Birthday Variations, The Second Set of 22
In the Birthday Mood
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Glenn Miller’s classic swing-band piece In the Mood. It is especially for those who love swing music, dancing, or who were born in March. Glenn Miller was born on March 1, 1904.
It’s Your Birthday, Charlie Brown
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Vince Guaraldi’s wonderful piece Linus and Lucy, the most recognizable and popular piece from the Peanuts TV specials. This Variation is especially for those who love Guaraldi’s music or who were born in the month of July. Guaraldi was born on July 17, 1928.
Joplin’s Birthday Rag
This Birthday Variation is in the style of an older Ludwig van Beethoven than we heard in the previous Variation. The two Variations make a nice pair. Watch a video.
Like Fine Wine (Ballad)
This Birthday Variation is in the style of a mellow jazz ballad. The title was inspired by a birthday card I once received that showed a bottle of wine on the cover. Inside, the message was: “I’m not getting older. I’m just getting more complex.” Well said! A life well lived is like fine wine, its flavors becoming mellower and more complex with each passing year.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Miles Davis’ seminal piece So What. It can be played for jazz lovers or for those who have “many miles” on their personal odometers. It can also be played for those born in the month of May. Miles Davis was born on May 26, 1926.
Minuscule Birthday Waltz
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Chopin’s Waltz in D-flat Major, Opus 64, No. 1. This piece is known as the Minute Waltz, but this is based on a misunderstanding about the nickname “Minute Waltz” given by the publisher. The word “minute” with an emphasis on the second syllable means “tiny.” This was meant to be a small waltz, not a speedy one. However, we pianists love to move our fingers quickly, and so some used the word “minute” (with an emphasis on the first syllable) as an excuse to try to make play the piece in a minute or less. Ah, it is so easy to favor sport over art!
Since this Variation is an even more minute version of the famous waltz, it is named the Minuscule Birthday Waltz. It is especially for those who love Chopin or classical music, or for those who were born in March. Chopin was born on March 1, 1810. Some believe the date may actually be February 22, so this Variation could work for February people too!
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Mozart’s famous Andante movement in Piano Concerto Number 21. It can be played for those who love Mozart or classical music, or for those who were born in January. Mozart was born on January 27, 1756.
One Year Closer to the Grave
This Birthday Variation is in the style of a funeral march. It can be played for people who have a sense of humor along with a wise acceptance of the inevitable consequences of being mortal.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of some of the pieces written for the Peanuts TV specials by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of composer Giacomo Puccini’s piece Musetta’s Waltz. It could be played for people who like opera, Puccini, music in general, or people were born in the month of December. Puccini was born on December 22, 1858.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of the French composer Maurice Ravel. It is especially for those who love the music of Ravel or who were born in the month of March. Ravel was born on March 7, 1875. A note from Forrest: This is my personal favorite of the first 44 Birthday Variations.
This Birthday Variation is in the style of composer Eric Satie’s famous piece Gymnopédie No. 1. It is especially for those who enjoy classical music or the music of Satie, or who were born in the month of May. Satie was born on May 17, 1866.
Sousa’s Birthday March
This Birthday Variation is in the style of American composer John Phillip Sousa, particularly his piece Stars and Stripes Forever, the official National March of the USA. (The main tune is now often sung with lyrics beginning with, “Be kind to your web-footed friends.” Perhaps more up-to-date lyrics should be, “Be kind to your Web-addicted friends.”) Sousa was born on November 6, 1854. Considering the type of music he composed, perhaps he should have been born in the month of March.
Strauss’ Beautiful Birthday Waltz
This Birthday Variation is in the style of The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss II. It was composed in 1866. The original German title was An der schönen blauen Donau, which translates as By the Beautiful Blue Danube. This could be played for those who love waltzes, dancing, or classical music in general. It might also be played for those born in October. Strauss was born on October 25, 1825.
In the movie Titanic, the string quartet is seen playing this waltz as the ship goes down. To add some humor to the presentation of this piece, the performer might casually mention this to the person with the birthday.
Sugar Plum Birthday Fairy
This Birthday Variation is in the style of Tchaikovsky’s Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker Suite. Of course, in this context, the Fairy turns into a Birthday Fairy. This piece can be played for classical music lovers, ballerinas, fairy lovers, fairies, or anyone born in the month of May. Tchaikovsky was born on May 7, 1840.
The 50’s Rock
This Birthday Variation is in the style of the early rock and roll piano players such as Jerry Lee Lewis. It can be played for those who like that style of music or for anyone with a sweet tooth for loud, flashy, bangy stuff. It can also be played for people in their fifties, as if to say, “The fifties rock!”
This Birthday Variation was inspired by Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. It is especially for those who like jazz or who were born in April. The Duke was born on April 29, 1899.
The Years Fly By
This Birthday Variation is a bittersweet commentary on the rapid passing of years. So it shouldn’t be played quickly! The performer can extend the piece by repeating it and improvising new melodies. Improvise in the key of A-flat major, though adjust that scale to match the accidentals played by your left hand.
Those Modern Jazz Harmonies
This Variation sets the birthday tune with the complex harmonies used in modern jazz. This is a jazz ballad, to be played with rhythmic freedom.
This Birthday Variation sounds like it came straight out of the “twilight zone.” Note to musicians: The accompaniment of this piece is made entirely of whole-tone scales.
This Variation is in the style of Antonio Vivaldi’s famous Spring movement from the Four Seasons. It could be played for someone born in the spring, especially March since Vivaldi was born on March 4, 1678.
We Wish You a Merry Birthday
In this Variation, the right-hand plays the birthday song while the left-hand plays We Wish You a Merry Christmas. At first, the two hands take turns playing their tune, but then they play the tunes simultaneously. This Variation includes a fleeting reference to Silent Night in measures 22 and 23. This piece is especially for those who were born in the Holiday season.