Twilight was enveloping the hollowed out volcano of SPECTRE (Sinister Period Practice Enacted to Counter Traditional Readings Everlastingly) as Number One, Ernst Hogwood-Blofeld, snoozed away at his desk. There was a smile on his face: he was caught up in a dream featuring a nubile Sandrine Piau and they were playing out a variant of the Coronation of Poppea. Much to his anguish, the desk-phone buzzed as a climax was upon them.
"Hey chief, are you there?" his personal secretary Number Five, Rene Jacobs, screeched in his his-pitched whine.
Hogwood-Blofeld shuddered as if suffering the bends.
"What do you want now?"
"Are you awake, boss?"
The head of SPECTRE rolled his eyes to the ceiling. How would he ever progress his plans for world domination and the destruction of Deutsche Grammophon when he was surrounded by buffoons on all sides?
"We have a visitor," Jacobs shrilled. "He's one of our Agents from Spain. He wants to see you quick-smart!"
"It's not that preacher-guy with the papal tiara and the holy water?"
"No it's not Father Melchizedek, the High Priest of Period Practice; recorder in hand, he's flying in next week for the Gombert Project. It's Number Seventy Nine - Jordi Savall."
Hogwood-Blofeld stifled a yawn.
"Whatever. Send him in. Rescue me in five minutes or so. I have other things to do."
Seconds later, the Spanish semi-conductor bounced into the room and took up one the famous seats beside the desk.
"Jordi, it is so good to see you," Hogwood-Blofeld rumbled. "I have been listening to your latest discs with great pleasure, especially . . . . . . the choral ones. Now, how can I help you?"
"Chief, I wanted to update you on Project Vulcan," Number Seventy Nine replied in a Spanish accent. "In all probability, Homo Sapiens as a species is doomed; one way or the other, we will go the way of the dinosaurs. It may well be that the only mementos of our civilisation are the two golden records on the Voyager spacecraft. True, St David of Munrow is represented on it but so are musical Tsarists such as Karl Richter, Arthur Grumiaux, Edda Moser and Glenn Ghoul. While Voyager 2 is beyond our reach, we could still reach its predecessor. Accordingly we have prepared a rocket with a mechanical arm. We will launch it from the hollowed-out volcano in a few day's time. Once it has caught up with Voyager One, it will extract the golden record and replace it with a disc which is reflective of our aspirations and achievements here at SPECTRE - namely, the miniaturisation and dehydration of masterpieces to the glory of period practice."
"That sounds interesting. What disc do you have in mind? Could I make a suggestion? What about Mozart: Symphonies 34 & 41 "Jupiter" or Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 "Choral"?"
"Number One, we're going with my 1991 recording of Mozart's Requiem - the decision is mine to make and made it I have. It comes in train with the Masonic Funeral March, unrecognisable as it is in its madcap speeds and pinched phrasing."
"Mmmh, that's an interesting choice!" Hogwood-Blofeld murmured as his right-hand slithered under the lid of his desk. "Why so?"
"If there was ever a Vinegary Festival of the Clipped Phrase, this is it. My interpretation of K 626 is almost unlistenable in its squeezed phrasing and acidity of tone. The strings - and I use that word loosely - have no timbre or sonority whatsoever to their playing; they cannot even hold their own against a clarinet; yep, it's the usual timpani and brass show to the detriment of all. As you know, Number One, everyone at SPECTRE tries to outdo one another when it comes to the Hostias. I have squeezed the life out of it to the point where Mozart's wonderful lead-in phrase from the orchestra is nothing more than a blip - there's nothing like it in the discography of this work; it's the worst you will ever hear. Soloist-wise, I employed four singers all of whom sound ethereal to the point of weightlessness - it's Mozart as Tomás Luis de Victoria."
"Look, I am sure this recording has its merits," the Head of SPECTRE replied jovially, "but surely there are alternatives with stronger claims such as Mozart: Requiem, K 626
"No, no, no!" Savall replied with Hispanic insouciance. "The timpani notwithstanding, my performance of the Requiem is the driest and most bloodless on the market. The phrasing has more clips to it than a stationery office. If we perish as a species and the planet itself reverts to star-dust, it alone should survive and find a place in an inter-galactic equivalent of the Alexandrian Library!"
"What a pity, Jordi. You have been a faithful servant of SPECTRE. Sadly, our little association ends today! You cannot say that I did not give you a chance!"
He pushed a button under the lid of his desk. Nothing happened. His guest looked at him quizzically. Uttering a profanity, Hogwood-Blofeld pushed the button again and again but to no vivid end: Jordi Savall remained in his seat, sipping away at a freshly-ground coffee.
"Number Seventy Nine, you must excuse me," Hogwood-Blofeld growled cholerically. "I have a facilities-management issue that warrants my attention. Nothing ever works around here! Let's revisit Project Vulcan later in the week. Make another appointment. On your way out, send in that nincompoop Number Five! Tell him to bring a spanner!"