This is a wonderful tribute to Bellman's most colourful character: Movitz. His fortunes and misfotunes are presented by the expressive voice of Mikael Samuelson, accompanied by Bengan Jansson on accordion and Björn Ståbi on violin. The episodes about Movitz are framed by the very calm and restful description of a boat ride on Riddarfjärden in Stockholm.
Hurrah, here comes Movitz!
Hurrah, here comes Movitz. Make way there on the water-steps! Stand aside, fiddlers, shoe-polishers, customs spies, and seamen! Make room for Movitz and his bass fiddle …
That apostle of drams, Jean Fredman, has already penned and dispatched five-and-twenty epistles to his thirsty cong-regation when he has reason to embrace yet another member, the corporal – or rather, the former corporal – Movitz, Musician, Painter and Champion of Cups. Fredman presents us with the doleful tale of how Movitz, in a piteous state and thirsty to boot, is consoled with bandages and spirits, upon competing one night for the favours of a certain Lotta of Coalheaver Alley, and being stabbed in the thigh, buttock, chest, arm and four times in the head, in addition to receiving a blow on the mouth dealt by a constable armed with a rapier. Not to mention the fact that his knuckles are bloodied as well! All this for the sake of a Lotta.
“My bow is broken, the strings are shot, Lotta is gone and my toddy is no longer hot! All for the want of a wench who went off with a constable, Mutter,” he concludes.
And Mutter consoles him while dressing his wounds. And serves up a dram for each injury. Thus it is clear to one and all right from the beginning that this former soldier is apt to fall foul of the law and has better luck with the bottle than the beauties. So it is not long before Movitz receives yet a thrashing, this time by a long-legged guardsman. On this occasion it is a nymph with a hanging veil, but the inciting factor is a bursting quint on Movitz’ bass fiddle at a critical moment, enraging the guardsman.
“He commandeered my beauty and called me a lowly fiddler, raining slaps upon me like a shower of bullets on a battlefield,” sobbed Movitz, bleeding, swollen and stunned.
Doubly wounded, in other words. As if it was not enough that the guardsman took the lass, he called Movitz a lowly fiddler, and “lowly” is in no way an apt description of Movitz’ musical
talents. Though he may lack grace in the realms of Venus due to a predilection for the fruits of Bacchus, when wooing the Muse of the Bass Fiddle, he is masterful.
Movitz soon becomes a prominent member of Bacchi congregation, a drunk and a hedonist, but still possessed of a certain measure of dignity – replacing the somewhat dull and wooden Father Berg – and when Fredman is wont to express what his last thoughts might be, Movitz provides the music: “Death has an hourglass placed by my cup, my bottle with his arrows bestrewing” …
How many episodes follow? Many, for they are legio; portrayals all of the uppermost and basest echelons of Stockholm society. Such as when Movitz plays the kettle drum at a ball and observes a baron, splendid in a coat embellished with gold, deftly transforming a shepherdess into a baroness, only to worship another young wench a moment later, this time up against a wall in the vestibule – a moral tale effectively laced with irony.
Another drama unfolds when Movitz must save his instruments from a fire raging in Coalheaver Alley. Poverty upon its crutches leaves its lodging when it must, so flute and oboe, fagotto, waldhorn and clarinet, violin and bass fiddle, are all clutched tightly in our hero’s arms and taken to the nearest tavern, where a tankard restores order and peace of mind.
Then there is the occasion upon which our Movitz visits the Three Lilies, singing and plucking at his harp, in the grips of melancholy, since he has failed to bed Bredström’s aunt; the woman described as “slow in speech, but mighty frolicsome at play”. Alas, when the time came for Movitz to perform, after gazing too deeply in his tankard of ale, he fell asleep and is now forlorn. ’Tis much to be learned from this indeed: If you hope to pluck Chloris’ flower, best be not in your cups when you enter her bower …
However, time brings evermore reason to down a glass, there in the shadow of consumption where death patiently waits. But ‘til then, pluck an octave, tune sweet notes, sing life’s fair spring of yore. All according to the apostle.
But not all in life is soured dalliances and remorse born by too much drink, fanned by the icy wings of Death. When Mikael Samuelson – accompanied by Björn Ståbi’s violin and Bengan Janson’s accordion – presents the escapades of our friend Movitz in the 1760s, they bypass the white-washed 19th century versions of the epistles that are still performed today. Beyond the filth, the stench, the poverty, the booze, the inglorious tumbles in bed, beyond the gutter and the raucous tavern music, we also hear of solidarity, and are presented with an affectionate portrait of Movitz encircled by his friends, and the orchestration is richer as well. Like a panorama painting of the Stockholm of the day; that proud community located between the watersteps of the Skeppsbron quay and Master Nilse’s famed tavern near the shipyard at Djurgården.
Old Movitz is a painter by nature. And when he paints a charming picture of a shepherdess, plump and neatly corseted, allowing the occasional glimpse of her most tender blossoms, he is enraptured by both the image and the nymph herself. She titters, tosses her head, falls silent, twists her necklace, ties her sacque, flutters her fan and in countless ways coaxes the old man to leave his picture …
And the sun shimmers. ’Tis the magnificent voyage from Hessingen to Riddarholmen that dominates this Movitz medley interpreted by Mikael Samuelson, the lengthy account, drenched in infatuation, of Ulla Winblad’s journey home that makes up the recurring A section of this rondo potpourri. Movitz, for the most part blissfully asleep, though awakening in time to step ashore; and who for once is ready for amour.
And so it ends. With Ulla, Norström, Movitz and Movitz’ horn in Ulla’s four-poster bed. Ashore. Harboured. Embraced. G major. All’s well.