Sibelius in 1939. White cat not pictured.
The Guardian's Tom Service has noticed that the opening bars of Sibelius's 1904 piece Cassazione bear a curious resemblance to the original James Bond theme, as composed by Monty Norman. For the benefit of Americans and other backward souls who lack access to the Spotify service, I've uploaded an excerpt from the Sibelius (first version), with the Bond theme following, in the brilliant arrangement by John Barry:
Osmo Vänskä conducting the Lahti Symphony, BIS CD-1445; iTunes Essentials: John Barry.
To be honest, Monty has a leg up on Jean here: his principal theme is a lot more interesting than the brassy statement that Sibelius places over the chromatic rising-and-falling figure. You can read about the origins of the Bond theme at Norman's site. You can also read a summary of a lawsuit that Norman brought against the Sunday Times when that paper named Barry as the composer of the theme. None other than Stanley Sadie, the great, late editor of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, was brought into testify. The "Sibelius" figure was labeled "the vamp." In the lawsuit, the defense pointed out that the vamp is essentially the same as one that appeared in Barry's 1960 song "Poor Me," a UK hit for Adam Faith:
Norman's team answered that the vamp was hardly unique to Barry, and that it had earlier appeared in Kurt Weill's "Lonely House," from Street Scene, here sung by Lotte Lenya:
And, before that, in "Nightmare" by Artie Shaw:
They might have mentioned "Aquarela do Brasil," aka "Brazil," or Pixinguinha's fabulous "Carinhoso" (1916-17):
The true inventor of the vamp may never be known. I, for one, hear the germ of it in the double basses at the end of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony....