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HIPster Wars - News from the Bach Front - Communiqué 7,
This review is from: Bach: The Toccatas (Audio CD)
It was midnight at the hollowed-out volcano as Ernst Hogwood Blofeld glared down the table at the high command of SPECTRE (Specious Period-Practice Enacted to Counter Traditional Readings Everlastingly). Opposite him sat Number 2 - Claudio Abbado - looking more vapid than usual. Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Number 4, was sitting primly beside him, savouring a cup of Earl Gray as he read a copy of the Gramophone. Number 3, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, was on the other side of the table, staring out wildly into the ether as his fingers drummed on the table. Rene Jacobs (Number 5), Sir Roger of Norrington (6), William Christie (7), Ton Koopman (8), Paul McCreesh (9) and Trevor Pinnock (10) were also present and chit-chatting away. It was all so cosy.
"You useless buggers - you have failed me again!"
Fear and loathing descended upon the gathering. All eyes turned to the location of Hogwood-Blofeld's hand lest it slip under the table.
"I say, that's no way to talk to the team!" Jeggy replied snootily.
"That's exactly the way to talk to useless buggers," Hogwood-Blofeld sneered. "You're all sitting here without a care in the world while our great organisation is in peril. A threat is upon us that could completely undermine everything that we stand for - and it is a threat we have systematically failed to eliminate!"
He pulled out a copy of Angela Hewitt's Bach Toccatas and threw it down the table.
"Take a long hard look, Comrades! This could be our obituary! Mind you, it could just as easily have been her Well Tempered Klavier, the Goldberg Variations or the Partitas but this will serve as an illustration!"
Silence befell the room. Jeggy put down his cup of tea and warily examined the disc.
"For years, our Ministry of Propaganda has told the market that this repertoire cannot possibly be played on a Steinway with the requisite care for dynamics and inner voices. Then along comes Ms Hewitt. Our Canadian adversary is deeply alive to the dance element in Bach. She is the master of the long lines in his fugues. Her refinement and technical address are peerless. She even has the effrontery to use the pedal to great effect without veering into Romanticism. She is also infectiously fun in the toccatas themselves - and yet why was this disc ever made? Hewitt should have been pushing up daisies long ago!"
Hogwood-Blofeld turned venomously to Number 5.
"Do I have to do everything myself? Can't you organise a simple assassination?"
"But Number 1, I did my best!" Jacobs squealed back shrilly. Hogwood-Blofeld wagged a finger at his subordinate.
"The exploding Steinway was a fizzer; coating the score of the toccatas with arsenic did not work either; the attempt to drop a piano on Hewitt's head as she left her Montreal apartment was likewise a dud - her pet poodle was crushed instead. Why does it have to be so damned elaborate? What is wrong with organising a contract-killer? There's plenty of them in the phone-book!"
"But Number 1, that's not how we do things here at SPECTRE!"
Hogwood-Blofeld was about to send Jacobs to a fiery doom when Jeggy commented.
"That's strange. I thought Hyperion produced this disc, not `Universal Imports', whoever they are."
"Don't open it - it's a booby-trap!" Hogwood-Blofeld shrieked.
Too late he cried. Jeggy opened the cover to reveal a mini-MP3 player with speakers. Seconds later, the silvery tone of Angela Hewitt playing the D Major Toccata filled the room. Pandemonium reigned - it was akin to vampires being accosted by the True Cross. Hogwood Blofeld leapt to his feet, seized the disc, pushed Jacobs out of his chair and then despatched the item into the incinerator below. It took the better part of an hour for the High Command of SPECTRE to regain their composure.
"This means war," Number One declared at last as he reached for a red-phone and dialled M for Melchizedek - the Amazonian High Priest of HIP. "Our troubles are about to end!"