April 1, 2015
Aesop’s Fables are known throughout the world. Aesop is said to have been a Phrygian slave who lived in ancient Greece and whose fables have endured because of the great wisdom embedded in them. Legend has it that Aesop’s life ended when he either jumped or was thrown from a cliff.
Sadly, another set of highly instructive fables—these tales with musicians in mind, known as Arnie’s Fables, is almost completely unknown to the musical community. As a public service, we offer several of Arnie’s most meaningful fables below:
“The Fly and the Conductor”
A fly landed on Fabio Fabuloso’s baton while he was conducting the Mozart Requiem. As the work approached its end, the fly grew restless and asked the conductor permission to move on. Fabuloso, in the midst of the poignant Lachrymosa movement, answered, “I didn’t notice when you came and I shall not notice when you go.” “That may be,” responded the fly, a bit miffed, “but, by the way, your tempo for the Lachrymosa feels ponderous and in my opinion is much too slow.”
Moral: Every performance has a critic in the audience.
“The Three Architects”
The Indian city of Kasha Varnishka asked three of its most distinguished architects to submit plans for a new concert hall. The first architect favored wood for the warm sound it created. The second architect suggested plaster for its resonant acoustical qualities. The third architect proposed a newly created synthetic material, mershmallow, which combined the best qualities of both wood and plaster. The three architects left the planning committee meeting convinced that one of their brilliant visions would be accepted. None of the architects was ever contacted, however, and the concert hall was never built.
Moral: Who needs a concert hall when we have MP3 players?
“The Two Oboists”
Two oboists, Ferrucio Falgiatori and Gaspar de la Nuit, roomed together during their last year of music school. Ferrucio practiced every day in preparation for orchestra auditions. Gaspar, on the other hand, hardly touched his instrument and was out each night partying. After graduation, Ferrucio failed to get a job but learned to play poker well enough between auditions to win a fortune in Las Vegas. And Gaspar met Talula at a singles bar, married her, and was soon earning a handsome six-figure salary in her father’s high-powered brokerage firm.
Moral: There’s real money in playing the oboe.
“The String Quartet and the String Quartet”
The “Four on the Floor” string quartet set about rehearsing Beethoven’s Opus 131 String Quartet in C Sharp Minor for the very first time. No sooner had Zoltan Voltan, the first violinist, played the opening fugal statement, then second violinist, Desirée de la Touche, complained that his Sforzando was much too jagged. Violist, Tandalaya Goldfarb (who secretly planned to leave the quartet and pursue a solo career under the stage name of Fatima Stromboli) griped that Desiree’s Sforzando in the next fugal statement didn’t match Zoltan’s, like it or not. Then both Zoltan and Desirée charged Tandalaya with grandstanding during her fugal entry. “This is Beethoven, not a Hungarian Czardas,” snickered Zoltan. “Fugal that,” Tandalaya muttered under her breath.
Finally, the last fugal entrance played by cellist Paulo Arpeggioni, was greeted by unanimous disdain. “Out of tune,” said Zoltan smugly. “Poor intonation,” added Desirée. “Utterly lacking in emotional depth,” observed Tandalaya coolly.
At rehearsal’s end, Zoltan was depressed, Desirée had a stomachache, Tandalaya suffered from shoulder and neck spasms, and Paulo was thinking about giving up the cello.
Moral: Never begin work on a late Beethoven quartet without a labor mediator, a psychiatrist, a doctor, a spiritual advisor, and a physical therapist on hand. Also, chicken soup wouldn’t hurt.
Clotilde met Cosmo on line. Cosmo described little about himself in his profile, but a poem he wrote intrigued her:
not too high,
or it won’t fly.
But too low?
That won’t flow.
But in between,
with a certain sheen,
now that could be keen.
See what I mean?
There was something unusual, even whimsical, if a bit odd about the poem that intrigued Clotilde enough to go on a date with Cosmo.
Clotilde imagined that Cosmo was dashing, wealthy, and wrote his poetry on the back of gourmet restaurant menus while fine French wine was being served. To her great disappointment, however, it turned out that Cosmo was not wealthy, ate only organic foods, and believed in global warming.
Moral: There is always the chance that your date may play the viola.
Musicologists from all over the world gathered recently in the picturesque Austrian spa town of Bad Bad to discuss the lingering doubts about Beethoven’s well-known piano work Für Elise. Some suggested that Elise was not the real name of the woman to whom Beethoven dedicated the piece. One musicologist maintained that her first name really was Therese. Another said it was Elisabeth, while a third insisted it was Juliane. The convention ended in disarray without agreement and with much hard feeling.
Moral: Never second guess the great Ludwig van Beethoven. It really was Elise he wrote it für.
“The Singer in the Shower”
Everyone knew that Penelope Parmigiano was a terrible singer except Penelope herself. That’s because Penelope only sang in the shower, where her puny voice was amplified and beautified no end. Every day she looked forward to singing famous arias from the opera repertoire while showering, and with each day her own assessment of her vocal gifts grew. She began to imagine her name, Penelope Parmigiano, on the marquee, with her, Parmigiano, already a big cheese in the opera world.
At last, Penelope could stand it no longer and rented Carnegie Hall for her debut recital. Somehow, word got out just how bad Penelope was, and she walked out on stage to a packed hall with critics from the leading papers in attendance, all of whom regarded her concert as a sly spoof on lieder recitals.
Her concert was an enormous success and led to annual Carnegie concerts for the rest of her life.
Moral: Daily showers are more important than you think.
Little is known about Arnie, the author of these wise and timely fables. Arnie did play the violin, and like Aesop, it has been said that he came to a bad end.
In his later years, Arnie began to get out of breath playing in the violin’s upper registers. His doctor warned him not to go above the fifth position any longer, but Arnie refused to listen. One day, playing first violin in the first ending of the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Octet, Arnie attempted to reach for the very high E flat, became dizzy, and fell off the fingerboard—never to be seen again.
Conspiracy buffs are convinced that Arnie did not fall off the fingerboard, but was pushed.
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