What I said back then:
This, like some of the other things on the list, is my father’s fault. He had the books, which must be early editions, since they are hardbacks. I spent many happy evenings perusing Hoffnung’s wonderful cartoons, and many of the things I know about classical music come, in some way or other, from them.
He is also the originator of the bricklayer story, which I have heard attributed to dozens of different people – it’s available on one of the BBC recordings in its original form – Hoffnung playing it straight while the audience goes into convulsions. (Even on the link I posted, it’s treated as an urban legend, while at the same time being credited to Hoffnung)
Recommended for anyone who thinks that classical music is stuffy and lacking in humour.
What I think now:
Must have been an early entry in the original list – it’s very short (sadly like Hoffnung’s life; he was only 34 when he died). I still love the Hoffnung cartoons; shortly after the first version of this list, a parcel arrived containing my father’s copies of the books – they emigrated to Canada with me, and sit beside the Shakespeares in the family room in the hope that one of my children will pick them up and be as entranced by them as I was. The link I posted back then to the bricklayers story sadly no longer exists; thank goodness for YouTube.
Hoffnung organised and curated three Hoffnung Music Festivals in the mid 1950s, and I was delighted to find that they were available on CD – I bought copies, and they made a splendid Christmas present for my father one year. I also stumbled across another, previously unknown to me, Hoffnung cartoon book in a second-hand bookshop which joined the collection.
The Hoffnung Festivals were still going strong until quite recently, featuring such marvellous inventions as the concerto for garden hose, Malcolm Arnold’s Grand, Grand Overture (which features vacuum cleaners, floor polishers and rifles – or shotguns, I think, in that version), and it’s hard to imagine that Tim Minchin’s Comedy Prom last year could have happened without the Hoffnung influence (indeed, the Concerto to end all Concertos, where the orchestra plays Tchaikovsky while the soloist plays Grieg, sadly unavailable on YouTube as far as I can see, was an HMF production first)
And, splendidly, the Hoffnung Symphony Orchestra cartoon is available for all to watch and enjoy, although I think, as I thought when I first saw it, that animating the wonderful detailed cartoon images somehow robs them of their joy – it’s merely amusing, when it could and should be laugh-out-loud funny.