"Satan is among us!" Father Melchizedek OP screeched in falsetto.
Sir Simon Rattle gazed around the Philharmonie. As far as he could tell, they were alone in the gloom. It was past midnight.
"Preacher, you don't actually believe in that stuff, do you?" he replied bouncily. "This is not the Dark Ages. I'm a big believer in education and the power of the internet!"
The cleric was too busy checking his armoury to rebut this presumption. His silence unnerved the funky conductor.
"Hey, yeah, like I spoke to Magdalena; we think it would be pretty cool to have a ghostie here in the Philharmonie - just like our own Phantom of the Opera. Hey - that's an idea! Let's program it soon and we'll stage another conga line with the orchestra! (Bernstein - Wonderful Town / Audra McDonald, Kim Criswell, Thomas Hampson, Wayne Marshall, Simon Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic) Do you want some free tickets?"
"Number 7," Father Melchizedek hissed, "sometimes I wonder about your commitment to the cause of SPECTRE (Sinister Period Practice Enacted to Counter Traditional Readings Everlastingly)! Do I need to convey my concerns to Number 1?"
"Righto," Sir Simon replied nervously. "I'll kick off that Buxtehude Project tomorrow with the Berlin Philharmonic. Anyway, I'll let you get on with your wizardry stuff, padre. Like I said, there has been some strange things going on here ever since the 8th of January, 2012. I reckon it's the air-conditioner, but perhaps there are more things found in heaven and earth . . . . . oh, whatever that dude said!"
Soon enough, the High Priest of Period Practice was alone in the hall. The meagre illumination was being provided by the exit signs. He kept his distance from the rostrum - in his mind, it was the Abomination of Desolation - but for the moment no infernal forces were in play. After a quick prayer to Saint Munrow the Pale, the cleric retreated to one of the upper galleries and burrowed into a corner. From there, he kept vigil until his eyes closed in sleep.
Come three in the morning, he was woken up by the opening bars of the Goldberg Variations. He hazarded a glance over the railing: a ghost was seated at a Bosendorfer: it was Alexis Weissenberg.
Father Melchizedek bared his teeth in a hiss before dropping back into his bolt-hole. "So you've come back to the haunt of your old successes - that's a mistake, you unholy creature!" He frantically searched his armoury for a talisman: yes, there were performances of the Goldberg by the likes of Rousset, Gilbert, van Asperan, Cole, Ross, Pinnock - but extremities were warranted: that could only mean the Leonhardt version. Lest he frost-burn his own hands, the High Priest of Period Practice donned gloves before grasping the CD in question. It was glacial. Still, who could doubt its firepower?
Meanwhile Weissenberg played on. Most people would be astounded by his characterisation of the work. Evoking Jupiter, it could be likened to a planetary system consisting of 32 moons. Where does one start? The playfulness, the heroism or the poety? Sure, there is the occasional accelerando in the second half repeats but they are sufficiently musical not to impair the integrity and flow of the work. On occasion, one could say that his fingers run ahead of his brain but what fingers they are and they are never less than spellbinding! The Pearl Variation stops time. Weissenberg sees Variation XIII as being pivotal to the first half and accordingly adopts a reverential tempo. And where else is one to find to such a luminous treatment of Variation XIX? It's stunning. The sound is exemplary. This is sophisticated pianism at the service of the Cantor of St Thomas' - a triumph of grand vice over clinical virtue - but it was all wasted on Father Melchizedek. To him, it reeked of Liszt-ification. Or perhaps the ghost was attempting to transform the work into a Black Mass, Scriabin-style. Bah!
At last, Melchizedek rose to his feet and held the Leonhardt above his head like a monstrance. An imprecation was on the tip of his tongue. Just as he was about to command the spectre to return to the Underworld, he inadvertently dropped the disc and it fell down into his cassock before making its way into his nether region.
"Ahhhhhhh" Father Melchizedek yelped as he made the transition from counter-tenor to the castrato of his dreams.