Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gerard Hoffnung

An curious Lp I found the other day which features interviews or short talks with Gerard Hoffnung the English humourist in the 50's from various radio programmes on the BBC. A cross between Count Arthur Strong and Boris Johnson. Probably hilarious at the time but now seems rather dated and quaint. Wikipedia says - "Gerard Hoffnung (22 March 1925 – 25 September 1959) was an artist and musician, best known for his humorous works. Born in Berlin, and named Gerhard, he was the only child of a well-to-do Jewish couple, Hildegard and Ludwig Hoffnung. He was sent to England, where he attended Bunce Court School in 1938. In 1939, his parents left Germany, initially for Florence and then for London, and Hoffnung then attended Highgate School, while his father went to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine to enter the family's banking business. This temporary separation became permanent as a consequence of World War II. Hoffnung died of a cerebral haemorrhage only 20 years after arriving in England, but filled those two decades with considerable achievements as - amongst other things - a cartoonist, tuba player, impresario, broadcaster and public speaker, much sought after by the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. Hoffnung published a series of books of cartoons poking gentle fun at conductors and orchestral instrumentalists. After his death, some of these were turned into a short animated film by Halas and Batchelor under the title The Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra, which won a number of awards in 1965-66. He created three Hoffnung Music Festivals held at the Royal Festival Hall in London. These featured contributions from distinguished "serious" musicians. Compositions specially commissioned for the Festivals included Malcolm Arnold's A Grand, Grand Overture, Op. 57 which was dedicated to U.S. President Herbert Hoover and was scored for several vacuum cleaners and other domestic appliances. Franz Reizenstein's Concerto Popolare was described as "The Piano Concerto to end all Piano Concertos". William Walton conducted a one-note excerpt from his oratorio Belshazzar's Feast: the word, "Slain!" shouted by the chorus. Much of Hoffnung's own humour relies on timing. A notable example is the 'Bricklayer's Lament' which was part of his 1958 Oxford Union Speech. Hoffnung's life was in the tradition of the Great British Eccentric, despite his continental origins. He affected, consciously or otherwise, the persona of an elderly music master, a role honed while teaching at Stamford School, where his eccentricities are remembered to this day. His voice had the hoarseness one associates with age, its cadences slow and faltering after the fashion of the old, or perhaps in homage to Colonel Blimp. His eccentricities were legendary, to the point where stories about him are fantastic enough to be believable, as nobody would think of making them up. For instance, he is said to have been fanatical about learning to whistle entire symphonies, even calling friends who were conductors and whistling down the phone line at them to check his memory." Gerard Hoffnung - Side One

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