Piano Street Magazine

Dudley Moore – Beethoven?

December 31st, 2008 in Top Video Picks by | 7 comments

Dudley Moore, was an English actor, comedian and musician. This video clip is from the 1950’s-60s British comedy group “Beyond the Fringe. Dudley Moore plays a very funny but also musically ambitious parody of a Beethoven piano sonata based on very odd yet well-known thematic material, the whistling tune from “Bridge Over the River Kwai”.

Want to play it yourself? Here is the score (download pdf):

Dudley Moore (1935–2002) first came to prominence as one of the four writer-performers in Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s and became famous as half of the hugely popular television double-act he formed with Peter Cook.

His musical talent won him a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford and whilst studying music and composition there, he performed with Alan Bennett in the Oxford Revue. Bennett then recommended him to the producer putting together Beyond the Fringe, a comedy revue, where he was to first meet Peter Cook. Beyond the Fringe was at the forefront of the 1960s satire boom and after enormous success in Britain, it transferred to the USA where it was also a major hit. His fame as a comedic actor was later heightened by his success in Hollywood movies such as 10 with Bo Derek and Arthur in the late 1970s and early 1980s, respectively.

Moore was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award but lost to Henry Fonda (for On Golden Pond). He did, however, win a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy. In 1984, Moore had another hit, starring in the Blake Edwards directed Micki + Maude, co-starring Amy Irving. This won him another Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy.

In addition to acting, Moore continued to work as a composer and pianist, writing scores for a number of films and giving piano concerts, which were highlighted by his popular parodies of classical favourites. In addition, Moore collaborated with the conductor Sir Georg Solti to create a 1991 television series, Orchestra!, which was designed to introduce audiences to the symphony orchestra. He later worked with the American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas on a similar television series from 1993, Concerto!, likewise designed to introduce audiences to classical music concertos.

In 1987, he was interviewed for the New York Times by the music critic Rena Fruchter, herself an accomplished pianist. They became close friends. At that time Moore’s film career was already on the wane. He was having trouble remembering his lines, a problem he had never previously encountered. He opted to concentrate on the piano, and enlisted Fruchter as an artistic partner. They performed as a duo in the U.S. and Australia. However, his disease soon started to make itself apparent there as well, as his fingers would not always do what he wanted them to do.

In June 2001, Moore was appointed a Commander of the Order of The British Empire (CBE). Despite his deteriorating condition, he attended the ceremony, mute and wheelchair-bound, at Buckingham Palace to collect his honour.


  • Pilar Sanchez says:

    He certainly is a very good pianist and I recognize also that it should be very difficult to concentrate in playing so well and in doing such a things that make us laughing. I´m sad that he is sick. He is so brilliant.


  • Lisa says:

    Pilar, he’s not longer sick as he died not shortly after the CBE event.

    It’s a shame that so many people don’t even know who he is at all and how so many people knew he was an actor in such-and-such movie but never knew he was such a brilliant pianist. Luckily there are VHSs and DVDs out there now that show more of his piano skills.

  • DJ says:

    Does anyone actually have the sheet music to the Beethoven Sonata Parody?

  • Will says:

    I’ve been working on a transcription, but it’s tough work; it’s so complicated!

  • RenaissancePianist says:

    Apparently the music was published in the book, “The Complete Beyond the Fringe” along with other compositions by Dudley Moore.

  • Brian says:

    I have seen this before. It’s both hilarious and pretty impressive.

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