Guaraldi, Schroder . . . and Beethoven

I had a musical epiphany the other day watching my orchestra conductor brother-in-law playing Vince Guaraldi’s famous theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas on the piano. It is built using the same three notes at the beginning–that ascending figure that uses the “horn intervals.”

“Horn intervals” are so called in music theory because they were traditionally played on a pair of French horns using the overtone series. They go sixth-fifth-third. The most famous use of them is in Beethoven’s “Lebewohl” Sonata (“Les Adieux”) in E-flat, Op. 81. There, Beethoven used them in a descending figure. Guaraldi played the exact same figure – in reverse.

Do you suppose he deliberately jazzed Beethoven? Considering that the soundtrack for the Charlie Brown show had Schroder playing that tune. The well-known Beethoven fanatic.

Interesting idea. That motif also appears once or twice in the Leonore Overture #3.