The deadline for the 2023 Group Christmas Project submissions has now been extended to Monday the 11th of December.
Ginastera, Dances from "Estancia"
Ginastera, Harp Concerto
Schumann, Symphony No. 4
"Basses, I have this fantasy that I will be able to hear all these glisses."
(in the harp concerto, Ginastera calls for the first violins to play double-stops "as high as possible" on the A and E strings)
"Pick a nice, impossibly high pitch and stick to it. It can't possibly be wrong. Be confident. Don't let anyone tell you it's wrong."
"We should reorchestrate all the Mahler symphonies with maracas. Mahler reorchestrated Beethoven, why not?"
"Jonathan, are you on the tamburo rullante? At 15, burn it -- as if you were a trombone player."
"Piccolo, this needs to be more of a beast. I'm picturing something between an elephant and a dinosaur. It can sound more desperate."
Conductor: Trumpets, what are you playing?
Trumpeter: First movement at 13.
Conductor: That was almost right. First movement, at the beginning. These masks and that accent -- those porteños are impossible to understand.
"It should sound completely wrong. So wrong that it's right."
"There's a hell of a lot going on, a lot of characters and ideas intertwined. It's like reading Proust, except with a bit more neuroticism mixed in. If you spent two hours with him, it would drive you crazy... which is why the symphony isn't that long."
"Celli, basses, you have an expensive sound system at home. I'm going to need a little more darkness from it."
"That was very 1905. Very chic."
"This is how you... no, this is not how you bounce a basketball. Sorry, I didn't do sports as a kid. Well, I did do sports for a bit, and then I was horribly injured. That's my excuse."
"Let's do some standard-issue Romantic violin playing for a moment just to get it out of our systems."
(first violins play passage)
"Now let's do some weird shit."
"Try to rush a little bit. Channel that stand partner you once had who had no sense of rhythm and you hated them for it."
"Is it just me, or am I hearing too much good playing? It's all a little too responsible."
"Put your mouse at the bottom of the curve and drag it down a bit."
"We have one-third of a bass section to lead us into this movement... but it's a mighty one-third!"
"I need more bow. It should almost make you dizzy, you know? Seasick."
"Basses, this is your Caruso moment that you've been waiting for all season."
"This is one of Dante's circles of hell. We'll have a proper celesta on Friday, but until then can you try playing an octave lower so it's slightly tolerable?"
(celesta player plays an octave lower on electronic keyboard)
"All this technology, we can Zoom and talk with somebody, but then we get this."
"In the percussion, the bongos can be a lot more heroic to begin with."
(after working on Ginastera harp concerto, before moving on to Estancia)
"Completely different world. Close your eyes and reimagine. This is nothing like the spaceship I picture for the harp concerto."
"It's like the dog falling into the pond."
"Let's dance the malambo! This may be the fastest malambo we've ever danced, because there isn't enough time."
"Strings, don't work so hard. Let them [the woodwinds] play. Treat yourself."
(singing along with beginning of 2nd movement of Schumann 4)
"Let's go ho-ome, good night, good night."
"Please be patient with me as I try to use this toy podium... I'll try to be still, but with these dances I can't guarantee it. If I start falling off, try to catch me."
"Mezzo-forte cantando: more bird-like. Lighten it up."
"It's still a little shy. It sounds like you're worried about making a mistake. It should be the exact opposite. This is your..." (raises arms, strikes a pose) "...red carpet moment."
"We haven't played through this whole piece in a while. I'm not going to stop unless it gets disastrous. Let's see what happens."
(stops orchestra 28 measures in)
"Percussion, you guys are inside a subwoofer."
"Make the brass great again: bring it down a little."
Wagner, Overture to Rienzi
Koetsier, Tuba Concertino, 1st movement
J. Strauss II, "Mein herr marquis" from Die Fledermaus
Felder, Die Dämmerungen
Weber, Overture to Die Freischütz
"I love your enthusiasm, horns! You may all be reading a completely wrong transposition, but you're really going for it!"
"Did you get the monster?"
(trombonist looks confused)
"I talked to Nick, and he said you were coming by to check out the contrabass trombone, so I thought you were going to do him a favor."
"If it's too heavy it'll feel like you had too big a burrito and you're playing basketball."
"Much better at 100... it just needs to be a little crazier."
"This reminds me of the music of John Luther Adams, who likes to write these long lines... it also reminds me of the music from House of Cards, which I like very much."
"It's a magical forest. Don't think of it so normal."
"It's a bit darker. But it also needs to be creamy. And a little bit machine gun. Everything all at once, like Krazy Salt."
"You know what it's like when you have a water hose with a lot of holes in it? This passage started off so well, and by the end it was full of holes. It needs to keep the same energy all the way through."
"279, fortissimo, like a big truck... falling... on top of the garden."
"This last bar needs to be more fat... with more lard in it."
(when rehearsing Weber)
"It needs to creep in from nothing. Think of Ligeti."
"It's not gonna be attacca, so there's no need to page your turns too soon."
"Think of it like you're in a cave. Dark. There's a monk, with a ceramic bowl and a candle. It needs to sound religious. From 7 -- don't forget your ceramic bowl."
"This is a very fat monk. Almost like a sumo wrestler. And all the mass that this man has should be in all the triplets."
"Zinnia, it needs to be saltier in the bongos. It's a bit too kind. Have you seen politicians in a debate, and they say all kinds of horrible things about each other? That's exactly what this needs to be."
Last orchestra concert of the season is done, which means it's time for more quotes! This was Camellia Symphony playing some opera selections followed by Holst's The Planets.
The full program:
Delibes, "Dôme épais le jasmin" (Flower Duet) from Lakmé
Offenbach, "Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour" (Barcarolle) from The Tales of Hoffmann
Verdi, "Pace, pace, mio Dio!" from La Forza del Destino
Dvořák, "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" (Song to the Moon) from Rusalka
Verdi, "Mercè, dilette amiche" from I Vespri Siciliani
Holst, The Planets
"This should feel like you're just about to fall off a precipice, you know? I know you're trying to play all these high sixteenth notes, staccato, fortissimo... that's not important right now. I need to feel like (gasp) I'm going to fall."
"The next one is a fun one. Jolly, even."
(after someone asked what opera selection was being rehearsed next)
"It's the only one left. That's the problem with an iPad: no paper you can throw on the floor."
"At 17, it needs to be more Ravel and less Stravinsky. I know there's some overlap in The Firebird, but... in general."
"Figure 4: the E.T. music."
Conductor (waving at horn player who missed entrance): Hello?
Horn player: Sorry, lost in space.
Conductor: What was that?
Cellist: That's me trying to silence the music.
Conductor: Technology scares me.
(phone rings again a minute later)
Conductor: It's like an elevator.
"It's an expensive F-sharp. Don't squander it."
"Fast, but not furious."
"Sorry, brass, I know you're getting bored. And there's going to be some more quiet work when the choir gets here. I'll give you some Jupiter in a bit to wake you up."
"There was no Pluto yet. Poor Pluto."
(on violin trills that open the Offenbach Barcarolle)
"This opening is really desperate to be Wagner, isn't it?"
(on choir not being backstage when we reached Neptune at dress rehearsal)
"We're running 20 minutes late and they're still not here. Good service. Let's go on Yelp, everyone!"
(harpist misses entrance at end of Uranus)
"If that happens tonight, I'll wait for you. Or call out your name."
(phone rings at very end of Neptune)
"It must be Holst! He likes it."
On Friday our conductor told us this anecdote (we were playing something with a lot of accidentals, maybe Suk, maybe something else, and he said): - "I was at a rehearsal once where the conductor said of this piece - it needs to be slow enough for the audience to hear all of your wrong notes."
I'm in the middle of the Elk Grove Strauss Festival right now. Lots of Strauss waltzes and polkas (both of the Johanns, plus Josef and Eduard). We had our two rehearsals Tuesday and Wednesday, and then shows every night Thursday-Sunday. Which means all the rehearsal quotes are in.
"Waltz III, second strain, first time, and a partridge in a pear tree."
(on cuts in a piece)
"Given the nature of this one, that it's been Frank N. Furtered, I'm going to talk you through it before we start."
"We'll be experts on this by Monday."
(on the Radetzky March and the tradition of the audience clapping with the music)
"The audience will clap, they'll probably be wrong, don't listen to them, listen to each other."
"In number 8, Bahn Frei, there's a train whistle. Normally the percussion section would play it, but I bought this --7 dollars and 57 cents well spent -- so I think I should play it."
(quacking heard from off stage)
"Yes, the ducks are part of it. They do what they want."
"I am told the polkas can be faster. So we're going to make some kids fall. That will be our goal."
"We all know what happened with Acceleration Waltz. It will not happen again. We will not speak of it. I have already forgotten it."
"I know we can't do much about the dynamics. We're miked, so this is mostly just for our own entertainment, but let's see how quiet we can make the pianos, and hopefully the mics will pick up some of that energy and send it out there."
"I'm no scientist, but celli and basses, I think you're playing on the down beat about 100 percent of the time."
Another concert in the books, which means it's time for more quotes!
Sarah Wald, After Brahms
Elgar, Cello Concerto
Brahms, Symphony No. 4
"It's like a little tango."
(1st and 2nd violins, seated opposite each other, aren't together)
"Maybe it'll be easier without some guy standing in the middle."
(steps off podium and starts waving baton from behind podium)
"But already we have this unstable, unsettling, horrifying thing. It's right over there." (points at basses)
(beginning of Brahms 4)
"But fortunately we have friends to help us out here. Let's hear the violas and celli. They're the ones who will keep us from thinking (sings violin part) 'But meeeee... and thiiiiis...'"
"Can we make this togetherness sound painfully special?"
"You are the most polite band of pirates I've ever heard. I don't know why wind and brass players -- maybe it's a lifetime of being hornpipe people -- they always sound pompous when they're playing music like this. Let's join them in their pomposity."
"Have you seen a pianist play music like this? They don't ru-- many of them don't rush."
"Celli, either I was doing bad score study or you're not playing."
"We're all friends here, right? Let's at least pretend for an hour."
"The arrival at 390 was very nice. What happened between 381 and 390 was... not so nice."
"This is the C major door to Bluebeard's castle! We can't let this go without making a deal of it."
(note that we were NOT playing Bartok)
"This is a very large page... with very small print."
"I think the most important thing is to handle anxiety. It's very quick, yes, but you can see a very common pattern, 3-3-2. And then, as soon as you get comfortable with that, she changes it, and that destroys the whole Monopoly game." (mimes upending a game board)
"At this moment these sixteenth notes are a little too faked for my liking."
(various stage lights start randomly blinking on and off mid-rehearsal due to switchboard malfunction)
"We just need a disco ball and we're ready!"
"There's actually some melody here. It's not Bruckner sixteenth notes."
"After a hundred and fifty years, he keeps doing this to us. He throws in a little hemiola, and we're all thinking, 'Where are we?' This is why he had a cool beard. If only we could."
"Can we have a nice forte-piano here? It's like a meta-cello."
"I could let out my hair and point a fan at myself in the concert. We might get a bigger audience."
"At letter A it's still a bit elephantic."
"Letter R: ah, a nice relaxing Presto."
"Don't rush! There will be plenty of time to rush later."
New conductor*, so nothing much to report until he gets into his stride, but we were given the usual advice of "where it says pp, if you can't hear the person on your left, you are playing too loud."
Problem is, the person on my left is a little old lady who never makes a sound!
* We're doing Tchaik Op 48, Warlock's Capriol Suite and some Bach chorales for warm-up. They are surprisingly difficult, as they modulate all over the place and intonation is a pig.
I can offer you some general quotes from rehearsals that are hilarious:
- (after a difficult section) "Well, that was interesting. Let's try it again, and this time, let's play the right notes."
- (when someone plays a wrong note) "That's a bold choice. Let's see if it pays off."
- (when the conductor stops the orchestra) "I'm not saying you played it wrong, but it didn't sound right."
- (after a bad start) "Don't worry, we can only get better from here. Or worse. But let's hope for the former."
- (when the conductor gives a confusing direction) "I'm not sure what he meant, but let's just smile and nod."
I hope you have a great concert and that the audience enjoys your performance!
I haven't posted quotes in too long. But I've kept them archived, so I should start posting them again. I'll break it into more than one post.
February 2023 concert
Trey Makler, False Starts, Missed Connections
Korngold, Violin Concerto
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 6
"And now here comes some wine to move the spirits. This one just comes and slaps you right in the face."
(to composer, on instruction to spin coins on drum head)
"Do you care if it's quarters or pesos? ... Canadian quarters?"
"This sounds like something I would like to have some hot chocolate with." (mimes stirring with a little spoon) "We need something abrasive... something that will make some person over there" (gestures at back of hall) "lose their dentures."
"It needs to end in style with some bass weirdness."
"And now there's the tam-tam, which we don't have tonight. I'm really missing it. I hear it in my mind, and it sounds beautiful."
"The tempo relaxes here. We have several different spas for relaxation... at different tempi."
"What is that noise? ...oh. It sounds almost like a wok making a nice meal. Or maybe I'm just hungry."
"You can think about music, or you can think about food. Food wins."
"Basses, every time I look at you before this crescendo you look like, 'Oh, right, we were supposed to do that!' In this piece you're really not doing very much. There's this wonderful Twitter account I like, called YouHadOneJob. These surges are your one job."
"PAH! We wake up the audience. And then they come back, because they didn't sleep through the concert."
"It's like... when you're complaining to a friend, you need to complain with some real color, you know? Otherwise what's the point?"
"Dance-like! It's a very Spanish Russia."
March 2023 concert
Michael Giacchino (arr. Dante Baldini), Theme from Spider-Man: Homecoming
Dvorak, Romance for Violin and Orchestra
Martinu, Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola
"A Mozart forte needs to have some fire to it... but not space rocket fire, that's Mahler."
"The car is down to one cylinder, and you're that cylinder. It also needs to sound good."
"It'll be like a bat out of hell -- a very elegant bat out of hell."
"I don't know what was in Dante Baldini's head. I saw him working on something on the computer and had to ask what it was... obviously he has too much time on his hands."
"At the beginning, let's see what we can do to make the string sound more contagious."
Soloist: Are you doing a ritard into 94?
Sooist: Would you mind... not doing it?
Conductor: We can negotiate.
(Soloist looks puzzled)
Conductor: Like, maybe, if you play the second movement a little slower...
"You can do whatever you want in the solo, but I need to prepare it. I don't want to speed into it and suddenly go, PAH!, break the gearbox."
"And of course make it theatrical. Make everybody see how expensive the cymbals are."
"Cantabile but needs to fit in a slight Soviet straitjacket."
April 2023 concert
Price, Andante moderato for Strings
Liszt, Piano Concerto No. 1
Lutoslawski, Symphony No. 4
"Maybe we can pay someone in the audience to start coughing... I think it was Beecham who was asked, what's the secret to the opening of Don Juan? And he said: come in, greet the audience, and when they're still applauding, turn around and start the piece! Anyway, from M again. Don't cough."
"After all that tension, this is like the Nutcracker's party."
"There's a lot going on, and it's all layered, but if you separate it out, each part is very simple. So, when you're thinking 'Aaah, I have no idea what I'm doing!', think simple, in some sense."
(sings slow downward glissando)
"Think of 80s video games."
"4 before P. As in Peter. Pescado -- I'm hungry."
(after explaining cue markings in Lutoslawski to substitute flutist)
"Is it weird enough yet?"
"Deirdre, I still can't hear you. You might need to bring something else to hit it with... sledgehammer?"
"It's a dance, that's all it is. Crispy dance!"
"I can picture the costumes." (feet start doing a little waltz on the podium) "It has to be a bit ironic... like they're just about to fall." (pretends to start falling off podium) "Dancing, but not having a good time."
"It needs to be a lazy, relaxed, almost whistling-in-the-shower viola line."
"One of the great things about this symphony, besides being beautiful, is that it's short. Really gives us a lot of time to rehearse it. One movement of a Bruckner symphony, essentially."
June 2023 concert
Elliott Carter, Elegy for Strings
Vaughan Williams, The Lark Ascending
"The organist is going to be all the way back there. It's a beautiful organ, but I hope he has a telescope or something."
Conductor: Trombones, how many measures are you playing?
Trombonist: 24 notes. All whole notes.
Conductor: But who's counting, right?
"When I do this, become a ghostly viola for a moment."
Violist: It says "Arranged for String Orchestra" -- arranged from what?
Conductor: String quartet... (pause) I should have said piccolo and tuba, for shock value.
"I've always wanted to sing the soprano solo."
"The organist is like an octopus with multiple brains."
"This is one of the few places where we continue without accompaniment. We have to have a rope in our heads to keep our intonation light and vibrant."
"Second violas, you're playing as if it's a viola concerto. (points at tenors) It's THEIR solo!"
"Chorus, I don't know if you hear all the rumblings going on under you. There's a bit of rock 'n' roll in the orchestra."
"We've been waiting, waiting for the altos to arrive, and they're the last ones to show up at the party."
"This is not a program for the faint of heart. If anyone comes here looking for Lutoslawski, they've come to the wrong place."
"How unpleasant! Let's do that."
"The explosions seem very nice, finally."
"This forte... it needs to be more invested. It sounds a bit like you're reading the phone book right now."
June 2023 concert (university orchestra)
Haydn, Trumpet Concerto, 1st movement
Glass, Violin Concerto No. 1
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 5
"Repeat, repeat, repeat! This is Philip Glass saving ink."
"Ventriloquist horn playing."
(suddenly stops conducting and waves at moth fluttering above second violins)
"Hello, dear moth! Moth, butterfly, I don't know what it is, but it's cute!"
September 2023 concert
Nancy Galbraith, Midnight Stirring
Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 3
Brahms, Symphony No. 2
"Poco forte espressivo... more espressivo than poco."
"I have a story about the Prokofiev. Last week I was going to conduct it in Argentina, and when they picked me up at the airport they told me they needed to change it to something else. I asked them, 'Oh no, did something happen to the soloist?' They said, 'No, the soloist is fine.' So I said, 'What is it then? I brought the score and everything.' They told me there was a problem with the publisher. Long story short, this is the National Symphony of Argentina. And some person in the Ministry of Culture forgot to sign the rental agreement. That was the problem with the publisher. I love my country, by the way. I talked to the soloist to see what else he could play on short notice, and we ended up playing Schumann. We're not going to do that here, are we? You don't have Schumann in front of you?"
"Celli, you're enjoying the sound of your own voices too much. On that top G, you're doing the Pavarotti act and staying."
"Sempre pianissimo. Just a healthy reminder, like eating your greens."
"That half bar rest... we really need it to be pitch black there. Nothing going on, just completely dark. Right now I'm still seeing a flashlight."
"This was much cheaper to rent than an arrangement of Coldplay. I like cheap."
"They no longer identify as violins."
"It's this thing like Haydn, where it's getting more and more relaxed... some elderly people in the audience are getting very comfortable in their seats... and then we make them go 'AAAAAUGH!' That's the effect we're looking for."
"Celli, that was a whole quarter note early. I appreciate your enthusiasm!"
(mimes pulling a potato chip out of a bag)
"These need to be crunchy crisps. Right now they're a bit soggy. Think crunchy and delicious."
Oboist: Can we do something about the glare off the piano?
Conductor: Anyone have some sandpaper? Or maybe you just need a taller conductor.
(walking in place and swinging arms cheerfully)
"It's a stocky guy with a big beard walking through the woods. Very relaxed."
I get so much enjoyment out of reading these!
Don't know why it never dawned on me to check when this thread was started, WOW - 2017! I couldn't do it all at once, but I finally read thru ALL you posted & they are ALL BRILLIANT!!!
Hope you never stop posting these fabulous gems!
Can you share the names of the Conductor(s) - who come up with all this rich imagery? I'm sure you've mentioned this somewhere, but I've forgotten. 🙄
Another concert in the books, another pile of conductor quotes.
Ruth Crawford Seeger, Andante for Strings
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4
Beethoven, Symphony No. 2
"It's like slamming a door, you know? Not very comprehensible, but loud and aggressive. And then after that, it's almost like talking through the door. It should sound a bit muffled."
"So the idea is, we get infected, in COVID times. When it's piano, we've already been infected."
"So it's a really fast accelerando, almost like driving a manual transmission car and breaking the gearbox."
(leans over music stand and looks down over edge of podium) "I should feel like I'm about to fall. Right now I'm" (leans back) "sitting very comfortably."
"Don't make me call Nancy Galbraith!"
(note: we played a Nancy Galbraith piece in our last concert)
"Basses, I'm guilty of not knowing something here. I'm guilty of a lot of things... nothing illegal... I hope."
"Suddenly the basses are masters of the universe. We're sitting here thinking about U shapes..." (in very deep voice) "That's. Ve. Ry. Cute."
"First violins, when was the last time you got your diva on? . . . I wanna see your bows in the air. I know it's a cheap thrill, but you only live once."
"It's all eyebrows there. You almost don't even have to play a note. Just go..." (raises eyebrow) "And they'll be like, 'So tasteful!'"
"Back then, this was where they went to feel passion! They [the audience] need to be like, 'That was so fast!' And then that fermata: whew!" (pretends to wipe sweat from brow) "Oh, there's three more movements?"
"That was profoundly... loud."
"That's an interesting rhythm. And I'll bet he was having one of those Beethovian moments where he was thinking, 'That's interesting.' Even if we don't think it's interesting, he did."
"It's a held urgency. It's like you really need to go to the bathroom, but you're trying not to show you need to go to the bathroom."
"I know what's going on. We're playing like it's... Beethoven! But Beethoven's thinking, 'I know I need to write a third movement, but right now I really need a beer.' Think of it like it was written by Larry next door."
"It's supposed to be a secret! Right now it's like you're telling it aloud to my face. It's disappointing if we find out too soon. Make us wait!"
"It's an interjection in a phrase. You're at a table having drinks and someone comes in like BADABADABADABADA -- and now you're listening again."
"It's a little butterfly up there. And we're swatting all over it."
(in sinking voice)
"Deflate yourself for the last two notes."
"366 needs to be a real anticlimax. It should sound almost as if you're cheating. Make the audience want their money back, because they think we've all stopped playing and we're just pretending."
"We've been training for years to make everything sound kinda normal and reasonable. Sometimes it's not supposed to be reasonable."
"He has all these what-the-hell-am-I-doing moments . . . but he's doing it a symphony early."
"This is going to be my new ringtone." (sings two measures of staggered string entrances on loop)
"It needs to be like there's a cat on your lap, very tender. Right now it's too much, you're scaring the cat."
Conductor: We've got these blocks of crescendo and decrescendo -- remember that, I'm not going to be able to yell tonight, "Crescendo!"
Violist: It can be a performance direction -- "Conductor yells."
Conductor: It's my favorite thing to do.