, and quite obviously many of his fans agree.  In a career that stretched over 7 decades, Borge's combination of talent and wit have charmed audiences around the world.  


He was, of course, a wonderful pianist - although he often mocked his own abilities. 


And now, in honour of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven's death, I would like to play "Clear the Saloon", er, "Clair de Lune", by Debussy. I don't play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.

I only know two pieces, one is 'Clair de Lune', the other one isn't.




Borge's trademarks included repeatedly announcing his  intention to play a piece, and continually becoming distracted  . . . or starting to play a piece of classical music only to have it gradually morph into a pop or jazz tune.



Borge, who gained fame as a radio performer, found his piano antics translated well to television.  We are very fortunate in that a great many of his performances have been captured on film, and are available for generations to come.  



One of Borge's signature routines, performed many times with many partners, was Liszt´s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 as a `cross-hand piece'.






Here is a classic routine by Victor Borge as he attempts to accompany Italian Tenor Sergio Franchi.     Many of the elements used in this bit, you will find sprinkled throughout his other acts.






And here Victor does another variation of the page-turner routine, this time with his son playing his foil.




From a 1958 TV special,  Victor tries to play a difficult Chopin Waltz.




And of course, Borge enjoyed bringing to the public a bit of music education, as he does in this segment that explains what a conductor does.





Victor shows his appreciation for Opera in the Mozart Opera.




And here Victor teaches Dean Martin how to use his Phonetic Punctuation when he sings.




And again from the 1950's, Victor shows us how the great composers might have arranged "Happy Birthday".




And this last clip highlights the talents of a unique `band' that Victor introduces on I've Got A Secret, hosted by Steve Allen.   The reference to Borge's new Broadway show,  Comedy in Music, would put this around the fall of of 1953.


The use of `vocal instruments' was fairly common during the first half of the 20th century, and for many years it was a staple of the Mills Brothers act, but it is rarely done as well as in the following remarkable video.




Victor Borge was fond of saying that `Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.'


That being the case, Victor Borge undoubtedly brought millions of people together with his comedy and music.

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