The Otto Rap

Listen to The Otto Rap on the Audio page »

The Otto Rap

From London to Coolgardie,
The people hardly knew me,
But I’m still that monumental man,
An Oxford, Cambridge gentleman
With music knowledge up to date,
All learned in the Sudetenland,
Where my tutor’s lectures never missed
The work of Chopin, Brahms and Liszt.

I’ve always loved the trumpet, so
To Jeremiah Clarke I go,
Soaring to a high B-flat,
Who could ever think or guess that
Purcell used to be the one
Whose name was, sadly, yes – abused
For fanfares rushing to combustion
In Christopher Hogwood’s reconstruction!

Otto von Bismuth is his name,
Old-time music is his game,
Nothing seems to be the same
Since he came along.

Now George Frederick’s heart was bubblin’
When he took that boat to Dublin
Just three weeks to write Messiah,
Words and music – even I am
Not that speedy or prolific.
But he had help, to be specific:
He arranged the choir, he arranged the band
With a pint of Guinness in each hand!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Young Wolfgang Amadeus
Wrote the kind of things that slay us
Serenades and dances came soon
Like a melodic Mickey Rooney, you know,
Child composer when he’s ten,
But MGM weren’t filming then.
From the cradle to the grave,
Life was one continuous stave.


Beethoven’s Fifth is very fiery,
Sometimes people wonder why he
Wrote every movement molto forte,
It wasn’t he was odd, or naughty –
Just stone deaf, even with his trumpet,
Listeners had to like or lump it.
That was his style, he was quite unique,
But no-one suggests he was pathétique.

Robert Schumann was despondent,
Forced to be a co-respondent,
He presided – oh la la!
Over a bizarre ménage à trois.
His wife Clara and young Brahms
Always in each other’s arms,
Ripping their clothes off, one by one,
Very bourgeois – but lots of fun.


Richard Wagner’s main enjoyment
Was giving musicians full employment.
Two hundred singers stretched before us,
Thundering out the Niebelung’s Chorus.
Soloists both blond and beefy
Bellowed Wagner’s letmotifs.
He’s very good if you stay awake
But if you can’t – try Swan Lake.

Igor Stravinsky’s works are sparser,
Written writhing on the grass or
Posing in some sheltered bower
While Vera photographed him – however
Despite all this attention
Not a smile could cure his woes;
Poor old Igor’s only happy
When divested of his clothes.



Well from London, this is Otto von Bismuth, bidding you goodbye from this marvellous, marvellous recording studio on top of the Post Office Tower in London. And I would very much like to thank the members of the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. And, of course, Neville Marriner for coming along and playing string bass. Very kind of you Nev – thank you, thank you, thank you. And of course overall I would like to thank Michael J. Daly for doing such a stupendous arrangement of this rather easy work in the first place, but made it absolutely marvellous. But also I must thank the Brotherhood of the Caribbean for coming along and singing rhythmic choruses. Well lovely people, I will be back among you soon with another wonderful episode of my Monumental History of Music, which will deal with the Bach family. You will notice there was no Bach on this song today – see, so many Bachs, not enough verses. So you must wait, but it will be worth it. Auf Wiedersehen, from Otto von Bismuth.