John Man, eager concert-goer and music buff, was disappointed to find himself at yet another concert in which nobody played the classic staple of the French Horn repertoire, Neuling’s Bagatelle.
“I arrived at the venue full of hope,” he said, “but I left in a slough of despond. When I got home my wife asked me whether they had played Neuling’s Bagatelle, and, once again, I had to shake my head sadly and explain that no, they did not. One day…”
Man says that no matter how many times his hopes are dashed by the conventional programming choices of today’s classical music scene, part of him still expects some enterprising young horn player to pop out from behind a curtain and perform Neuling’s Bagatelle when he least expects it. “Just last week I saw Pierre Laurent-Aimard play Messiaen’s monumental opus Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jesus,” he said. “Sure, it was great to luxuriate in Messiaen’s rich harmonic tapestries for close to three hours, but afterwards I couldn’t help but wonder: where was the bagatelle? It was indeed a painful moment when I realised that no one was going to play Neuling’s Bagatelle that night.”
We asked a famous Horn player, Horny McTubespit, if he might consider ever playing Neuling’s Bagatelle in a concert for Man. “How did you get into my house?” he asked us pointedly.
We were also able to chat to Aunt Sally as she was stocking up on emergency mango chutney at her local grocers. She was lucky enough to have heard the bagatelle a student concert recently, and said it was definitely a first for her. “It was quite pleasant, I suppose,” she explained. “It reminded me of my husband, who briefly played the horn in college. If I had to say anything critical about the piece I would probably say that, apart from the obvious paucity of musical invention underpinning what is essentially nothing more than a technical etude designed to expand the performer’s lower range and develop their embrochure, that unfortunately it is an absolute piece of shit.”
Man was crestfallen. “Well, that means I will probably also never hear the other thirty or so etudes that go with it,” he said, “and they are equally satisfying, musically.”
Latest reports indicate that Aunt Sally firmly agreed with this, as she was overheard discussing the piece with a friendly girl at the checkout. “Neuling’s bagatelle? More like Neuling’s bag of shit, if you ask me.”