= = = = = = =
Not only did he have a viola, it was a large white viola, glowing ominously in the dim stage lighting. I had read about modern instrument makers using white pine for some student violins, mostly a kind of novelty item, I thought, but I knew nothing about their sound quality.
Tony, catching a whiff of cheese in the air, remembered stories she had heard told around the campfires of the summer music camps she’d gone to as a kid, ghost stories about an old Strad with white varnish, the unlucky 13th viola that met with a lunch-time accident in Stradivari’s shop. She’d heard of its legendary reputation as a killer instrument. Literally. There was a wolf-tone on the lowest string, she knew, that, played just right, could prove lethal.
“Dr. Dick,” she hollered across the stage, “this is the murder weapon! Be careful! Be very careful!”
Nepomuck, climbing up through the trombone section and down over the risers, advanced steadily toward me as I stood near the podium. He was sawing away at the last movement of Hindemith’s “Der Schwanendreher,” the variations on an old medieval German folk-song “Are you not the swan-turner?” I could see myself on a spit over an open flame as he approached me with his piercingly malevolent eyes ablaze, just like many orchestra players might view a conductor or a living composer.
“No, Nepomuck,” squawked Leighton imploringly as he shuffled forward, “not yet, not yet! We must find it first! He must lead us to the treasure before you kill him!”
Nepomuck stopped on the lowest of the risers and stared back and forth between Leighton and me.
It was my turn.
Grabbing at straws, I began spieling off some stuff, the first things that came to my mind: that the Immoral Beloved is buried in a family crypt at an old German resort-town, and the letters are hidden in her coffin, next to her mummified remains.
Leighton started jumping up and down, screaming, “Show me the mummy, Dr. Dick, show me the mummy!!”
“You’re not going to fall for that, are you,” Teabag shouted back at him from the other side of the stage, “you overstuffed, bottom-feeding excuse of a charlatan?”
“Yes, Lance,” I turned to him to explain. “I found a clue on the next page of that folder we were looking at just before we were distracted by Buzz’s abduction – a letter with a pen-and-ink sketch of her grave... she’s buried in... Bad Spassstein ... her crypt is marked by... The Sign... and you already have the password to open the secret coded casket of letters that would reveal her identity: the Sower Arepo knows how to turn the wheels...”
Startled, Lance cried out triumphantly, “Setpa Aptes Toerr Oanao Rrrrrreeeeeot! Yes, I knew it,” raising his arms and flailing his shilllaleigh in triumph. “Ah! I knew it! I knew it!” He was practically in a state of delirium.
Leighton stopped cold in his tracks, sputtering, “Great heaving purple wombats, what the hell is that, Teabag: Egyptian? How Masonic! But I know where Bad Spassstein is, and I can get there faster than you, you dried-up sack of desiccated old body parts!”
I certainly hoped I was making this up.
Nepomuck began to tuck the viola back under what passed for his chin. “So now I can kill him?” he asked as he approached the podium.
Leighton waved his hand dismissively. “Yes,” he pouted, “kill them all.”
“NO!” Teabag roared. Then realizing Nepomuck was implacable, pleaded, “Well, just a little?”
The music began again, but moving quickly from the Hindemith – especially after I told him that one note should’ve been an F-sharp – into something more frenzied and increasingly louder, progressing to what might have been a Berio Sequenza.
“Holy Hammerklavier, Dr. Dick” Buzz cried out, “we’ve got to get out of here!”
Believe me, I was looking for a way out, but with the pit behind me, Teabag closing in on the right – or was that left, stage left? – and Leighton barring the way on the... uhm, on the other side, there was no place to hide. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t a place to run. Soon he was chasing me around the podium, one lap after another – talk about Luposlipophobia! Then, on the fifth lap, I suddenly stepped to the right – no, the... well, to the first violin side.
“Look out for the...” Leighton squawked, but it was too late. Nepomuck tripped over the microphone cord. “Curse these conductors who have to explain everything to the audience!”
Losing his balance, Nepomuck threw the viola up into the air as he fell headlong into the pit.
“My precious! Aaaauuuugggghhhh,” he screamed into the black hole below him.
Rising in slow motion, the White Viola and its bow seemed suspended as they arced back over the podium. Tony made a great leap of faith to catch them. Our eyes followed her even as Nepomuck landed with a loud crackling splat on the floor of the pit far below us.
With the grace and dexterity of an Olympic gymnast, Tony yelled out “One! Three! TWO!” There was a flash of light as she jumped and caught both the viola and the bow in one smooth gesture.
“Bravo! Well done!” we clapped and cheered, but already Teabag was inching backward toward the exit. And with that, Leighton turned and shuffled off the stage, leaving for a jet plane to Bad Spassstein. “I’ll destroy it before you even know I’m gone,” he cackled, his voice trailing off as the stage door closed behind him.
“Ssssso, Dr. Dick, you think you’re clever, ssssending him off to Bad SpasssssssssStein like that?”
Where was this voice coming from, I wondered?
“Master... you are... here.” The broken voice of Nepomuck groaned from the pit. “But I... have failed... you... again.”
“It’sss very ssssimple, Nepomuck: if you sssseek to live by the viola, you will ccccertainly die... by the viola.”
Comforting thought. But the hissing voice wasn’t just coming from Teabag’s direction: it was coming from Teabag himself.
“I have killed... in vain... I can no longer do... The Ser...pent’s... bidding.” And with that, there was one soft thud, then silence.
“He killed Schnellenlauter,” Tony whispered. She held the viola out at arm’s length as if it would contaminate her.
“And you were controlling him,” I added, turning back to Teabag. “You’re behind all this... And I thought you were my... umm... er... uh oh...” The realization was not a pleasant one.
“That’s right, Dr. Dick. And now you’ve found the clue I’ve been looking for, the location of the box of letters that will reveal the identity of Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved and her daughter. They have tried to hide her and her offspring for almost 200 years, but it is time for them to be revealed at last. Setpa Aptes Toerr Oanao Rrrrrreeeeeot!”
“I don’t have the clue, Teabag, not yet. I’m still trying to work it out and I think it’s only going to get us one step closer. I need more time.” And then added, thoughtfully, “And... I need your help.”
“Darn right, you need my help, you haven’t figured any of this out on your own: it’s all been my knowledge and my research and my intuition that’s gotten you this far.”
“Only partly true, but I’ll let that pass.”
“They would’ve done better if they’d brought in Regis Philbin! Give me that clue or I will turn you to stone with the awesome power of my mighty shillaleigh.” Holding up his knobby cane with its elaborate brass dragon-head, he declared, “Prepare to meet Gorgo, Dr. Dick.”
The dragon’s eyes began to flash a brilliant red but faded almost immediately with a wilting sputter. Teabag shook it, pounded the tip on the floor to no avail. “Darn it,” he roared, “I must be using the wrong batteries!”
And with that, Tony put the viola under her chin and marched off the podium toward Teabag, yelling back over her shoulder, “Buzz, get the iPod – put it on Dr. Dick. Hurry – then go get me something to drink!”
She began noodling around on the lower strings of the viola till she found the wolf-tone. “So, Teabag, now it’s your turn to die by the viola...” Then she prepared to play the upper octave on the next string.
Just as I knew she had found the murderous wolf-tones, Buzz stuffed the nearly microscopic headphones of his iPod deep into my ears. Would it be enough? Would it be in time? He turned quickly and dove for the stage door.
The pain seared through my skull with the most hideous yowling, worse than a hundred screaming soccer-moms and all their toddlers combined, reverberating down the empty synapses of my brain as if it had been injected with molten lead laced with a dash of hydrofluoric acid. I fell to the ground, my hands scraping at my ears as if ripping them off my head would mean I would no longer have to suffer the inhuman torture of this malevolent racket. I writhed in agony and thought for sure that I was doomed – never to hear Beethoven again, never to see beautiful downtown Harrisburg again, in fact never even to grade multiple choice questions about 20th Century music ever again.
When she had stopped playing, Buzz hurried back on stage, carrying a can of soda. He rushed over to my side and quickly turned the iPod off, surveying the damage: there was Teabag, lying on the floor as silent as a stone, and Dr. Dick, lying on the floor writhing in pain, massaging his skull.
“G'AAH!” I spluttered, trying to dig the remaining sound out of my ears. “What the hell was that crap?!”
“This?” Buzz picked up his iPod and put it away. “It’s the latest album by the Screaming Dead Lawn Zombies – really cool, isn’t it!” He went to hand Tony the soda. “Sorry, the only thing they had was some high-energy drink called Phizzazz, so...”
Almost instantly, the entire stage sounded like it had started to breathe, heavy labored breathing coming from everywhere.
Tony stood near the apron of the stage, over Teabags’ prone body. A faint light began to play around her.
“Toooooo-nyyyy...” It was a distant, disembodied voice, deep and resonant, echoing through the space around us as if now the entire theater had come alive and taken on a decidedly evil personification. “Come to me, Tony....”
“Who are you?” She looked up overhead but could see no one.
I looked out into the theater but it sounded too much like someone above us, perhaps, I thought, in the catwalks over the theater’s perforated ceiling. One false step and he’d come crashing through the chandelier. Soon, I expected to hear someone singing “The Music of the Night.”
“Come to me, Tony... come over to... the Dark Side...”
“Who are you, where are you from?” she asked indignantly.
“I come from a galaxy far away,” he said. The breathing became more labored, the reverb more intense. “Philomel, it is I. I am your father.”
“My father?” she gasped in disbelief. “My father is an alien? I don’t think so: my father’s from Indiana!”
“Hoosier Daddy... No, not the father you know, the one who married your mother... your real father, the one you never knew. Come to me, Philomel... bring me the White Viola and come with me. Join me on... the Dark Side.”
She stepped closer to the edge of the stage.
“It’s getting darker out here, Tony,” I said, “be careful. Don’t do it.”
“How do you know my name? What’s your name?” She looked out toward the ceiling as if she had discovered where the voice was coming from, but in a moment she turned back toward one corner of the stage.
“I know your name, I was there when it was given to you at conception. I’m your father.” The heavy breathing continued. “My name... is... Lex Luthier... the greatest criminal violin-maker... of all time.”
“He wants the White Viola, Tony, so he can create a whole line of killer fiddles for his one-man crime empire: he’s just sweet-talking you, Tony,” I urged her desperately. “Don’t listen to him.”
Buzz slipped back stage, following a hunch as well as a striking electrical smell coming from a not so distant corner. He pulled a curtain aside then shouted to us, “Hey guys, check this out!”
We arrived to see a small, sniveling bald-headed man of a certain age hunched over a control board with his hands cupped around a microphone. He continued speaking, ignoring our presence. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain... I am Lex Luthier. Philomel... I am...”
Not knowing what else to do, Buzz poured the can of Phizzazz down over the man’s bald head. It was as if the mighty-sounding Lex Luthier began to dissolve before our very eyes!
“I’m melting... melting... oh, curse you, Dr. Dick – and your little blog, too!” And with that, he evaporated into a puddle fizzing on the floor at our feet.
Buzz looked at the empty can in his hands. “Wow, rot-gut stuff: and it’s only fifty cents!” He turned to say something to Tony but she had disappeared.
“It’s a lighting board, Buzz! Bring up pot number 6.” I looked out onto the stage to find Tony – Philomel – standing near the apron facing the door that leads to the school’s main lobby. No. 6 brought up a general array of back-lighting for the stage.
“No, that’s not it, after all,” I interjected, trying not to sound too disappointed.”So much for the Magic Square.”
“Buzz – try the sum of the sum of all the numbers,” Tony suggested. “Each line and column – and diagonal – adds up to six: there are eight of them. Is there a Pot No. 48?”
Then I realized what she must be looking at. Of course, the bust just above the doorway.
There was indeed a Pot No. 48. He brought it up slowly. A thin ray of light highlighted the lunette over the door. I had forgotten there were two of these on opposite doorways: the left side of the auditorium (or is that stage right?) had a bust of Bach over it; this side, a bust of Beethoven.
Just then, a commotion erupted backstage: more villains? Chief Inpsector Hemiola and his men burst onto the stage with guns drawn. I put my hands up in the air while they surveyed the scene. Libitum checked Teabag for any vital signs and announced that he was out cold but could be coming to, momentarily. Sforzando found the body of Nepomuck in the pit. He had fallen face down, arms and legs splayed in a now familiar shape: his left side parallel to the inside wall, his right side stretched out just like a viola clef – the K-shaped one – just like Schnellenlauter had been found this morning. His head with its spiky whitish-blonde hair pointed directly to the bust of Beethoven.
“You guys okay?”
“I would be, if you could put that gun away. Honestly, I didn’t do it,” I protested.
Hemiola put the gun down. “We know that, now. We found evidence linking Teabag to the guy with the White Viola who’s the real murderer. And we arrested Charles Leighton-Quackerly as he was trying to hijack another plane, this one for Germany,” he added, shaking his head in disbelief. “And we know you’re searching for something very important. Have you found it?”
“Hey hey hey, what the freap is goin’ on out here? I gotta concert tonight, an' you guys’re messin’ up my stage?” A short wiry man with thinning, graying hair and wire-rim glasses, maybe weighing barely 100 pounds soaking wet, rushed out on stage like a banty rooster.
Agent Accelerando quickly pulled his gun on him and he came to a screeching halt.
“Hey, put dat t’ing away, dis is a thee-ater, not a drug dealership! My name’s Sonny – I’m the stage manager here.” He put his finger on the barrel of Accelerando’s pistol and pushed it away from him. “Sonny Arepo, pleased t’meetcha...”
“Sonny,” I said to him, “we need a ladder, then we’ll be out of what’s left of your hair.”
“OMG, bodies,” he squeaked. “You got bodies all over my stage! Get ‘em outta here!! If the Maestro sees we’ve got bodies on his stage, I’m dead meat! Sure sure, ladder...” and with that he was off, returning in moments with a tall section ladder. Buzz and I carried it down the steps and into the auditorium, placing it beside the doorway.
Cautiously, I clambered up to the lunette. Face to face with the bust of Beethoven, I realized how much dirt can accumulate over the years: the place really could use a bust duster. I lifted the bust carefully from its pedestal and there in the plinth was a piece of paper folded into a neat square.
I brought it down and handed it to Tony who opened it slowly, turn by turn. Would it reveal the name of Beethoven’s Beloved? Was it yet another clue? I felt her eyes should be the first to see it. She read it thoughtfully and then handed it to me without a word.
A loved one
Waits beneath the Sign
To find a tangled family’s dream.
*** ***** ******** ***** ***
It all seemed obvious enough. With the loan of Teabag’s stealth-plane, we made it to the Berkshires in little more than half-an-hour. We arrived about an hour before three concerts in New York were scheduled to begin but the fact they’d all been canceled and the reason why – with proper accreditation now given to Lance Teabag – had already hit the evening news.
When Tony, Buzz and I had been contemplating this latest clue back at the theater, Teabag came to, muttering something that the police thought sounded remotely Egyptian. They had enough evidence against him, it wouldn’t matter if he tried to plead insanity now: there were not enough years left in his life, at this point, to serve that many consecutive life sentences, anyway. Tony felt badly that perhaps she had played too many of the wolf-tones: she hadn’t wanted to kill him outright, just eliminate him as a threat, but knowing that he was responsible for Schnellenlauter’s death made her lose control, understandably. It happens to the best of violists, sometimes.
They found Renfrew banging to get out of a backstage locker but when they tossed him into the back of the paddy wagon, after taking one look at the supremely ruffled Charles Leighton-Quackerly sitting indignantly in the corner, he began to scream, babbling incoherently about penguins, then passed out.
*** ***** ******** ***** ***
Agent Accelerando landed the Time Warp not far from the famous music shed, this time without any complications, not to mention flack from the local airports. He gave us however much time we’d need before the I.M.P. would take us and the plane back to New York. They were very much hoping to keep this plane a secret but they knew, once it was brought out at the trial, they would not be able to keep it for themselves very long.
How were we going to find... The Sign? It was a busy Saturday night, though the summer concert season wasn’t officially to open for a few more weeks: this season, James Levine, now recuperated after his fall, would conduct among other works Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, a concert I would love to hear. But the place was already bursting with the energy of students preparing for rehearsals, playing chamber music, studying and working with members of the Boston Symphony. I saw a poster for a student string quartet playing Shostakovich’s 14th Quartet earlier this afternoon but we’d missed it. Lots of Mozart and Shostakovich today – appropriately enough, considering today, Midsummer Day, marked the Golden Section of the span between their respective birthday anniversaries.
Then I noticed a sign. Well, a sign of sorts: made of polished wood suspended from a tree branch on one of the main walkways, it consisted of merely the dal segno symbol but no words, just an arrow pointing the way. We followed it to another one which led us down a side walkway, and then another.
There, set back among some trees and shrubs, was a simple gift shop, a pyramid of shiny pine and cedar with lots of glass, already brightly lit in the glow of evening. Lots of people were milling about. James Levine, a towel folded over his shoulder walked past smiling, surrounded by eager students, probably on his way from one rehearsal to another. We stood in front of the shop. It was called, simply, Dal Segno.
This must be the place. We walked in.
A note inside read "People always come back to Dal Segno." Over the cash register hung another of those wooden signs with the dal segno symbol and an arrow pointing down. There stood an elderly woman, probably the owner, her back to the register. She was crying, comforting a woman who leaned against her. They were watching the news on television which was just mentioning the three conductors found murdered in New York City that morning. There on the screen was a picture of the three of us – Buzz, Tony and myself – standing in front of the Eastman Theater talking to a reporter, being given credit for helping the International Music Police track down the killers. We figured they gave us this much, hoping we would not turn around and sue their badges off for having wrongly accused us in the first place.
When the women realized somebody was at the register, they turned around, surprised to see the same three people they had just seen on TV. They were probably almost as surprised to see us as we were to see them.
“Frieda!” I couldn’t believe my eyes: the older woman was Schnellenlauter’s wife, Frieda F. Erden. I thought she had died years ago!
“Mother!” Tony cried out, tears filling her eyes.
Yes, I recognized the younger woman, too, despite the passing of decades: the cellist I had known at Eastman, Fern Geliebter, Tony’s mother. Though we’d kept in touch, I had not seen her for maybe 30 years but that may not have seemed as long to her as the 10 years since Tony had walked out of their New Jersey house headed for Juilliard.
In the midst of this surprising reunion, Tony held her mother tightly and whispered in her ear, “Happy Birthday, Mom.” And there were more tears all around.
“Yes,” Frieda says, “yes, I remember that day all too well. There is much to be told: perhaps we should retire to the office and have a little something to drink.” Looking around, she caught the attention of a young girl stocking one of the shelves. “Minona,” she called to her, “would you keep an eye on the register, please?”
As we sat down around a cluttered desk, Tony wondered why Frieda would remember the day her mother was born?
“Because, my dear, I was there,” she said with a smile, pouring a few drinks. “I have nothing fancy, I’m afraid, just a little Bavarian wine I keep for special occasions.” She handed Tony her wine. “Oh yes, I was very much there, fifty-four years ago...”
“Mother, please! Be discreet,” Fern chuckled as she blushed.
“‘Mother’?” Tony looked from her mother to Frieda and saw a strong resemblance between the two tall, rather statuesque women. “You mean...?”
Fern took her daughter’s hand and held it out towards Frieda who clasped it between her own. “Philomel, meet your grandmother.” It was indeed a day of surprises and revelations.
Buzz and I both cleared our throats, wondering if perhaps we should leave the family to their reunion. I had wondered if Schnellenlauter’s clues would reveal something more personal than the location of letters that may have passed between Beethoven and his Immortal Beloved, but I had not counted on something quite on this scale. The night was indeed transfigured.
Frieda proceeded to explain. “No, Maestro Schnellenlauter was not your grandfather: he married me after your mother was conceived but before she was born. And I could not raise my own daughter not because of any shame or disapproval on his part – he loved you as his own child, Fern, you know that,” Frieda said turning to Tony’s mother.
“All those times he visited Eastman: he was there to see Fern.” It made sense to me, now.
“Not so much to see her: Fern didn’t know. He could only observe.” Frieda nodded as if this were perfectly acceptable.
“I found out only later that I was adopted. But my adoptive parents were friends of Hans and Frieda’s. And they had often come over to visit when I was growing up.” Fern was also very matter-of-fact about it.
“And now he was ‘observing’ me... but why?” Tony’s couldn’t understand the secrecy.
“We share a common legacy, my child,” Frieda began to explain, “and when in the early-50's, my brother and his family were killed – oh, it looked like the fire was an accident, but we had heard there were people intent on destroying us and we knew we had to go into hiding. Fern was raised by friends of ours in New Jersey.”
“Not long after I graduated from Eastman, I fell in love – I thought – with a young man who, it turned out, shared this... this legacy. But even before I discovered I was pregnant with you,” Fern said as she patted her daughter’s hand, “I realized what an absolute schmuck he was, planning on using it for evil ends. That was when I met your father... well, your step-father, and...”
Tony interrupted her. The tingling she felt needed no explanation now, nor did this talk of ‘legacy,’ and it was clear that people like the Gatekeeper were friends who knew at least something about her and looked out for her, whether she knew it or not. She began to understand this ‘observing’ was also part of that legacy, just as Beethoven himself could never do anything but observe his beloved and their daughter.
But she did feel the need to ask about Lex Luthier.
“How do you know about him?” Fern was surprised. And after we explained what had happened on the Eastman Theater stage, Fern nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s sounds like your scumbag father. His real name is Earl King, and I’d heard he’d gone over to the dark side a long time ago. It’s just as well. I wonder if he had any other children?”
“And so,” Frieda said, turning to me, after explaining how they had faked her own death to protect her from their enemies, “what will you do with this knowledge now, Dr. Dick? You have come very close to discovering the true secret.” She was very disappointed in the increasingly desperate activities of people like Teabag who were determined to solve this puzzle. “It’s a sign of the culture of our times, I guess, when everybody is so obsessed with the private lives of ‘celebrities’ that we even have to go after long-dead ones, now.”
Fern sipped her wine, snickered, “Next they’ll be wanting to know if Beethoven wore boxers or briefs...”
Frieda poured another glass of wine. I noticed the label – ‘Geschichte aus dem Verstrickenwald’ (Tales from the Entangled Woods?), dark with a very sweet, fruity flavor. “Does it have any effect on his music or how we understand it? If it did, then it might be significant, but if it didn’t, what’s the point of having it become public knowledge?”
I wondered, though. “What if Beethoven’s writer’s block around the years his child had been born had its root in feelings of guilt and despondency over his being unable to acknowledge this, or to be able to enjoy openly the benefits of marriage and family life? We don’t know that, but look at the music that finally came out of that writer’s block: did his own inner turmoil, if that’s what it was and if that’s what it was fueled by, turn his music inward as well, becoming the touchstone of his Late Period style? Is that what's behind the grandeur of the Missa Solemnis – is it more an act of atonement and the Archduke’s becoming an Archbishop merely an excuse to write it?”
“We’ll never know, for sure,” she answered, “but if we did know – for sure – wouldn’t it take the mystery out of the music?
“Or would it help translate art to a level more approachable to those of us who cannot comprehend such genius? Does it really trivialize it? As for the Missa Solemnis, it’s still great art, whether it was inspired by friendship or guilt, but isn’t it more inspiring to have come from the deeper personal convictions of his inner self?”
I remembered having similar discussions, if not exactly arguments, with Schnellenlauter years ago during my grad school days. Sometimes we could slip back and forth from one side of the argument to the other and not feel we were contradicting ourselves, because, at bottom, we’re all full of contradictions, voiced or unvoiced. It used to drive our theorist-friends mad, our seeing both sides of black-and-white: to them, there was no gray. How can you listen to music and not realize there is never only one answer, one interpretation, one reason or cause?
“But often,” Fern said, finishing her glass, “it’s curiosity that comes down to people, prurient or not, who just want to know if Beethoven was having sex. As if a man with his strong personality would have been a 50-something virgin when he died! What’s the point?”
Frieda continued, “if you look back at some of the greatest stories of Western Civilization – from Oedipus Rex or Tristan and Isolde through the likes of Hedda Gabler or Madame Bovary – it’s all about sex, what is proper and what is not. That’s what interests people, and not just people today. It shocks them, but it sells.”
As Buzz and Tony talked with Fern, Frieda and I continued our own discussion. “I hope you will honor your friend and not pursue this quest any further. I cannot thank you enough for restoring Philomel – or rather, Tony – to our family, but I hope you would let the secret of the Immortal Beloved and the letters rest?”
“I have no idea where to look, Frieda – the clues led me to you. If you know that the secret still exists and didn’t vanish with Maestro Schnellenlauter’s death, then I have no reason to wonder.”
She held my hand and thanked me with a tear in her eye.
*** ***** ******** ***** ***
The place was filled with several hundred people suddenly applauding.
I snorted into consciousness as I realized I must have dozed off during the concert. Buzz had nudged me, telling me excitedly, “it's amazing to think he put the finishing touches on this the same summer he wrote to the Immortal Beloved: must have been a very happy time for him!” Buzz was in love, a new girlfriend – he seemed to relate well to such a scenario.
Buzz Blogster and I had gone to New York for a day of musical sight-seeing, shopping at Patelson's, going to the library at Lincoln Center, taking in this concert in Carnegie Hall by some touring orchestra from Eastern Europe. The young conductor was filling in at the last minute for the ailing maestro but all I could remember about him was that he needed to buy another vowel. The concert had ended with a lively but still rather lack-luster performance of Beethoven's 7th Symphony, a lot of energy signifying nothing. Still, I have no idea how I could have slept through that last movement. I remember telling Buzz as we'd walked into the hall what had been going on in Beethoven's life that year, the summer of the Immortal Beloved, wondering who she was, what kind of woman she must have been to inspire a grumpy, middle-aged man like Beethoven to write such sublimely happy music.
True, it had not been a very exciting evening and perhaps I'd eaten too much for dinner – we'd stopped at some greasy spoon down the street where I'd gotten the baked lasagna special and Buzz, a huge vat of chili. The program had opened with Mozart's Overture to “Don Giovanni” after which the principal violist was given a chance to play a charming yet otherwise forgettable fantasy for viola and orchestra by Johann Nepomuck Hummel which made use of one of Don Ottavio's arias in Mozart's opera about love, lust and retribution. The first half concluded with a rather aimless rendering of Arnold Schoenberg's “Verklärte Nacht” that left me feeling rather sleep-deprived.
So maybe it was all a dream and I never would’ve found out her true identity, this Immortal Beloved, or the location of her letters, if they even exist. But still, I kept thinking: even if it was only a dream, how could it be so life-like?
We talked about trying to find the Green Room but I'd thought better of the idea: what was the point? As we joined the crowd walking out into the night air along 57th Street, heading for Central Park West, I remembered leaving the gift shop – the one in my dream – noticing there had been a small wooden box in the glass display case directly beneath the cash-register under that last dal segno sign. It was made of cedar and white pine with a simple dal segno symbol engraved on its cover: the little white card next to it said “Not For Sale.” Hmmm... I wonder...
*** ***** ******** ***** ***
This marks the conclusion of my parody of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code." Stay tuned for the imminent release of "The Lost Chord."
- Dr. Dick