This pair of mid-price discs has been available for
some time, in and out of the catalogue since they were first issued
on CD in 1989. The Gerard Hoffnung Website is part of MusicWeb and Hoffnung
merchandise and CDs may
be purchased from there, although these CDs are also available through
normal record shops.
For those who have heard them, or in fact may already
own them, there is no need for me to make a further recommendation.
But to those who are ignorant of the contents – do not delay – purchase
for yourselves or for favourite music-loving relatives, or those relatives
who enjoy a good laugh. Then, sit back and enjoy. Particularly with
Christmas appearing on the horizon, an order to MusicWeb removes the
need for a long stand in the shop being told that it isn’t available,
and would you like a crossover disc by the latest "important"
artist instead. Don’t consider alternatives – this is a one-off.
Hoffnung was unique. He was neither a full-time musician,
nor a comedian, but a unique artist, one who had a superb sense of humour,
plus a very effective mixture of the ridiculous, a deep love of music,
and a wicked way of thumbing his nose at anything that was ‘erudite’
or ‘superior’. In addition he was a by no means bad player of the tuba,
and of a few other instruments.
He organised a few concerts (Music Festivals), the
main ones being held at the Festival Hall in 1956 and 1958, and the
third being held in 1961, two years after he died. There were many further
such concerts arranged around the country and another at the Festival
Hall in 1988. This was recorded by Decca, and issued on a pair of CDs
(425 401-2). This is also available from the Hoffnung Web site.
The EMI set is the one to have – recorded live, with
all the audience noise and other extraneous noises, here adding to the
ambience of the proceedings. Also, as the first two concerts were held
with Gerard Hoffnung actually there, there is an additional frisson
to the proceedings.
I am sure that Gerard’s presence at the first two concerts
resulted in heightened level of fun and, judging from the effect the
performers (including Gerard) had on the audience both concerts were
a riotous success, as was the third.
There is no need to review this set in the conventional
way, as there is no competitive version, each of these being one-offs.
I will therefore limit myself to a few pointers to allow you to make
up your minds about purchasing this set – in terms of laughs per pound
(euro or dollar) there is no better set of discs on offer. The only
caution that there could possibly be is that a few items are quintessentially
"English or British" humour and may not seem so funny to some
non-UK listeners. However, many of the items are funny because what
is happening to the music, and this humour knows no geographical boundaries.
THE HOFFNUNG MUSIC FESTIVAL CONCERT
Royal Festival Hall, 13 November 1956: mono
Speech by Mr. T. E. Bean, General Manager of the
Royal Festival Hall [0’43"l
Francis BAINES Fanfare
Trumpeters of the Royal Military School of Music conducted
by the Composer
Malcolm ARNOLD A
Grand Grand Overture [8’09"]
Hoffnung [alias Morley College] Symphony Orchestra
conducted by the Composer
Leopold MOZART Third
movement from Concerto for Hose-pipe and Strings [1’41"]
Dennis Brain (hose-pipe) Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Norman Del Mar
Franz REIZENSTEIN Concerto
popolare (A Piano Concerto to End All Piano Concertos) [11’37"]
Yvonne Arnaud (piano) Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra Conducted
by Norman Del Mar
HAYDN arr. Donald SWANN Andante
from Symphony No.94 In G (‘Surprise’) [6’15"]
Soloists: members of the BBC Music Division, Hoffnung
Symphony Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Leonard
Speech by Gerard Hoffnung [2’53"]
(CHOPIN arr. Daniel ABRAMS)
Mazurka No.47 in A minor Op.68 No.2 [3’00"]
Humphrey SEARLE Lochinvar
for speakers and percussion, to words by Sir Walter Scott [16’24"]
Speakers: Yvonne Arnaud and Gerard Hoffnung - conducted
by Lawrence Leonard
(Gordon JACOB) Variations
on ‘Annie Laurie’
Theme (Alerto, ma non troppo) [2’07"I
Variation 1 (Poco inglesemente) [0’30"]
Variation 2 (Molto zingaresemente) [1’14"]
Variation 3 (Alla gigolo) [0’54"]
Variation 5 (Finale: Assai) [1’44"]
Festival Ensemble conducted by the Composer
This, the first of the three concerts has two or three
masterstrokes. Reizenstein’s Concerto populare will get you giggling
like a loon. We have the Tchaikovsky first piano concerto on the orchestra,
with the pianist wrestling with the Grieg. Not only are the themes intertwined
but imaginative additional touches abound. After the surprise has receded,
we move on to Rachmaninov 2, Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Addinsell’s
Warsaw Concerto, Pop Goes the Weasel and Roll Out the
Barrel, played in various styles, and back to the best idea again,
the Tchaikovsky against the Grieg, except now piano and orchestra are
transposed, (but only for a little while) as all the other themes fall
over themselves, much to the extreme enjoyment of the audience – obbligato
organ and tuba here as well!
There follows the famous version of the adagio
from Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, with a number of surprises which
even Haydn couldn’t have thought of. Certainly the audience sounds as
though it needed first aiders on hand to help!
We also have a pastiche on a TV commercial which is
extremely entertaining and will be even more appropriate today, given
how television advertising has developed since the mid-sixties.
Dennis Brain playing Mozart on a length of garden hose
loses the visual impact with it being only audio. However, Gerard Hoffnung’s
description of the workings of the tuba, brings back memories of the
Oxford Union speeches. This is an introduction to the playing of Chopin’s
Mazurka No. 47 in A minor on 4 tubas, and yes this does sound as funny
as the description.
Lochinvar (for speakers and percussion) is a
literary gem making fun of the Scottish accent, plus the English language.
Again Gerard Hoffnung adds to the proceedings as only he could.
The Grand Grand Overture, written by none other
that Malcolm Arnold, and dedicated to President Hoover (who else??)
is performed in its original guise for three vacuum cleaners and a floor
And so the fun goes on with other pieces in the same
vein, and these are only from the first concert.
THE HOFFNUNG INTERPLANETARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
Royal Festival Hall, 21 and
22 November 1958: mono
Francis CHAGRIN Introductory
music played in the foyer [1’03"]
Drum and Fife Band of the Royal Military School of
Music conducted by the Composer
Francis BAINES Two
excerpts from A Hoffnung Festival Overture [1’13"]
Trumpeters of the Royal Military School of Music Hoffnung
Symphony Orchestra, John Weeks (organ), conducted by the Composer
Alistair SAMPSON—Joseph HOROVITZ
Metamorphosis on a Bed-time Theme [10’13"]
(Allegro commerciale in modo televisione)
April Cantelo (soprano), Ian Wallace (bass-baritone),
Lionel Salter (harpsichord)
Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra - conducted by the Composer
TCHAIKOVSKY realised by Elizabeth
POSTON - Sugar Plums [12’28"] Dolmetsch Ensemble
with Elizabeth Poston (organ), Felix Aprahamian (percussion) and Lionel
Salter, Eric Thompson, Peter Hemmings and Robert Ponsonby (batterie)
The Famous Tay Whale (A dramatic poem by William McGonagall)
Declaimed by Dame Edith Evans with Annetta Hoffnung
Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra - conducted by the Composer
Francis CHAGRIN Movement
from Concerto for Conductor and Orchestra [1’25"]
The Maestro (Gerard Hoffnung) with the Hoffnung Symphony
Bruno Heinz JAJA Punkt
Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra conducted by Norman Del
(The performance of this work is preceded by a discussion
and analysis of it by Dr Klaus Domgraf-Fassbaender and Prof. von der
Vogelweide (script by John Amis, music by Humphrey
Malcolm ARNOLD Excerpts
from The United Nations [5’21"]
Band of the Royal Military School of Music, Hoffnung
Symphony Orchestra conducted by the Composer
Peter Racine FRICKER Waltz
for Restricted Orchestra [1’40"]
Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra (deflated) conducted by
MANN, REIZENSTEIN and WETHERELL
Let’s Fake an Opera (or The Tales of Hoffnung)
[20’39"] music under the direction of Normal Del Mar assisted by
This second festival opens with a distant piece on
fife and drums, played in the foyer, although it sounds somewhat closer,
more like up the back.
After a very noisy, trumpet-dominated overture, there
is another of those pieces which the Hoffnung arranged concerts did
so well. This one is based upon the idea of a commercial for Bournvita
in the style of various composers from Bach and Vivaldi to Gilbert and
Sullivan, not forgetting Mozart on the way. Once we are past the Mozart,
we move over to Verdi, Stravinsky and Schoenberg. Modern TV advertising
has never been as creative (musically) as this.
We then have the Dolmetsch Ensemble a little at sea
with a pastiche of various themes by Tchaikovsky – we hear the Fourth
Symphony, Pathétique, 1812, with the final chord
being supplied by the Festival Hall organ in full cry. To hear these
favourite pieces played by a quartet of recorders, is quite an experience,
particularly when the group is balanced against a batterie of percussion
- great fun.
The Story of the Famous Tay Whale is an assisted
poem with appropriate and more often inappropriate themes added to the
poem to bring the words home to us idiots who obviously are unable to
understand it without the audible assistance. Great fun.
A short overture then is presented entitled ‘for conductor
and orchestra’. I found this one of the least interesting pieces in
the set. Still, it was only 1’25", and we are given the opportunity
to listen to Gerard Hoffnung’s skill as a conductor. It was probably
better to see this item.
The second disc, still in the second concert, opens
with another of the pieces which have had an independent life outside
these concerts. I have heard it broadcast on a few occasions on the
BBC. This is a take-off by Gerard Hoffnung and John Amis where they
carry out a fully detailed description of the music of Bruno Heinz Jaja
(a clever jibe at Bruno Maderna, Karl-Heinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono.
Ed.), an important member of the splish-splash, bang-crash school of
music. It is a marvellous example of a long string of puns, plus other
ways of getting the audience (and listeners at home), in gales of laughter.
Occasionally some of the jokes are masked by audience laughter, but
most of the piece is easily intelligible to any English-speaking audience.
It is one of the items that will appeal to a well developed
English sense of humour, and in today’s ‘Politically Correct’ atmosphere,
this may find some people being a little sensitive. Long may it continue
say I. Oh that all music lessons could be so entertaining.
We then come to The United Nations. The work
is scored for full orchestra, and as many military bands as there are
entrances to the concert hall. In the RFH therefore, there are many
of these. The basic idea is that our United Nations are all very
well as long as they are not expected to work together. The multiple
brass bands ensure that this view is emphatically made.
A Waltz for Restricted Orchestra then follows,
and this is a very strange experience. This is a work for full orchestra,
but, with the woodwinds playing only mouthpieces, and the strings
playing in every way except in the normal fashion.
Finally we have a bit of pure Hoffnung – Let’s Fake
and Opera. Here, the joke is to juxtapose as many themes and ideas
as possible. In other words this is a vocal equivalent to the Concerto
Popolare mentioned earlier. Thus, the piece starts with the Toreador’s
Song from Carmen set against the beginning of Die Meistersinger,
further parts from Wagner (Lohengrin) set against Tchaikovsky’s
The setting is outside the cigarette factory in old
Nuremburg. Beckmesser woos Azucena, the sex-kitten of the tobacco girls.
Othello rides in with his swan which is chased away by William Tell,
Max and other huntsmen. Othello, retiring defeated from the hunt, meets
Salome who on the removal of all her veils, proves to be Fidelio and
sings herself into a stupor. Brünnhilde, in search of a husband,
is disappointed – Fidelio is a woman in disguise – and even the rival
serenaders of whom she has hopes turn out to be wooing Mélisande.
However she gets her man – Radames – in the end. Fidelio awakens and
departs on Brünnhilde’s tricycle, Grane, leaving the frustrated
Nightwatchman to steal well deserved winks on the vacated bed … etc.,
The opportunities for this sort of fun are endless,
and very few are missed.
THE HOFFNUNG ASTRONAUTICAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Royal Festival Hall, 28 November 1961: stereo
Francis BAINES Rigmarole:
Introductory music played in the foyer [0’46"]
Six trumpets, six trombones and tour percussion of
the Royal Military School of Music
Francis BAINES Festival
Trumpeters of the Royal Military School of Music, Hoffnung
Festival Choral Society
Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Composer
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN - Overture:
Leonora No.4 [9’42"]
Trumpeters of the Royal Military School of Music ‘The
Happy Wanderers’, Lionel Salter (organ) Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Norman Del Mar
Bruno Heinz JAJA Duet
from the comic opera The Barber of Darmstadt [3’00"]
(Random realisation from original graph by Humphrey
Searle, translation from the German libretto by William Mann). Herr
Knochen: Owen Brannigan (bass), Der Redepariner: John Amis (tenor)
Hoffnung Festival Choral Society, Hoffnung Symphony
Orchestra conducted by Humphrey Searle
Francis CHAGRIN Ballad
of County Down, mostly in D major [4’52"]
Forbes Robinson (speaker), Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by the Composer
Sir William WALTON Excerpt
from Belshazzar’s Feast [1’55’]
Introduction by Mr T. E. Bean CBE
Owen Brannigan (bass), Hoffnung Festival Choral Society,
Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra - conducted by the Composer
Joseph HOROVITZ, words
by Alistair Sampson from a scenario by Maurice Richardson [15’55"]
Edgar Allan Poe - Stephen Manton, Dracula’s Daughter
– April Cantelo, Dowager Baroness Frankenstein – Pamela Bowden, Frankenstein’s
Son – Stephen Manton, Count Dracula – John Frost,
Hoffnung Festival Choral Society and Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by the Composer
Lawrence LEONARD Mobile
for Seven Orchestras [4’08"]
Trumpeters of the Royal Military School of Music, Lionel
Salter (organ), Hoffnung Festival Choral Society’ Hoffnung Symphony
Orchestra, conducted by the Composer and others
We then come to the third concert in the series, and
this one was unfortunately bereft of the presence of the creator. There
are however many new items, i.e. no duplication from the initial two
The concert starts with another of the items played
in the foyer, apparently by six trumpets, six trombones and percussion,
which just fade away and then surprisingly return. As with the previous
concert, the recording seems to have been balanced by the engineers
to sound as though it was recorded in the correct place.
We start the concert proper with a Festive Anthem,
scored for chorus, orchestra and additional brass; it is a pot-pourri
of multiple National Anthems.
There follows a really clever adaptation of Beethoven’s
Leonore No. 3. I find now that I cannot listen to the original without
anticipating the Hoffnung version. Beethoven’s offstage trumpet announcing
the arrival of the prison governor is transformed into rampant uncontrolled
brass band versions of the theme played throughout the piece at various
strategic points, and then when it is actually supposed to appear ----
you’ve guessed right ---- silence!! Marvellous playing by the orchestra
too – much gusto and much of the approximate playing actually sounds
as though it is intentional.
Moving on to more music by Bruno Heinz Jaja in the
form of a duet from the opera "The Barber of Darmstadt".
This is ably performed by Owen Branigan and John Amis with the Hoffnung
Festival Chorus and Orchestra. Having experienced Punkt Contrapunkt
in the 1958 concert on the same disc, this should not be a surprise.
We then have The Ballad of County Down, mostly
in D major, which starts off very dramatically, and slips into the Flight
of the Bumble Bee via Yankee Doodle Dandy, to the point of
the whole piece – a count down (space flights being all the rage in
1958). This is brought to a stirring completion by Mozart and Beethoven.
Sir William Walton then joins the proceedings to give
(unusually for Hoffnung concerts) a completely straight excerpt from
Belshazzar’s Feast, introduced by Mr. T. E. Bean with extremely
whistley teeth, conducted apparently with a fly swat.
The longest item then follows – Horrortorio by
Joseph Horovitz. This is a short pastiche based on a number of excerpts
from famous oratorios, full of relevant humorous interventions from
chorus and orchestra, relating the story of the marriage of Dracula’s
daughter and Frankenstein, mixed up as only an oratorio plot could.
This moves through Handel, Mendelssohn, Gilbert and Sullivan, Walton
There follows the Mobile for Seven Orchestras,
which is supposed to be the opposite of "static". In other
words, this item is visual in that all of the players move about on
the platform following their own conductors. For obvious reasons, the
impact of this piece is not particularly vivid on audio CD.
I am lead to believe from the comprehensive notes that
there was some duplication of items in the concerts, and EMI very wisely
has removed duplications, so allowing us to hear the main items in the
three concerts on two reasonably well filled discs.
Before leaving this I must also mention the booklet
supplied with this set. In addition to the libretto for both "Let’s
Fake an Opera" and "Horrortorio", there are a number
of Hoffnung illustrations which you may already own in the books (also
available via MusicWeb), as well as on the cover, so you are in for
a complete treat by buying this set.
Now that the availability of this album is assured
via MusicWeb, I urge you to hear this set and I sincerely hope that
you will get as much enjoyment out of it as I have done.
Gerard Hoffnung Website