excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 97-100 (621 words)

excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 97-100 (621 words)

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Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character

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During my brief sojourn in Pesth on the above-mentioned occasion and in connection with the so-called "Reconciliation Week," I underwent a very curious and exceptional musical experience, chiefly worth recalling because so pre-eminently illustrative of the wild excitement then prevailing throughout all classes of Hungarian society, and finding vent in extravagances of action that struck me at the time as all but incompatible with sanity of mind in their perpetrators. One of the fetes organised by the patricians and artists of Pesth in honour of the great national rejoicing was announced under the amazing title of "A Fools' Evening, given by the Committee of Folly," and came off one Sunday evening in the Grand Redoute, with the co-operation of over five thousand persons of both sexes, one and all earnestly bent upon proving themselves, in appearance and behaviour, bereft of their senses. The entertainment lasted ten hours; and I am bound to say that, from beginning to end, it was an uninterrupted and kaleidoscopic display of more or less humorous insanity...After the possessor of a voucher (himself necessarily travestied into some maniacal seeming) had passed the ordeal of examination by the Committee, stationed on the grand staircase, he was received with triumphal blasts, at the main entrance to the hall, by a "Mad Orchestra" consisting of ten bugles, eight side-drums, and one violin... A second later they "jumped to the eye," as the French idiom hath it, on a raised platform at the further end of the hall, pent up in an enormous built cage some twenty feet high, and constituting an orchestra, eighty in number, assiduously engaged in performing The Beautiful Blue Danube. The disguises were admirable, and had been allotted to the wearers in such sort as to intensify the general incongruity suggested by furred and feathered music-makers. For instance, the leading flautist was an elephant, whose aspect whilst diligently blowing his Querpfeife under his trunk was irresistibly comical. The triangle was being gravely tingled by a Royal Bengal tiger of alarmingly truculent mien ; a portly old lion, his tail comfortably adjusted across his knee, led the violoncelli ; a solemn pelican was tooting the French horn, its mouthpiece inserted in the side of his bill ; the drums were being administered to by a mild-eyed grey bullock of the true Banat breed ; side by side, amongst the first violins, were a bear, a colossal perch, and a frog of prediluvian dimensions ; the two bassoons were deftly handled by a mammoth spider and a shiny sturgeon, whilst a giant prairie tortoise clashed the cymbals as though that were the exclusive function to fulfil which was his inborn mission in life. The leader, a famous German chef d'orchestre — appeared as a gorilla of unexampled hideousness, quite the most appalling creature my eyes had ever thitherto beheld; and he conducted with a mimic knotted club formidably suggestive of "homicide with intention.'' The whole tableau was irresistibly provocative of convulsive and inextinguishable laughter. Moreover, facing this zoological band, at the opposite end of the hall was installed another "full" orchestra, consisting of life-size puppets set in motion by machinery, and occupying the lid of a Brobding-nagian musical box, the inside of which was tenanted by a real live military band in full play, so that its strains, produced by an unseen agency, seemed to proceed from the dolls, whose conductor, a singularly limber automaton, rivalled his dos-a-dos, the gorilla, in wildly energetic action. Taken in connection with the practice of the divine art, the orchestral menagerie was the funniest sight a musician could hope to look upon in the flesh. Of the puppet band one wearied readily; not so of the harmonious wild beasts, whose infinite variety'' custom " could not stale." 

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excerpt from 'Music and manners; personal reminiscences and sketches of character' pp. 97-100 (621 words)


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