Happy April Fool’s Day! I’m pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s Grove Music Online Spoof Article Contest is David W. Barber, for an entry on “L.O.L. Bach.”
This year’s judges were:
- Deane Root, Editor in Chief of Grove Music Online, and Professor of Music emeritus, Director and Fletcher Hodges, Jr. Curator of the Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh. Root has been immersed in Grove style since he worked with Stanley Sadie on the first New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
- Walter A. Clark is Distinguished Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Riverside, where he is the founder/director of the Center for Iberian and Latin American Music. He serves as Editor in Chief of the Grove Music Online Latin American and Iberian Music Update, a multi-year update and expansion to Grove’s content in that area.
- Scott Gleason is Acquisitions Editor for Music Reference at Oxford University Press, a position that includes editing for Grove Music Online.
Here’s this year’s winning entry by David W. Barber:
Bach, Ludwig Odense Lämmerhirt (b Titz, Germany 29 February 1656; d Feuchtwangen, Germany 29 February 1688)
Westphalian-German krummhornist and composer. Born in the Westphalian town of Titz in the upper Rhine region, L.O.L. Bach is a lesser-known ancestor of the famous J.S. Bach, with whom he shares a double family connection through the Lämmerhirts on Bach’s mother’s side. Scholars are divided on how this double connection came about. Some have decided it’s research best not pursued. L.O.L. Bach studied krummhorn and various other instruments with a local Titz teacher, eventually earning a spot as third-chair krummhornist in the town wind band. He might have had a more promising career on the instrument, but was later expelled from the band for making rude duck noises with the double reed during a ribbon-cutting by the town mayor, who had forbidden Bach to court his daughter. They later eloped (Bach and the daughter, that is) to the Bavarian town of Feuchtwangen and had nine children in quick succession – three sets of triplets. Turning his studies to the clavichord sent Bach off on a tangent to begin composing for the keyboard. A rare surviving work from this period is Die Fugue der Kunst (The Flight of Art), a collection of 11 fugues and preludes (each pair appears in that order, the fugue first, followed by the prelude), each of them in the key of C major. Bach’s keyboard skills being minimal, it was the only key he felt comfortable playing in. His output as a composer would doubtless have been greater had he not died suddenly at the age of 32 after choking on a krummhorn reed he had been moistening before a performance of his Sonata in C for Krummhorn and Clavichord.
A. Chtung, Der Teufel Krummhorn (Wankendorf, 1817)
Judge Clark noted that he “got the biggest laugh out of L.O.L. Bach, with its ‘rude duck noises’ and Die Fuge der Kunst, with its exclusive emphasis on C major.”
Judge Root wrote that the author “has quite cleverly incorporated real if seemingly fictive details: there really is a Bavarian town named ‘Wet Cheeks’ (Feuchtwangen), for example, and J.S. Bach’s maternal family name was indeed ‘Lamb Herder’ (Lämmerhirt). The author’s name in the Bibliography is a good touch. Instrumental humor has long been a source of merriment for orchestral musicians, and this article serves that tradition well.”
For his winning entry David will receive $100 in OUP books and a year’s subscription to Grove Music Online.
Our first runner up was Robert Stein for his spoof entry, La Sorella della Principessa di Malta, ossia nuovi modi per confondere i critici:
La Sorella della Principessa di Malta, ossia nuovi modi per confondere i critici [‘The Princess of Malta’s sister, or new ways to confuse the critics’]
Opera buffa by Luigi Strudello, libretto by Orazio Boggi; Parma, September 1734 (3 act version), Venice S Moisè, 1735 (4 act version), Modena 1737 (1 act version), Modena 1738 (2 act version), Bologna 1755 (5 act version).
The work, as we know from Strudello’s diaries, was intended as a humorous pastiche of 18th century operatic plot devices as well as a gentle satire on the ignorance of the music critics of the day.
However, although implausible dramatic contrivances and characters’ duplicities were conceived as the basis of the opera’s humour, the fraying relationship between composer and librettist explains how confusion multiplied beyond the need for comic effect despite, or because of, frequent re-workings. This might explain both the misalignment of setting, music, character, costume, sets and text and the subsequent duel between Strudello and Boggi.
Following his release from prison in 1753, Strudello revised the opera once more, but the final five-act version – with a revised libretto by Ugo Farfalone – is still largely resistant to synopsis. Bolognese audiences were left so confused that there was no contemporary agreement if the opera’s final scene depicted the heroine Susana’s betrothal, coronation or suicide.
Although the opera – in any of its versions – remained unperformed since 1755, a revival in Utrecht in 1970 in a radically revised version directed by Bart van der Aart sparked some interest in its overture.
Strudello, L. Diari e altre confessioni dal carcere (Rome, 1754)
Burger, H. and Frys, T. C. ‘Laugh? You’re killing me. Strudello, Boggi and the belligerent barons of the Buffa tradition’ in Critical Perspectives on Italian Opera 1705 – 1765 (Baton Rouge, 1988)
Judge Clark noted: “Another splendid spoof was La Sorella della Principessa di Malta. This one’s genius has to do with its actual resemblance to a real article, before it goes noticeably off the scholarly rails. Susana’s ‘betrothal, coronation or suicide’ had me in stitches, even as Bart van der Aart’s revival ‘sparked some interest in its overture.’”
For his entry Robert will receive a year’s subscription to Grove Music Online.
Please join me in congratulating David W. Barber and Robert Stein and thanking all those who submitted! We look forward to next year’s contest.