Your RDA of Irony

Name That Tune: No, It is Not the Versailles Bugaloo

Imagine that you are an unbearable French aristocrat whose coach recklessly runs over starving children. What music would you have on your coach’s CD player? This, of course:



Apparently, this was the only music in 18th France because it is the only music that you have ever heard in a film in that seething setting. You may have categorized the tune as “Minuet to the Guillotine” but it actually is part a string quartet by Luigi Boccherini.

Popular in his day (1743-1805), Boccherini was in demand as a court composer. If you couldn’t get Haydn or Mozart, you settled for Boccherini. At the time, there was no shame in being third best, and he had commissions and positions in Madrid, Paris and Berlin. He seems to have avoided Vienna, however; maybe Salieri was dangerous.

Unfortunately, posterity judged Boccherini unkindly. By the standards of the 19th century, he was dismissed as a second-rate Haydn. Yet, in another century and hemisphere, Boccherini–or at least three minutes of his work–enjoyed a tremendous revival. Louis B. Mayer would have offered him a contract, although certainly not for any requiem masses. Worse for the composer, he has been unable to collect any royalties for that ubiquitous minuet.

At least, we can offer him this solace: Happy Birthday Maestro.

  1. Rey Hinckley says:

    Just don’t play and sing “Happy Birthday” or you be required to pay royalties for a song that will never be in the public domain.

  2. Hal Gordon says:

    If I were an unbearable French aristocrat whose coach rolls over starving children, and if my coach had a CD player, it would probably be playing, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

  3. As a Jacobite loyalist, the estimable Mr. Gordon would be playing the Boccherini minuet on the bagpipes.

  1. There are no trackbacks for this post yet.

Leave a Reply