Conductor completely tears apart ‘Happy Birthday’ and makes it a million times better

2 April 2023, 19:41

Ivan Fischer improves 'Happy Birthday'
Ivan Fischer improves 'Happy Birthday'. Picture: Medici TV/Verbier Festival

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Iván Fischer masterfully rewrites the world’s most famous ditty. Behold, the new-and-improved ‘Happy Birthday’…

Whether your concert stage is an open-plan office space, a packed-out pub or even the now-dreaded mass Zoom call, likelihood is you’re more than familiar with the song ‘Happy Birthday’.

But did you ever think it could be improved like this?

Hungarian composer and conductor Iván Fischer decided he had truly had enough of what is, in his words, “a very poor melody”.

‘Happy Birthday’ is, according to Fischer, ripe for a rewrite. Sitting at a piano during the Verbier Festival, the founder and music director of the Budapest Festival Orchestra worked out an ‘improved’ version of the well-known tune.

“I want to do something about this melody, Happy Birthday,” the great maestro says. “Everybody sings it all over the world, it’s maybe the most well-known melody.”

But, Fischer argues, the melodic accents are all in the wrong place. Rather than the emphasis being on ‘you’, the recipient of the birthday wishes, the way the song is written means the accent lands on ‘to’.

Read more: What if Chopin had written ‘Happy Birthday’?

Happy Birthday by Ivan Fischer

The maestro’s next bit of beef is that the third line goes too high.

“Why does it go up?” Fischer asks. “Nobody can even sing it, it’s always out of tune. There’s no reason to go up.”

And so, he shows us how it’s really done (watch above).

“It would be so much more singable,” Fischer proclaims of his new version. “And the melody is better, it makes better turns. Everything would be better. So, I hope we can change it all over the world, and then people will sing it differently.”

If anyone fancies starting a petition, you’ve got our vote.

Listen: New Classical Releases playlist on Global Player, the official Classic FM app

Now your mind is feeling suitably blown, here’s how ‘Happy Birthday’ would sound if Beethoven had written it:

'Happy Birthday', arranged in the style of Beethoven's 'Pathetique'