Souvenirs de Bohème, by Luigi Sagrini
This is the full transcription of an article on the Bohemian Brothers from 1828 that is referenced in the Return With Us Now / Featured Facsimile article I wrote for Soundboard Vol. XXXVII, No. 1.
Souvenirs de Bohème, Four Favorite National Melodies as Sung by the Bohemian Brothers by Luigi Sagrini
The London Literary Gazette. No. 619. Saturday, November 29, 1828. p. 763.
The Bohemian Brothers
There has been for the last week or two a sort of musical entertainment at the Argyll Rooms, carried on by persons called the Bohemian Brothers. This little bit of humbug, for Master Bull, is a curious affair altogether; suggested by the success of the Rayner Family with their genuine native melodies. The first imitation of these foreigners was a humble and modest one, consisting of four Dutch Vrows (about the size and not unlike the shape of Flanders mares), who perambulated the streets with inflexible gravity of gait and features, singing something which was understood to be Low Dutch, though occasionally in a very high key. They literally picked up a good deal of money; and several bands of wandering Savoyards left the metropolis in despair. Meanwhile it seems that some cunning fellow caught four Bohemians, or “Tartars” of neighbouring provinces, and, like the French Revolution, fraternizing them, prepared them, musically, for the exhibition now tickling honest Johnny’s ears at the Argyll Rooms. Taste is all in all, but Fashion is more; and so, though every body declares that these Bohemian Brothers are by no means to be endured twice, yet it is well enough to hear them once, for the sake of saying so, and talking about them. To enable our distant readers to do the same, we will briefly describe the set, which is as ugly a one as they would wish to behold.
The four Bohemian Brothers have, we shrewdly suspect, been for years domiciliated in Cockaigne; but as they are drest up as accurately as if they were at the Coburg Theatre in the Bohemian costume, they may pass excellently, and without question, for genuine Bohemians, newly imported, duty free. They have been taught, we were going to say, to sing; but that would not be true. The two middle brothers chant in a manner that has nothing peculiar about it; but the wonders of wonders are the two outside voices. To begin at the bottom, there is a deep bass, so deep that it is as perfect a grunt as ever issued from the throat of an aged animal of the kind held in abomination by the Jews. The person who utters it appears to be a hollow man, and the sounds which he squeezes out are no more notes than they are cadences. To counter-balance this great bore, and equally to astonish the natives, there is a soprano, with a sham voice which is altogether a falsetto, at the other extremity, who is a still greater pig: his squeak, in vile imitation of Velluti, is unparalleled. The whole four make a noise together; as for being in concert, there is no such thing; –sometimes the middle two sing in unison; but the grand effort is, when Signor Soprano utters chuck, chuck, chuck, as if he were calling to fowls (not fools) around him, and then he squeals, and bass throws in a growl, enough to make the audience exclaim, “Well, we never did hear any thing like this before!” Nor did they, and we trust they never will again; for it strikes us to be as sheer a piece of trickery as ever was got up to be-noodle the musical amateurs of this sensible and tasteful metropolis.