Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Grass widowers make the best of it

Last week Grumio's wife was away working in Sydney and mine was working in Eastbourne, so we went off to Dorset for a few days. We stayed in one of a block of ten Grade II listed Georgian stables from which the horses had long since departed, and self-catered without any dissension, deploying our respective skills: Grumio did all the cooking and housework and I did all the complaining about the weather. This called for acerbic comment on most days, and the beauty of the Dorset countryside was not much in evidence.

Thinking a glimpse of the sea might be jollier than gazing at sodden fields, we drove to Poole one morning to find that grey waves in the driving rain do not do much for this rather dull town. I later read that a local councillor is saying that Poole is really the Miami of Britain; he bases this wild statement on the fact that beach polo was being played at Sandbanks, a millionaire's enclave nearby: Miami and Dubai are the only other venues which have hosted this pastime for rich yobs. Had we known, we might have gone along to watch a couple of chukkas, but although there would no doubt have been plenty of posh totty among the spectators I doubt if the game offers the same delights as beach volleyball, and anyway they probably wouldn't have let us in.

The highlight of the trip was an evening Schubertiad at a country house near Salisbury once owned by Lord Nelson. Sadly, we were just 180 years too late to have had Franz at the piano as he was at the original Schubertiads. Still, we were very happy sitting in this lovely room listening to two of the pieces he wrote in the last year of his life: the Piano Trio in B flat opus 99 and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen.

The audience behaved well, much better than the friends who used to go to his parties, whose rowdiness must surely have disturbed his playing. Otto Deutsch lists a few in the index to Schubert: A Documentary Biography:
Artaria, Bibl, Bocklet, Grob, Gross, Pachler, Pinterics, Pompe, Pratbavera, Prinke, Probst, Prokesch, Sauter, Schellman, Schlecta, Schnorr, Schober, Schweighofer, Schwind, Seidl, Siboni, Sonnleithner, Spaun, Stadler, Streinsberg, Teltschner, Traweger, Umlauff, Weissenwolff.

Immortal Franz, in Muses' garden,
Sing, ere my Arterias harden
Schubert, sing thy sweetest songs,
Ere awesome alphabetic throngs—
Tinker, Teltschner, drunk or sober—
Spoil the garden, tramp all ober
Grass where we should be alone!
Goss and Grob, begone! I groan
Schlecter, shoo! and scarper, Seidl!
To try and take in tunes is idle
When Schellman, Schweighofer and Schnorr
Shout so I can't hear the score
And miss the Master's modulation.
Pachler, peace! and wrap up, Rieder!
I can't hear the lilting lieder;
If your din is not diminished
Every symphony's Unfinished!

Ah, Schubertian scholarship
Is a thing I should not skip.
Burbling Bocklet, babbling Bibl,
Spill the cup and let it dribble!
Pampered Prinke! I'd be glad
To share in Spaun's Schubertiad,
To drink and sing and greet as crony
Pompe, Umlauff, Grob, Siboni,
To drink gem├╝tlichkeit and chocolate
In Wien with Weissenwolff and Bocklet.
Pachler, peace! and pardon, Probst!
Move me nearer him thou mobst;
Prokesch, be thou my enlightener,
Let me bask in bright Sonnleithner
Schwind! I show you this for sign—
Friends of Franz are friends of mine.

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