Monday, May 28, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 27
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, conductor Rogers Kent-Clarke decides to check out this New Coalton place and runs into the site of that accident on White Crow Road with Officers Tennant and Schickhaus, driving into a ditch. After his car is pulled out, he is, at long last, on his way. In this chapter, we return to Lübeck in 1705 where Bach has just discovered he has not one but two pairs of unexpected visitors.
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Did Klavdia Klangfarben really think 18th Century German countesses wore black leotards, big floppy hats, dyed their hair platinum blond and wore stiletto heels like that? Whether the good citizens of Lübeck could see her as we saw her – far more scandalously dressed than Cameron's shorts and sandals, I'd imagine – or her attire was, like our language barrier, assimilated into their everyday reality, I had no idea.
I also had no idea who her companion was, a tall, handsome man in his forties with a full head of dark hair, an opulent mustache and trim goatee. Clicking his heels, he said in a surprisingly nasal voice with a slight lisp, "I am Prince Leopold August von Anhieb-Waklsänger-Luxusjachtmann, the countess' fiancé. I'm just along for the ride."
His annoyingly artificial smile made me immediately suspect he was probably a lawyer.
Klangfarben's smoldering glower could have lit the candles on the far side of the room.
Bach apologized for his tardiness as he had not been expecting any visitors at all, being a visitor himself in Lübeck. He was also momentarily expected for dinner at Buxtehude's house, so, having already invited Cameron and me, he extended the invitation to the countess and her fiancé, as well. There was little she could do but graciously accept.
We must have made an impressive show, parading back to St. Mary's, Klangfarben and her 'prince' on Bach's left, Cameron and I on his right. He mentioned Buxtehude's tempting offer to succeed him as the organist, here.
When Klangfarben began impressing on him how important this position could be, starting so early in his career – think what fame he might acquire in even a decade's time – I saw immediately what she was up to: by convincing him to stay in Lübeck, she would alter the course of history so there would be no Bach at Leipzig instead, meaning no marriage to Maria Barbara, no sons like Carl Philip Emanuel, quite possibly no need to write the violin sonatas and partitas or the Brandenburg Concertos. Nasty business, this was going to turn into.
I told him, by the way, his cousin Maria Barbara sent her regards.
"That's one of the problems, you see," Bach sighed as he knocked at Buxtehude's door.
The woman who opened it was the same woman, now richly dressed without the apron, we’d met earlier at the church.
"Idiot! How typical of you to bring four uninvited guests."
The dinner proceeded smoothly, Bach discussing the big oratorio that was the major work at tonight’s concert, "The All-Terrifying, All-Joyful End of Time and the Beginning of Eternity," which Buxtehude told us hadn't been performed in over a decade. (Cameron whispered this hardly sounded like Christmas music but I told him Advent, then, was different than it is today.)
Klangfarben mentioned how wonderful it would be to live in Lübeck, much more cosmopolitan than a back-water like Arnstadt. Bach agreed, but maybe not as nice, perhaps, as living in Leipzig, turning and smiling toward me.
Then she started in on how Arnstadt was all abuzz over his recent run-in with that bassoonist. The "prince" smiled, nodding enthusiastically.
"Ach! I cannot tolerate going back there again!" Bach angrily chewed on a roll.
"Instead," she said, as Buxtehude beamed at her, "you could become the most important musician in Northern Germany as the Master's successor, here."
"Yes, of course, you're absolutely right. Master," Bach said, standing up, "I accept your offer. Let's sign the contract tonight!"
"So be it, my son. Great day, great news!" The old man went to shake Bach's hand, clinching the deal.
But before he could, the "prince" motioned frantically to Klangfarben: the watch-like device he held up was flashing red.
Klangfarben rose, congratulating him on his decision but apologized for needing to leave so hurriedly. She and the "prince" left the room and quickly disappeared from sight, starting a great round of confusion among the guests.
Meanwhile, another guest, a young organist from Hamburg named Schieferdecker, found the contract Buxtehude had offered numerous musicians in the past, including George Frederick Handel who declined it and left town rather suddenly the next day.
Buxtehude beckoned for his daughter to rise so he could present his future successor to his future bride. Anna Margarethe rolled her eyes.
Suddenly – this being my last, most desperate chance to undermine Klangfarben's plan, knowing she would be unable to return to change it back – I ‘accidentally’ spilled wine on Anna Margarethe’s gown and all hell broke loose.
Buxtehude's daughter, throwing plates of food at me, let fly with such vituperation – how I should be chained to the bed-post, my ass whipped with leather thongs until I bled – Bach, aghast, stood back in horror.
With deep regret, he handed the Master his contract – unsigned. As we left, Anna Margarethe yelled at her maid to get the mop.
Walking down the street, Bach promised he would never consider Buxtehude's offer again, thanking me for saving him from a marriage to the unfortunate Anna Margarethe. Though he would delay his return – there was still much great music to hear over the next few weeks – he asked us to please give his cousin his best wishes for the holiday.
He promised to start looking for another position, leaving Arnstadt behind, but asked me to kindly express his regards also to the good churchmen in Leipzig.
Cameron, meanwhile, pointed at the Time-Device: it had started flashing red.
Rogers Kent-Clarke found the fork on the Old Coalton Road easily enough and, after a steep climb, found the turn-off for what Detective Ste.-Croix said would be New Coalton, or where it had once stood.
Curiously, two cars were parked there, already. One, he was pretty sure, was Dr. Kerr's.
"Looks like I'm not the first one to arrive at the party."
Since his kidneys had finished processing the beer, he needed to find some convenient bush and quickly – like that tree stump in the center of the field where he sighed the sigh of relief.
Next, he wondered how he was going to discover where all the others were. There was nobody around: where had they gone?
Looking down, he noticed the air in front of him turned into rippling bluish white lights. Reaching forward, he felt himself sucked in.
From the distance, the only thing one could hear was a loud "Ewwww!"
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To be continued…
- Dick Strawser
The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.