The violinist who was executed in the Tower
Daniel Hope, always buzzing with ideas, has a new radio documentary coming up about a German-Brazilian violinist who was convicted of spying in the First World War and executed in the Tower of London. The evidence against him was circumstantial, at best. It calls to mind a much later fatal incident of Brazilian mistaken identity in London – the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in the panicked aftermath of the 7/7 bombing attacks.
It’s a tale I’ve never heard before and I shall be glued to the radio on the date below. Daniel has also got a Wigmore Hall date next week.
Daniel Hope presents ‘Fiddler in the Tower’ on BBC Radio 3, on 26th October 2011
Violinist Daniel Hope visits the Tower of London and tells the little-known and remarkable story of German/Brazilian Fernando Buschmann (1890-1915) the virtuoso violinist and engineer charged with espionage in World War One.
Buschmann’s wartime existence comprised of a string of still-born entrepreneurial adventures from aircraft design to cheese and vegetable export, with allegedly spying on the Royal Navy also thrown in. His big love was his violin and when he 1915 he was arrested and condemned to face a firing squad at the Tower he asked for his instrument to be brought to his cell. The night before his execution Buschman played through the night, the violin echoing and keening round the place. When his guard collected him for the walk to the miniature rifle range to face a Scots Guards firing-squad, Buschman picked up his violin and kissed it saying “Goodbye, I shall not want you any more”. And in a heart-rending final gesture he gave the instrument to one of the soldiers who had a violin–playing child.
In the Chapel of the Tower, beside the tombs of famed Tower victims, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Sir Thomas More, Daniel performs the music Buschman played, tries to fathom what motivated this man and imagines himself facing those final fated hours.
There’s a chance to hear Daniel Hope in Recital at the Wigmore Hall on 26 September, at 1pm, with Sebastian Knauer, in a programme celebrating Joachim
Grieg Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor Op. 45
Joachim Hebrew Melody Op. 9 No. 1 (arr. violin and piano)
Brahms Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Op. 100