2018-09-21 19:30:58 UTC
Hagen Quartet's complete Mozart Quartets on DG. I already owned a few
of the Mozart quartets with the Alban Berg but I thought it was high
time that I acquaint myself with the rest. (It's a good thing Mozart
died young. Had he kept up his pace into old age, I wouldn't be able to
afford all these complete boxed sets.) Occasionally when I hear
something new, I want to hear it again immediately, and then again, and
a few more times after that. I keep returning to it and returning to it
at the expense of a wide variety of other music I could be listening to.
This time it is the second movement of K. 499 that has capitvated me,
the minuet. I can't say exactly what it is about the movement, why I
can't let it go - perhaps something about the way the feeling explodes a
relatively simple dance form. Does it presage Beethoven? Is it the
movement itself or the way the Hagen plays it? At the moment I am too
obsessed with this recording to explore any others.
It reminded me that in this age of recorded music that we are all kings,
commanding repeat performances at our will. I thought of an anecdote
Mark Twain tells in "A Tramp Abroad." We are almost kings - we are
kings but without the rain:
I am told that in a German concert or opera, they hardly ever encore a
song; that though they may be dying to hear it again, their good
breeding usually preserves them against requiring the repetition.
Kings may encore; that is quite another matter; it delights everybody to
see that the King is pleased; and as to the actor encored, his pride and
gratification are simply boundless. Still, there are circumstances in
which even a royal encore--
But it is better to illustrate. The King of Bavaria is a poet, and has a
poet's eccentricities--with the advantage over all other poets of being
able to gratify them, no matter what form they may take. He is fond of
opera, but not fond of sitting in the presence of an audience;
therefore, it has sometimes occurred, in Munich, that when an opera has
been concluded and the players were getting off their paint and finery,
a command has come to them to get their paint and finery on again.
Presently the King would arrive, solitary and alone, and the players
would being at the beginning and do the entire opera over again with
only that one individual in the vast solemn theater for audience. Once
he took an odd freak into his head. High up and out of sight, over the
prodigious stage of the court theater is a maze of interlacing
water-pipes, so pierced that in case of fire, innumerable little
thread-like streams of water can be caused to descend; and in case of
need, this discharge can be augmented to a pouring flood. American
managers might want to make a note of that. The King was sole audience.
The opera proceeded, it was a piece with a storm in it; the mimic
thunder began to mutter, the mimic wind began to wail and sough, and the
mimic rain to patter. The King's interest rose higher and higher; it
developed into enthusiasm. He cried out:
"It is very, very good, indeed! But I will have real rain! Turn on the
The manager pleaded for a reversal of the command; said it would ruin
the costly scenery and the splendid costumes, but the King cried:
"No matter, no matter, I will have real rain! Turn on the water!"
So the real rain was turned on and began to descend in gossamer lances
to the mimic flower-beds and gravel walks of the stage. The richly
dressed actresses and actors tripped about singing bravely and
pretending not to mind it. The King was delighted--his enthusiasm grew
higher. He cried out:
"Bravo, bravo! More thunder! more lightning! turn on more rain!"
The thunder boomed, the lightning glared, the storm-winds raged, the
deluge poured down. The mimic royalty on the stage, with their soaked
satins clinging to their bodies, slopped about ankle-deep in water,
warbling their sweetest and best, the fiddlers under the eaves of the
state sawed away for dear life, with the cold overflow spouting down the
backs of their necks, and the dry and happy King sat in his lofty box
and wore his gloves to ribbons applauding.
"More yet!" cried the King; "more yet--let loose all the thunder, turn
on all the water! I will hang the man that raises an umbrella!"
When this most tremendous and effective storm that had ever been
produced in any theater was at last over, the King's approbation was
measureless. He cried:
"Magnificent, magnificent! ENCORE! Do it again!"
But the manager succeeded in persuading him to recall the encore, and
said the company would feel sufficiently rewarded and complimented in
the mere fact that the encore was desired by his Majesty, without
fatiguing him with a repetition to gratify their own vanity.
During the remainder of the act the lucky performers were those whose
parts required changes of dress; the others were a soaked, bedraggled,
and uncomfortable lot, but in the last degree picturesque. The stage
scenery was ruined, trap-doors were so swollen that they wouldn't work
for a week afterward, the fine costumes were spoiled, and no end of
minor damages were done by that remarkable storm.
It was royal idea--that storm--and royally carried out. But observe the
moderation of the King; he did not insist upon his encore. If he had
been a gladsome, unreflecting American opera-audience, he probably would
have had his storm repeated and repeated until he drowned all those
[from "A Tramp Abroad" by Mark Twain]