Monday, 27 May 2013

Belated Birthday Wishes

Many - well one at least - of Fantasy Bob's faithful handful  of world wide readers have queried him in the course of this week. FB, they have said - it is Richard Wagner's 200th birthday week and you've been silent on this great event. What is happening? A birthday tribute seems to be in order, surely?

Why? FB responded. It was a significant anniversary for FB earlier this year. Did he get a tribute from Richard Wagner? Did he stuff. Not even a text message. With that kind of attitude, why should FB push the boat out? It's not as if Wagner has ever skippered the Carlton 4s to unexpected victory with 5 11 year olds in the side and Arctic conditions. That's the kind of thing that doesn't get recognition from music critics.  And Wagner has persistently made him self unavailable for 4th XI fixtures.  While FB venerates the Ring Cycle above all other works, sometimes the attitude of its composer is enough to put you off your Lohengrin.
At home with Richard and Cosima

FB goes on to point out that it is not as if Wagner is bad at marking birthdays. Indeed, he is responsible for one of the most sublime birthday presents ever in the form of the Seigfried Idyll, a piece for chamber orchestra which he wrote in 1870 for the occasion of his wife Cosima's 33rd birthday. The piece was first played on the stairs outside her bedroom door to wake her from her slumbers. There's Wagner for you - what a romantic.

 Cosima recorded in her diary,

"As I awoke, my ear caught a sound, which swelled fuller and fuller; no longer could I imagine myself to be dreaming: music was sounding, and such music! When it died away, Richard came into my room with the children and offered me the score of the symphonic birthday poem. I was in tears, but so were all the rest of the household."

The piece's dominant theme is found also in Wagner's opera Seigfried, the third part of the Ring Cycle, where it is sung by Brunnhilde on being awoken by Seigfried with whom she falls in love. The words of the opera are:

Oh! I cared always.
Oh! I shall always
care with sweet,
warm, tender longing
yes, always for your dear life!

All pretty soppy and not much use when facing fast bowling.

A few years ago FB was inspired by Wagner's example. He thought Mrs FB might appreciate a similar gesture. As she slumbered on the morning of an important birthday therefore he stealthily plugged his guitar in and hit her with his rendition of Channel 4's cricket theme Mambo Number 5.

The neighbouring cats and dogs began immediately to howl in unison. Mrs FB's eyes slowly opened and drowsily she fixed upon FB as he tenderly strummed. In her sweet voice she made her warm appreciation clear, 'For pity's sake, turn that bloody racket OFF.'

FB thinks his present hit the mark. Perhaps not to the same extent as Wagner's - but then Wagner was not a man for bowling an unbroken spell up the hill against the wind, whatever other merits he had in the way of opera composition.

Here is the Siegfried Idyll - birthday gift to dream of - as played at last year's Proms by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

For the less romantic here is a reminder of the fuller version Mambo Number 5.


  1. However, unlike your good self, Wagner was definitely nutty as a fruitcake!

    1. FB does not understand how you can describe a man who could only compose when dressed in red velvet in a study festooned with red velvet as nutty.

  2. Though not a Wagner fan, I would grudgingly acknowledge the quality of the piece mentioned. However I am with Mrs FB on Mambo Number 5. On the subject of fruitcakes, I am mildly disappointed that FB has not answered my previous question (see earlier post).

    1. FB thinks your view of Mambo No 5 might change once you here his version. On your previous question FB's crack team of researchers is combing the archives for the data necessary to give a helpful answer.