Sunday, 9 March 2008

Catastrophe! Is this the end of our town?

Most Gentle and Illustrious Reader,
I am almost too upset to write.... Apart from the treatment of Gluck and the tragic end of my dear friend,the last sentance of this fragment from the Krankenhause Archive talks of our former state's song! No details are given, but the implication is clear. this must surely be a mere speculation.....

......Upon Gluck’s first visit to Paris in 1773, Bumsen hired street urchins to quack at him in the manner of geese. Upon poor Gluck’s mild protest, Bumsen retracted, bided his time and then marshalled such a storm of anti-Gluck protest the following year against Gluck’s “Iphiginie in Aulide” that Gluck destroyed his operatic manuscripts and returned to Vienna.
Our only contemporary description of the elusive Bumsen comes from his first meeting with James Boswell in Utrecht, while promoting "The Bath Attendant of Augsburg" and its racy melody, “Splish spritzen ich nahm ein Bad”, in 1763. In December of that year, Boswell wrote to Charles Giffardier, “I begin to make acquaintance with the people of fashion and do most earnestly wish you to meet Herr Bumsen to whose vitriolic wit even Alte Grosse Jonners [our name for Dr. Johnson] must give way. His music would make a St Giles cat dance; tho’ he is but an ill-favoured, short fellow. Tho’ he has the nose of a Cyrano, he has the very mind of a Man. He is a great success with the fairer sex for in his rooms, a rather mean suite of chambers, he keeps, so he says, an enormous engine that gives them much pleasure.” Boswell presumed that it was some form of organ. Their friendship broke when the older man charmed away Boswell’s lover, the accomplished writer and musician Belle van Zuilen who dallied with Bumsen before she moved to Switzerland in the 1770's to marry. She published several romances, pamphlets and novels including “B…..n, Mon Amour” A recently discovered graffito long hidden under layers of whitewash on the wall of a garderobe in the Grafin’s Castle at Hoch Kellerai may well portray the middle-aged Bumsen. The Revolution effectively destroyed the greater part of Bumsen’s assets and he eked out a miserable existence in Vienna for the last six years of his life by fortune telling and knavery at cards..............

[This sounds like Bumsen, but what is the Revolution? Could Boswell be that nervous, sickly Scottish boy of 15, who pestered Bumsen to be his tutor last Autumn? A spotty, fat child, of a wordy nature I seem to remember.He was a pronounced hero-worshipper of the academic. Jonners, I suppose, would be the writer of that damned Dictionary that has been selling so well. There is no definition of wurst in it. Do not, dear reader, research the word take, it takes five pages of English to define! Cough is defined as 'A convulsion of the lungs, vellicated by some sharp serosity. It is pronounced 'coff' 'I need another dictionary to understand his work! Bumsen met Jonners in London when he was animpoverished hack writer. Of the Divine Bach he said"And pray, Sir, who is Bach? Is he a piper?" The man is obviously a Philistine . Still, to return to the matter in hand.”

.................................He had one illegitimate child, Herman Bumsen, who was never acknowledged, but the boy possessed many of his father’s traits. Joseph Haydn died, aged 77, on May 31, 1809. As Austria was at war and the Viennese capital occupied by Napoleon's [???]troops, a rather simple burial took place in the Hundsthurm churchyard in Gumpendorf, the suburb of Vienna where Haydn had lived. Following the burial, three men contrived to bribe the sexton and thereby sever and steal the dead composer's head. These were Karl Rosenbaum, the secretary of the Esterházy family (Haydn's employers), Johann Nepomuk Peter, governor of the provincial prison of Lower Austria, and Herman Bumsen. Rosenbaum is described as having been a friend of Haydn's. Peter and Rosenbaum's motivation was an interest in phrenology, a now-discredited scientific movement (see Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Spurzheim) that attempted to associate mental capacities with aspects of cranial anatomy. Of particular interest to phrenologists was the anatomy of individuals held to have exhibited great genius during their lifetime. The process of stealing the head was, apparently, not pleasant, since decomposition had set in and the smell was strong. However, Peter and Rosenbaum succeeded in cleaning the skull and duly carried out their phrenological examination. Peter declared that "the bump of music" in Haydn's skull was indeed "fully developed". Afterward, Peter kept it in a handsome custom-made black wooden box, with a symbolic golden lyre at the top, glass windows, and a white cushion.......

One of the old man’s few joys was persecuting the young Beethoven. Beethoven's first music teacher was his father, who was a tenor in the service of the Electoral court at Bonn. He was reportedly a harsh instructor. Johann later engaged a friend, Tobias Pfeiffer, to preside over his son's musical training, and it is said Johann and his friends, including Bumsen, would at times come home late from a night of drinking to pull young Ludwig out of bed to practice until morning.
Bumsen died on his birthday when, sliding on a pile of horse’s ordure, he fell into an open cellar. His remains were returned to the city of his birth but were given a pauper’s funeral in a grave still undiscovered, although believed to be somewhere near or under the central conveniences in the modern Domplatz – yet his beautiful anthem continues to thrill those modern Tipperbrudderians who know the history of their former city state’s song....."

Oh, how my heart fails!

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