On Music: thievery

David K. Israel

Call it inspiration, call it thievery, call it the ultimate form of flattery, or homage "“ but composers have been lifting or borrowing tunes from each other since before they were even putting their names on their compositions. Mozart lifted tunes from Haydn, Tchaikovsky from Mozart, Stravinsky from Tchaikovsky and Bernstein from Stravinsky. Sometimes consciously, as Tchaikovsky did from Mozart, sometimes subconsciously, as in the example we're about to hear.

First, I give you this little excerpt from Beethoven's Fifth and final piano concerto, his opus 73, dating from early 1809. Now, there's a song in Bernstein's musical West Side Story called "Somewhere." I'm sure most of you have probably heard it before, which is exactly why I'm using it in this post. Check out this excerpt from Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. It's the "there's a place for us" lyric, dating from the 1950s and orchestrated and used in the finale.

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Now, I'll tell you something else: the next part of the "Somewhere" tune, with the lyrics "hold my hand and we're halfway there"¦" was stolen from Tchaikovsky. Anyone familiar enough with old Peter Ilyich to take a stab at which composition? Given that the play was all lifted from Romeo and Juliet, is it really surprising many of the tunes are, too?